What Inspires Us?

We're united by a deep belief in the human dignity of each and every person. For some of us, that belief is anchored by history. For others, it's rooted in religious teachings or in the personal relationships that shape our lives. No matter who we are or where we're from, everyone in the AJWS community finds sources of inspiration to work for a better world.

We’re a Jewish organization with a diverse community of supporters, including Jews of every background and people of all faiths, ethnicities, races, gender identities and sexual orientations. AJWS supporters share our core value that people confronting poverty and oppression deserve the resources they need to pursue their own visions of justice.

We’re inspired by…

Jewish Values and Teachings

For many AJWS supporters, tikkun olam—the Hebrew phrase for repairing the world—is the essence of what it means to be Jewish. Jewish teachings to help the poor, care for the stranger, and recognize the inherent dignity of every human being animate our commitment to build a better world. The Jewish tenet that all human beings are created b’tzelem Elohim—in the Divine image—underscores our belief that all people are infinitely valuable and deserving of respect.

History

In response to persecution and genocide perpetrated against Jews in the past, many of our supporters are committed to ending hatred and bigotry against all people. The Holocaust, which claimed the lives of an estimated six million Jews and five million other minorities, is a sobering reminder that we must act on behalf of people everywhere who are denied their basic humanity. Elie Wiesel, a renowned writer, thinker and Holocaust survivor, said it best: “Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere.”

Human Rights

Three years after the Holocaust ended, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—a document that protects all people from the degradation and destruction that Jews and other minorities experienced around the world. Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jewish legal scholar, helped develop the concept of human rights and was known for coining the term “genocide.” And in 1958, Eleanor Roosevelt addressed the United Nations in a speech that is too often forgotten:

Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home—so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person: The neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.

From Baltimore to Burma, Scarsdale to Sudan, our commitment to human rights roots our vision for a just and equitable society—today, tomorrow and for generations to come.

Social Movements

American Jews have a rich legacy of leadership and participation in social movements—the labor movement, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement and the LGBT rights movement—to name a few. In our work for global justice, we draw energy from these movements to work for changes in U.S. policies that will improve the lives of millions of people around the world. And we glean wisdom from those who have been forces for change on a national and global scale: Rose Schneiderman, Bayard Rustin, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Harvey Milk, Gloria Steinem, Grace Paley, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and so many others.