“What are your summer vacation plans?” Well, I don’t think it is exactly a vacation, but I am traveling to Africa. Not for safari, though that would have been awesome. I’m going to Kenya for eight days in August as an American Jewish World Service (AJWS) Global Justice Fellow. Let me explain. Actually, let AJWS explain:
AJWS [whose president is Ruth Messinger] is the leading Jewish organization working to promote human rights and end poverty in the developing world. AJWS pursues lasting change by supporting grassroots and global human rights organizations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean and by mobilizing the Jewish community in the U.S. to advocate for global justice. The fellowship empowers American Jews to become leaders in our campaign for global justice, called the We Believe campaign.
The AJWS Global Justice Fellowship is a selective year-long program designed to inspire, educate, train and empower key leaders in the American Jewish community to become activist leaders in support of global justice. The fellowship includes organizing and advocacy skills training; an 8-10 day immersive experience in the developing world to learn from extraordinary human rights activists; and support in organizing your communities to advocate for global social justice issues, specifically the rights of women, girls and LGBT people. Fellows will join a strong core of leaders in the U.S.
Global Justice Fellows are trained and empowered to become leaders in the We Believe campaign by organizing their communities to advocate for U.S. policies that improve the lives of people in the developing world. More information on AJWS’s We Believe campaign can be found at webelieve.ajws.org.
So, last month, I went to the doctor and got a shot (actually multiple shots) in the arm(s) for justice. I know that there are issues here in our neighborhood that are worthy of my attention, and I am involved with some including NJ Together against Gun Violence (www.metroiaf.org)
In recent days, and weeks, there have been terrorist attacks in Kenya, mostly on the East Coast. Each time I hear the news, I am saddened and of course, concerned. AJWS is serious about the safety of all traveling (18 rabbis and a few staff members) and will adjust the itinerary as needed. I am a bit anxious but then again, there are acts of violence all over the world, including my neighborhood.
Next Friday, 6/27, TBA is fortunate to host a speaker from Kenya who founded and coordinates an LGBT organization in Kenya which AJWS supports. It will be fascinating to meet “Ken” (for safety purposes he must use an alias) and hear first-hand about his work in Kenya. He is traveling here during Gay Pride month and will be marching in the NYC Pride parade that Sunday.
Marriage equality has thankfully reached NJ and this is a wonderful time to celebrate the great strides for equality here. But there are still many more states in our nation seeking equality. And in our globally connected world, it is horrifying to know that a person can be killed for being a homosexual. How can I not raise my voice for justice? A shot in the arm for justice is the opportunity to raise our arms, stomp our feet and lift our voices to advocate for justice throughout our world.
Temple to host Kenyan gay rights activist by Robert Wiener, New Jersey Jewish News Staff Writer