AJWS Plans Shift in Focus To Advocacy

World Service Plans Fewer Overseas Service Trips

Shifting Focus: The American Jewish World Service, led by Ruth Messinger, believes it can have a more powerful impact by focusing on advocacy and running fewer overseas service trips.
Morgan Soloski/AJWS
Shifting Focus: The American Jewish World Service, led by Ruth Messinger, believes it can have a more powerful impact by focusing on advocacy and running fewer overseas service trips.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published December 14, 2012, issue of December 21, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

“AJWS will run a smaller number of service and learning trips to countries in the developing world, and those trips will focus on educating key opinion leaders of all ages,” the organization wrote in a summary of the strategic plan, which it shared with the Forward. “These trips will ensure that participants connect their international travel experience to AJWS’s advocacy campaigns in the United States.” The new trips are based on short service trips the group has previously run for rabbis.

AJWS will select student leaders and other participants for a role in these trips with an eye toward the advocacy work they will do when they return.

Seven staff members currently working on volunteer programs will be cut, and the budget dedicated to service-learning will decrease, as well. The organization says that the group’s overall staffing level will actually rise in 2013, to 156 employees from 147 employees in 2011.

In the meantime, the group will be increasing its spending on stateside advocacy. The organization will open new local offices in five cities in the United States to supplement its current locations in New York and Washington, and has hired a former J Street government affairs deputy director to run its advocacy programs and campaigns. Two of those new offices will be located in San Francisco and Los Angeles, respectively. The group has already begun hiring local staff in some cities.

Overseas, AJWS will dedicate the same amount of money to grant making, but will narrow the number of countries in which it operates, 32, to 19. The group said it would no longer be operating in Afghanistan because of security challenges. Work in Ghana, South Africa, Bolivia, Colombia and other nations will also be cut.

The organization said that grantees in countries where it will no longer make grants have been given years’ worth of advance warning, and that the withdrawals will come at the end of funding cycles.

The plan also defines three specific areas where it will focus its work in the developing world: the rights of so-called sexual minorities; situations in post-conflict societies, and food, land and water access for indigenous peoples.

AJWS plans to use its increased advocacy resources to pressure the American government on these and related issues.

“The notion of working on two tracks says that there are ways we can influence U.S. policy — which needs a lot of influencing in terms of its global work — that will have huge implications for the partners we have in the developing world,” Messinger said.

As the group realigns, it could meet resistance from alumni and from supporters of the longer-term service programs. Anna Levy, who went on a seven-week AJWS program in 2004 and led shorter programs in 2011 and 2012, said that she sees value in the longer programs, which give young people time to “stew in their own discomfort for more than a week before spearheading or taking full agency in terms of change initiatives.”

Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis at nathankazis@forward.com or follow him on Twitter @joshnathankazis


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.