Martin Raffel makes a strong argument for why human rights should be a priority in the Jewish community in his Opinion column “Human Rights Is a Sacred Cause, Not A Pro-Israel Message,” Sept. 4. We certainly share his belief in human rights, however we are disappointed that he inaccurately described American Jewish World Service (AJWS) as having ended its advocacy on behalf of human rights. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The vast majority of AJWS’s budget supports advocacy either by our more than 500 grantees in 19 developing countries, or by our American supporters. We influence the U.S. government to adopt laws and policies that benefit the very communities around the world we support through our grants. We have a busy and effective advocacy staff in D.C., an international advocacy staff in New York, and we organize online petitions and other advocacy actions. We were forced to say goodbye to our small community organizing staff in recent months for budgetary reasons. Still, our robust advocacy efforts continue.
Just this past month, our organization worked aggressively to push the U.S. government to use its influence with the government of the Dominican Republic to end the horrific treatment of people of Haitian descent in that country.
AJWS is an organization inspired by tikkun olam — the Hebrew phrase for repairing the world— and by the Jewish tenet that all human beings are created in the divine image, b’tzelem Elohim, and are equally deserving of respect. As such, we could not agree more with Mr. Raffel that Jews should demonstrate unwavering leadership in efforts to defend human rights, and we appreciate Mr. Raffel speaking up. We hope that he and others will join their passion with ours, and together we can work to further human rights around the world, proudly as Jews.
President, American Jewish World Service