Let me say a few words about AJWS and its mission in general.
I've known about AJWS for years...and Amy and I have been on-again, off-again donors. We've had friends who have participated in AJWS study/service trips. And we've had friends that have led those trips. But I never really understood what made AJWS remarkable until this week.
Let's start with some basic, astounding statistics.
I had the privilege of offering some brief thoughts to open our meeting on Monday morning. I reflected on the prominent image of Jacob sleeping (and dreaming) in this week's Torah portion. And I wondered to what degree we (not just me and my colleagues - but of course, all of us) are asleep to the challenges of the world around us. The heroic work of AJWS, inspired by the values of our tradition, calls us to wake up...to open our eyes...and to respond/engage with the needs of all of those in the world around us.
We spent the rest of Monday and most of Tuesday meeting with key people from AJWS's leadership team, as we studied about AJWS's unique development philosophy. The philosophy is briefly addressed here. And the UN explains the approach in greater detail here. I was moved by the fact that the language around this approach was used so consistently by all of the staff and lay leaders I heard from this week. And it should go without saying that I am VERY excited to be able to travel with my colleagues and the AJWS team to the Dominican Republic in January, where I will be able to see for myself how these theories are put into practice in terms of becoming witness to this on-the-ground development work. (For a "preview" of one of the issues I will be learning more about in the D.R., click here.)
To top it all off, my colleagues and I joined with almost a thousand other AJWS supporters and stakeholders in celebrating the organization's 30th anniversary. There were extraordinary tributes to AJWS's outgoing-trailblazing-President Ruth Messinger and to three inspiring on-the-ground leaders who serve communities in Mexico, Burma, and the Democratic Republic of Congo respectively. There was even an awesome video tribute to Ruth and AJWS from President Obama!