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Messinger delivers keynote

Staff Writer

Published: Monday, February 13, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 03:02

Messinger

Jon Edelstein

President of the AWJS Ruth Messinger discussed the work the organization has done and its future.

 

Ruth Messinger, president of the American Jewish World Service, highlighted the first ever "festival of social justice" on the Brandeis campus with her keynote address for 'Deis Impact titled, "Local is Global: Bridging Domestic Action and Global Impact," on Wednesday night in Sherman Function Hall. 
 
Messinger spoke about the work of the AJWS and how its impact and reach are significantly dependent on a fusion of local and global influence. Discussing grassroots projects of microfinance and agri-sustainability, Messinger described an encounter with issues that in their seeming invisibility, pose tremendous challenges for the organization. 
 
AJWS works to "realize human rights and end poverty in the developing world," according to its website. While building communities around the globe, AJWS pays great attention to "collaborating internally and externally, domestically and internationally" and emphasizing its role in "strengthening people's ability to achieve their individual and collective goals." 
 
Marci McPhee, associate director of the International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life and one of the co-creators of 'Deis Impact, introduced the night's event while briefing the audience on the purpose and goal of 'Deis Impact. McPhee went on to outline the basic structure of 'Deis Impact. 
 
'Deis Impact, sponsored by the International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life and the Brandeis Student Union, along with the ‘Deis Impact Core Committee,  made up of six students, was a weeklong "festival of social justice," made possible by the more than 32 clubs and students organization which planned events throughout the week featuring performances, exhibits and discussions. University President Frederick Lawrence, who arrived from India earlier in the evening, spoke next, followed by Student Union President, Herbie Rosen '12.
 
Rosen spoke about the importance and purpose of 'Deis Impact.
 
"My peers hear the words 'social justice,' and while we love it and hear it often, we also struggle to figure out what the action [of] social justice really is. ‘Deis Impact is the time where we recognize, question and discuss the unexplainable institutional love we have here at Brandeis for local action," said Rosen.

Messinger then took the stage, stressing a few main themes throughout her address.

 "As AJWS grows," she said, "we need to find more grassroots organizations to give them more help for what they need to make them more efficient." Messinger continued, "We need to extend our reach and commitment to the people here."

Messinger went on to emphasize the interdependency of today's world and the importance of local and global reach.

She emphsized the fact that the awareness that one does not have all the answers is what will result in the ultimate benefit for both the organization and recipients of aid.

Prof. Larry Simon, director of the Sustainable International Development program at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, and founder and former president of AJWS, followed Messinger's remarks with an address largely related to the significance of nature and the importance of a well-planned strategy.

Simon said that the "disaster" element of a natural disaster comes with poor planning.

According to Simon, since the people are already there, and the geographical predisposition is not going to change, it is a social imperative to improve the planning and implementations of strategies that surround natural disasters.

Simon continued to talk about poverty and developing adequate leadership in developing countries. He emphasized the importance of getting involved and continually referred to the science of economics, stating the "the world is not static."

Simon then opened the floor to student and audience questions.

In an interview with the Justice, Messinger spoke about the future of AJWS.

"We hope to keep growing as an organization in the Jewish community, motivated by the Jewish commitment to justice to help more and more people in the world realize their human rights," she said.

She concluded by saying that the AJWS plans to do so using grassroots projects and by mobilizing the American Jewish Community.

In an interview with the Justice, Ariel Milan-Polisar '14 spoke about the inspiration she drew from Messinger.

"The work that Ruth does is so inspiring, and her life is an example that is so incredible to college students that are looking to create their identities and figure out what's important to them."

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