The 2011 Carl and Dorothy Bennett Lecture in Judaic Studies: Ruth Messinger

Submitted by Genevieve Bleidner '13 on March 17, 2011

It is basic human instinct; reach out and give a helping hand to those in need, with no excuses. Even seemingly insignificant amounts of help matter on the grand scale, especially to those who are suffering.

This concept is a driving force behind the work that Ruth Messinger, President of American Jewish World Service, does every day, and she encourages others to do the same.

Messinger, the chosen speaker for the 2011 Carl and Dorothy Bennett Lecture in Judaic Studies, delivered her talk entitled “Jews as Global Citizens: Our Responsibility in the World” in the Fairfield University Dolan School of Business on the evening of Thursday, March 10.

American Jewish World Service (AJWS), a non-profit organization formed in 1985, is an international development organization motivated by Judaism’s essential goal to pursue justice. The organization aims to help alleviate poverty and disease among the people of the developing world regardless of race, religion, or nationality.

In her talk, Messinger spoke about the work AJWS has done throughout the world, advocating social justice in action. AJWS supports 460 grassroots organizations in the developing world, providing not only monetary aid but also thousands of volunteers.

Ms. Messinger shared an encounter with a young boy to whom she had asked, “Why should we help others?” during a visit to a school. The boy responded simply and candidly, and was far more profound than other answers she had heard from adults, “We should respond because we can.”

It is with this attitude that Ms. Messinger and her organization approach the long road towards social justice and equality.

A large part of Messinger and AJWS’s goal is to figure out long-term solutions to global issues such as poverty and hunger. The volunteer aspect of this organization is crucial, adds Messinger; she underscored the power of inter-faith connection to promote service and social justice.

“Our responsibility is to help heal the world,” she said. “We take our faith and the values of our religion and put them in action.”

Carolyn Arnold ’13, a Politics major, thought Messinger had many good points in her talk, and was impressed by the amount of work her organization has done in the years since its conception.

“AJWS has an important mission and I’m impressed by the amount of support they have throughout the globe,” Arnold said.

Added Kim Beatty ’13, “It’s interesting to see such an organization – one that is based upon faith yet serves those from any background or way of life – successfully aid others and positively build the reputation of their people in the process.”

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