Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Message to Donors of AJWS Rabbis Mission

Dear donor,

As one of the participants in the American Jewish World Services Rabbi delegation to Ghana, I want to express my sincerest appreciation.

As an Orthodox Rabbi and a political conservative I was an unlikely candidate for this trip.  Prior to the trip I held two preconceived notions about AJWS:
1.) I knew that they did very good work in developing countries but
2.) I thought that AJWS is a radical left wing organization that had no place for someone like me to participate.

My first assumption was compelling enough to entice me to participate in the mission and challenge my second assumption.  And I am so happy I did!

Of the 17 Rabbis on the trip I was the only one who would be considered a conservative.  At every session and in every discussion it seemed that I saw the issue in a drastically different way than my colleagues.  I lost count of how many times I found myself in absolute disagreement with an assertion, belief, or assumption of one of the other Rabbis.  Every conversation and discussion ended with an agreement to disagree, and sometimes we could not even agree to that.  
And yet I found that rather than confirming my assumption that there was no place for me, I discovered that I had a very important place.  I represented the conservative voice that made our discussions more complete and I believe that all of us, myself included, benefited from listening to and seriously considering the opinions of those with whom we disagree.

What I did not expect was for my first assumption to be challenged.  I thought I knew about the good work that AJWS was involved with.  I was completely wrong!  I had absolutely no idea of the impact that AJWS and its partners are making to change the lives of individuals and redirect the future of entire communities.

No article, book or presentation can accurately describe the plight of child trafficking and slavery.  We witnessed some of the poverty and heard from people who had actually been slaves as children.  

And we were inspired by those who have dedicated their lives stopping it forever!

After eight years in Omaha, home of Warren Buffett, the world's greatest investor, I recognize and appreciate the ability to find a good investment.  AJWS invested in James Kofi Annan and his Challenging Heights program - an investment that would make even Warren Buffett proud!

Challenging Heights rescues children from slavery, rehabilitates them, reunites them with their families, and gives them the gift of education in order to end the multigenerational cycle of poverty.

Visiting their rehab center and working at their school gave us the opportunity to meet and interact with the children that challenging Heights has rescued.  We also met with people who live in the communities where challenging Heights gives classes to educate parents on the issues that cause slavery and even helps them establish businesses to get them out of the poverty that forced them to sell their children.

Since its founding in 2003 Challenging Heights has directly affected the lives of 8,000 children and their families and changed the course of history for 40 communities.  They saved lives, granted freedom, and shared a vision of hope for a better future.

After 10 days in Ghana I realized that I could not begin to fully comprehend the impact that AJWS has made through Challenging Heights - and Challenging Heights is only one program of 400 that AJWS partners with in over 30 different countries!

To say that I knew about the the good work of AJWS before this trip was completely false!  I had no idea about the life changing impact that AJWS is helping to make for thousands and thousands of people all over the globe!.

Ten days with 17 Rabbis of every flavor and variety, each with his or her own beliefs.  And yet in the face of the great suffering and the inspiring work all of our differences seemed so trivial.  After all is said and done, we all have the same ultimate destination - we just have different ideas on how to get there.

AJWS brought us all together for a shared purpose.

I thank you for wisely investing in the Rabbis delegation.  Each Rabbi will undoubtedly share his or her experience with our respective communities.  We will give voice to those who are suffering throughout the world and let people know how AJWS is partnering with those who are bringing about change.

I am grateful for the opportunity to witness the great work of AJWS first hand.  And I am especially appreciative to have experienced it with so many talented Rabbis.  The work that AJWS does around the world is not left wing or right wing.  It is simply right.  It is sacred work that all Jews - all people - can rally around and be proud to participate in.

Thank you for investing in me, for investing in AJWS, and for making the world a better place for everyone.

Rabbi Jonathan Gross