American Jewish World Service

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American Jewish World Service (AJWS) is a nonprofit international development organization, founded in 1985, which supports community-based organizations in 35 countries in the developing world and works to educate the American Jewish community about global justice. Its headquarters are in New York City.


Inspired by Judaism’s commitment to justice, American Jewish World Service works to realize human rights and end poverty in the developing world.


AJWS's president is Ruth Messinger, formerly Manhattan Borough President and the Democratic nominee for Mayor of New York City in 1997. She has been at the helm of AJWS since 1998, and in late 2005, The Jewish Daily Forward named her in its annual "Forward 50" list of the most influential American Jews.[1] Messinger returned to the Forward 50 in 2009.

AJWS has received a Four Star rating from Charity Navigator for seven years in a row.[2]


AJWS was established in Boston, Massachusetts, on May 1, 1985 when Larry Phillips and Larry Simon, together with a group of rabbis, Jewish communal leaders, activists, businesspeople, scholars and others came together to create the first American Jewish organization dedicated to alleviating poverty, hunger and disease among people across the globe.

The organization's first key achievement was its response to a volcano disaster in Armaro, Colombia, in 1986. That same year, AJWS helped the Tibetan government exiled in India initiate an agricultural improvement project. In 1990, AJWS launched five new international development projects in Mexico, Honduras and Haiti, which provided training programs in sustainable agriculture. In 1995, AJWS launched its first international service trips, including the International Jewish College Corps – now Volunteer Summer - which sent 10 young Jewish men and women to spend the summer helping villagers in Honduras build a potable water system.

In the 1990s, AJWS's grantee organizations began to receive recognition for their work. In 1998, Ntataise Trust [3] in South Africa received an award from former South African President Nelson Mandela for "its exceptional contribution to education in South Africa." Its grantee Tostan's campaign to ban female genital cutting triumphed in Senegal, when the Senegalese parliament banned the practice.[4]

Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, AJWS responded by receiving donations and making grants to groups that provide support to families of low-income workers. In 2004 the American Jewish World Service responded to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. In 2006, AJWS helped organize a rally in Washington, D.C. against genocide[5] and has since conducted a series of other rallies throughout the country.[6] In 2003 AJWS launched peer exchange programs in Southern Africa that brought together community-based organizations from the region to exchange best practices in responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.


AJWS currently funds 388 grassroots organizations working to promote health, education, economic development, disaster relief, and social and political change in the developing world. AJWS works with women, youth, ethnic, religious and sexual minorities, indigenous peoples, refugees and internally displaced persons and people living with HIV/AIDS.[7]


AJWS works to promote awareness and influence U.S. international policies and funding in relation to human rights, global health and poverty. In 2004 AJWS co-founded, along with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Save Darfur Coalition to end the conflict in Darfur.[1] In 2007, it became the first national Jewish organization to promote targeted divestment by launching a divestment initiative against the government of Sudan.[8]


AJWS seeks to make the pursuit of global justice an integral part of American Jewish identity. The organization produces Torah commentaries, holiday resources, curricula and other educational resources. These materials, created in collaboration with rabbis and Jewish educators, are meant to challenge American Jews to think about how Jewish text and tradition can inspire action.[9]


AJWS no longer offers volunteer service programs.

Until 2013, individuals and groups could volunteer in Africa, Asia and Latin America for short and extended periods of time through AJWS. Students volunteered through Alternative Breaks,[10] Volunteer Summer[11] or the World Partners Fellowship. Professional adults volunteered for longer periods of time through the AJWS Volunteer Corps.[12] AJWS also ran a semi-annual service trip for rabbinical students, to engage future rabbis to make global justice a priority for their future congregations.[13]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b Shapiro, Beth. A Voice for Darfur. Jewish News of Phoenix Online. 26 October 2007. Retrieved 28 February 2009
  2. ^ Charity Navigator Rating: American Jewish World Service. Retrieved 28 February 2009
  3. ^ Greater Good SA: Connect: Ntataise. Retrieved 28 February 2009
  4. ^ PRWeb: Hilton Humanitarian Prize of $1.5 Million Goes to Tostan. Retrieved 28 February 2009
  5. ^ American Jewish World Service: History. Retrieved 28 February 2009
  6. ^ Silverman, Rachel. At Save Darfur Rally: 'Never Again, Again.' The Jewish Journal. 4 May 2006. Retrieved 28 February 2009
  7. ^ | Members: American Jewish World Service. Retrieved 28 February 2009
  8. ^ American Jewish World Service Launches National Targeted Divestment Initiative Against Sudan. Reuters AlertNet. 23 February 2007. Retrieved 28 February 2009
  9. ^ AJWS and AVODAH Launch Contemporary Passover Sourcebook. News Blaze. 17 February 2009. Retrieved 28 February 2009
  10. ^ Ari Mendelson. Students Head to Guatemala for Winter Break Aid Mission. The Commentator. 22 January 2007. Retrieved 28 February 2009
  11. ^ Manual Labor. Retrieved 28 February 2009
  12. ^ Havurah Shalom: My Summer as a Volunteer with American Jewish World Service. Retrieved 29 February 2009
  13. ^ Leonard Fein. Offering Our Services Between Services in El Salvador. The Jewish Daily Forward. 30 January 2004. Retrieved 28 February 2009