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May 1: American Jewish World Service

Lawrence Bush
May 1, 2010

The American Jewish World Service was launched on this date in 1985 by two philanthropists, Larry Phillips (CEO of Phillips-Van Heusen) and Larry Simon, working with a network of rabbis and Jewish communal activists and leaders. AJWS is dedicated to mobilizing Jewish funding and volunteerism to alleviate poverty and political helplessness across the globe by giving grants, technical support and solidarity to grassroots organizations. The organization has been led by former Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger since 1998 and has had particular impact working on AIDS in Africa, helping to make the American public aware of the genocide in Darfur, Sudan, responding to the Southeast Asian tsunami of 2004, and digging in for the long haul in post-earthquake Haiti.
“I believe that as members of an international Jewish community, we have a deep understanding of the interconnection of our world — that poverty, hunger and disease anywhere affect us. The American Jewish community currently enjoys a level of affluence and influence that is unique in our history. With these gifts comes great responsibility.” —Ruth Messinger

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.