After spending the summer as the experiential education intern at AJWS, I leave with a greater sense of possibility. To see the interworking of an organization I believe is conducting the social change work with the highest intellect, humbleness, and dedication, enabled me to see what locally driven and internationally supported social change could look like in new ways. In accomplishing tasks cross departmentally, like working on the creation of a campaign activist toolkit, I got to see what it takes to make forward thinking and data driven change a reality. With these learnings is a sense of wonder; a sense of how our power can be used for good and ultimately transformed to give a greater voice to the poor and marginalized. These lessons give me the tools and mode of thinking to bring a deeper purpose and greater potential to contribute, provide insight, and most importantly listen on whatever experiences come next.
One of the most transformational aspects of working at AJWS that I wish to explore in this blog was the significance of AJWS being a faith-based organization, expanding my relationship to the role of faith and God in development. For many years, the difficult question has stuck with me: what role, if any, does religion plays in making the world a better place? Every day I read about religion as a source of conflict, violence, political repression, and the denial of equal rights. It can be easy to jump to cynicism. Yet, to engage in the work of international development and human rights throughout the world, a world that is predominantly religious, how can one ignore religion? In my studies at Brandeis and individual pursuits, I have come to understand that these holy texts ultimately provide foundations for peace, the recognition of full human dignity, and a greater existence. AJWS has further opened my eyes to see how faith – Judaism in this context – can play a practical and inspirational role in the work to promote the human rights of people around the world.
Faith manifests in various forms throughout the work of the organization, each of which are exemplary. It works mobilize our own communities in the U.S., knit by religions bonds, to further drive change. It emerges in customs and events, such as the Global Justice Shabbat. And additionally through text and study, seen in the published materials highlighting the nexus of Judaism and the commitment to justice (one of which I wrote for Tisha B’Av), and in the delegations of Rabbis that go abroad to meet with the grassroots partners and study Jewish principles in an international context. To an unmatched degree, faith enables us to organize and deepen connections within our communities.
For the international component of AJWS’s work, the role of faith remains less explicit. But I see it emerge in this context with perhaps an even higher degree of integrity and righteousness. It manifests in the grantmaking to organizations and individuals, who fight day in and out for their divine image to be seen. They fight to be truly recognized by politicians, corporations, and public as “good”; how the Hebrew God saw his creations throughout first six days of creation, before arriving at the seventh day of rest and peace. This continued quest for justice and a dignified existence, where AJWS supports people all over the world making headway to maintain sustainable livelihoods, have proper rights to the land, bring about true equality, and be heard, is nothing but a prayer of Shalom Aleichem.