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American Jewish World Service (AJWS) - its work and its effectiveness

Updated on April 4, 2012

American Jewish World Service (AWJS) embraces the Jewish imperative of tikkun olam—the repairing of the world—and tzedakah—charity—through a program that operates across 35 countries and that works towards combating hunger, poverty, ignorance, intolerance, and disease. I've been a supporter for the past couple of years and am proud of the work they do for people in need, without regard to race, religion, or nationality.

With a 4-star rating on Charity Navigator for 9 years, AWJS does an admirable job of running efficiently, with 86% of revenues being used on program expenses.

What are those programs? AJWS funds 388 grassroots organizations at current count, that work to promote disaster relief, education, economic development, community and public health, and social/political change in developing countries.

What kinds of projects does AJWS work on and fund?

Broadly, AJWS divides its activities into these areas:

  • emergency disaster relief: quick response to disasters such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami (it raised $6 million) or the 2009 Haiti earthquake ($6.4 million)
  • grassroot organization support: AJWS supports via grants over 300 organizations in over 30 countries that do work such as empowering women, fostering public health, and encouraging human rights
  • advocacy: AJWS encourages members to lobby their Congresspeople for things like preserving international food aid, fostering peacemaking initiatives, and keeping aid programs that help the rights of women and girls.
  • education: They make a lot of materials available to educators and everyone else. I have used their Passover haggadah supplement to help spark a discussion on contemporary slavery and human trafficking, timely when we're commemorating ancient Hebrews' liberation from the bonds of Egyptian slavery.
  • service/volunteer trips: AJWS helps college students, rabbis and adults volunteer and help NGOs and other organizations they support in countries around the world.

How effective are AJWS's efforts?

With a current Charity Navigator rating of 63.58, AJWS has a 4-star rating, the highest star rating available and something the organization has earned for 9 years (although it did earn a 3-star rating in 2007, so it's clearly making up ground it had lost). AJWS has, fortunately, dropped its proportion of operating expenses on fundraising from 10.4% in 2007 to 6.5% in 2009. In 2009, it was able to disburse $32.5 million dollars across its affiliated organizations. It also has almost $18 million in the bank with which to maintain smooth operations, almost a half-year's worth of working capital at its disposal. A relatively light 6.5% of their total operating expenses are spent on overhead, or administrative expenses (including salaries for employees, facility expenses, etc).

The American Institute of Philanthropy's list of Top-Rated Charities includes AJWS, which it has given a grade of "A" according to its rigorous criteria.

The AJWS is also certified as an accredited charity by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), and InterAction, the largest alliance of US-based NGOs (non-governmental organizations).


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  • RNMSN profile image

    Barbara Bethard 6 years ago from Tucson, Az

    and the way the Lord explained it as well! :) cool!

  • livelonger profile image

    Jason Menayan 6 years ago from San Francisco

    Debby - That is exactly how one of our temple's rabbis explains it. :)

  • Debby Bruck profile image

    Debby Bruck 6 years ago

    Wonderful story, Shari. People have ingrained character to give when it is habitual. Always thinking of others. Blessings, Debby

  • livelonger profile image

    Jason Menayan 6 years ago from San Francisco

    What a beautiful story, Shari, and it expresses nicely the value of tzedakah in Judaism. Thank you for your comment!

  • wavegirl22 profile image

    Shari 6 years ago from New York, NY

    makes me think of a story I once read. . it goes like this. .

    The funeral for the son of the Rabbi of Tshebin was ready just about to start, he looked for his mother but she was no where to be found. He looked all around at the relatives who sat together mourning such a tragic loss. But the rabbi would not begin without his wife. Everyone started to look for her, yet they did not have to look too far. There she was among all the other mourners sitting further back, You see. she was walking among them holding a pushka (charity collection box). They tried to get her back to her seat, but she refused and said "I have a practice of collecting money for the poor at all funerals. They have come to depend upon it. Just because it is my own son who died, why should the poor lose out?"

    Its nice to read about how others are coming together in giving - thanks for sharing the magnificent work that the AJWS is doing.

  • livelonger profile image

    Jason Menayan 6 years ago from San Francisco

    Thanks, Eaglekiwi and Cardisa! It looks like they do have ongoing work in Somalia: They also have a big campaign running to provide relief for the famine in east Africa, incl Somalia:

  • Cardisa profile image

    Carolee Samuda 6 years ago from Jamaica

    Wow, I learned something new today!

    This organization is doing very well and it has obviously helped millions of people around the globe. I suppose that it has a hand in the project now underway in Somalia, where thousands are experiencing famine.

    Thanks for the information.

  • Eaglekiwi profile image

    Eaglekiwi 6 years ago from -Oceania

    Informative and easy to read livelonger.Admirable projects with impressive stats.Thank-you.

    Go AJWS!

  • livelonger profile image

    Jason Menayan 6 years ago from San Francisco

    Thanks, Melissa and Debby!

  • Debby Bruck profile image

    Debby Bruck 6 years ago

    Thank you for letting other Hubbers know of this charity organization that helps everyone in need around the world.

  • MelissaBarrett profile image

    Melissa Barrett 6 years ago

    Awesome hub LL :)I had never heard of AJWS before. Consider me enlightened. And thank you for spreading the word.