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Archive for : ajws

Repair Interview: Beth deBeer and AJWS

Beth deBeer found meaningful work – and a surprising connection to community – during her time volunteering with Shan Youth Power, a grantee organization of American Jewish World Service (AJWS) in Burma. Read below to find out more about her experience and check out a short video she made to raise awareness about the issues facing the Shan State population.

How did you end up volunteering with AJWS?
In college I was part of a cultural exchange program that sent participants to Ghana. Because of that trip, I decided to go to Ethiopia where my cousin was living. While there I volunteered with the Jewish Agency and JDC and realized I wanted to go back to the developing world again and do that same kind of [service] work. A friend of mine had been on AJWS’ summer program and that’s how I got involved.

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Weekly Torah: Parshat Va’etchanan 5770

This post is part of a weekly series of Torah commentaries presented by the American Jewish World Service. It was contributed by Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster.

What can our love of God teach us about our relationships with other people? Parshat Va’etchanan recalls the details of the covenant between God and Israel at Sinai, a model for the deep, committed relationship that is ideal for connecting to our fellow human beings. This model is especially critical when thinking about finding common ground for social change.

The parshah contains much of the core prayer of Jewish belief, the Shema. As part of the declaration of Israel’s unique relationship with God alone, we are reminded that we must love God with “all of our hearts and all of our souls and all of our might.” ((Dvarim 6:5.)) This details an all-encompassing commitment grounding our relationship with God both in emotion and devotion.

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Weekly Torah: Parshat Sh’lach 5770

This post is part of a weekly series of Torah commentaries presented by the American Jewish World Service. It was contributed by Aviva Presser Aiden.

The Jewish people are approaching the culmination of the Exodus experience—the long-awaited fulfillment of the promise to the Patriarchs that their children would one day inherit the Land of Canaan. They are camped right at the border when the now-ominous words that open Parshat Shlach appear—“Send for yourself men to spy out the land of Canaan”—the beginning of the end for this generation. ((Bamidbar 13:2))
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In Their Own Words: AJWS Volunteers

Traveling abroad is incredibly rewarding, but it can be frustrating to figure out how to share the amazing, life-changing experiences one has during the trip with loved ones back home. Sure there are photographs, blogs and lengthy group emails, but nothing quite captures the experience like telling someone about it in one’s one voice.

This frustration holds true for any vacation, but feels especially powerful after a service trip. Not only has the participant experienced a new place – it’s culture and people – but they have also made deep, lasting connections with a community and, hopefully, made an impact on that community. More often than not, the participant is often significantly shaped by the experience as well.

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Weekly Torah: Parshat Tzav 5770

This post is part of a weekly series of Torah commentaries presented by the American Jewish World Service. It was contributed by Guy Izhak Austrian.

Hundreds of young Mayan students gathered with their teachers and a small group of New York Jews, standing in a wide circle as we observed an astonishing spectacle. Rivulets of bubbling candle wax streamed onto the ground. Flowers withered and crumpled in smoke and flames. A priest of the Maya Achi tradition presided over the enormous, smoldering sacrifice of candles, flowers and grains which he had spent hours laying out on the ground in traditional colors: red, black, white and yellow for the four directions of the compass; blue and green in the center for the sky and the earth.

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This Week: AJWS’ Global Hunger Shabbat

Regular Shabbat observers and novices alike are invited to join the first annual Global Hunger Shabbat this week on March 19-20. Spearheaded by the international organization, American Jewish World Service (AJWS) as part of their Fighting Hunger from the Ground Up campaign, it offers an opportunity for local communities (AJWS estimates participation from 5,000 people) to raise awareness and solidarity around issues of unjust food access, poverty, and hunger across the world.

Participation can include anything from hosting a Shabbat dinner or lunch conversation around the issue of food access, giving a speech or sermon at your synagogue, JCC or in your house, bringing the topic into the classroom, or organizing a day of action in the fight against hunger.

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Weekly Torah: Parshat Ki Tisa 5770

This post is part of a weekly series of Torah commentaries presented by the American Jewish World Service. It was contributed by Aviva Presser Aiden.

The detailed description of the building and consecration of the Tabernacle, which spans several parshiot (Torah portions), is framed by a pair of financial appeals. The opening appeal, in Parshat Terumah, speaks to the generosity of the people—“Take for Me contributions from those whose heart moves them…” ((Exodus 25:2.)) Chapters later, in Parshat Ki Tisa, the description closes with the injunction that every member of the community over the age of 20 donate a half-shekel annually, in order to pay for the ongoing service in the Tabernacle.

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