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July 06, 1990 - Image 27

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-07-06

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The shift in balance away from strictly
Jewish giving is most apparent in the
work of the New York-based American
Jewish World Service (AJWS), a group
that provides development grants to
grass-roots organizations in remote cor-
ners of the world.
"We seem to appeal mostly to those
people who feel that, in addition to help-
ing Jews in Israel, that it's our ethical
imperative to help non-Jews all over the
world," said Andrew Griffel, the group's ex-
ecutive director. "But an important by-
product of this is that we're helping
ourselves by helping other people."
AJWS helps strengthen the broad-
based coalitions on which Jewish political
power has always depended by fighting
the impression that Jews are interested
only in helping other Jews.
The group was created in 1985 by a
group of activists headed by Larry
Phillips. After a period of relative stagna-
tion caused by internal turmoil, the group
is again on the growth fast track.
"We now raise about $2.5 million,"
Griffel said. "But our informal market-
ing research thinks it could go up to $10
million in the next few years."
The group funds projects in over 20
countries, including a major project in
Tibet — an involvement that led directly
to the recent dialogue between the Dalai
Lama and several American Jewish
The group has supplied medical sup-
plies to famine areas in Mozambique. An-
other AJWS program, "Plant an Acre,"
provided seed for crops for poor farmers
in the Philippines. Several years ago, the
group built a children's village for or-
phans from the great Mexico City earth-
Still another program provided ex-
perimental silos from Israel to farmers in
Sri Lanka. Whenever possible, the group
applies Israeli technology to problems in
the Third World — an effective antidote

Pho to By Craig Te rkowi tz


to the charges early in the group's exis-
tence that it was "anti-Israel."
Like the other new philanthropies,
AJWS tends to appeal to a younger, more
liberal group of donors than mainstream
Jewish organizations.
"We are especially attractive to those
who have not been involved with Jewish
life," Griffel said. "These people find us
a way to express their Jewishness, to af-
filiate with a Jewish organization, in
terms of the way they see the world."
AJWS promotional materials stress
this idea of enlarging the realm of Jewish
giving. "Jews Don't Only Help Jews,"
reads the headline in one AJWS adver-
This theme of international inter-
dependency is what drew Mindy Reiser of
Washington to AJWS.
"For people who came of age in the
1960s, the whole issue of Third World de-
velopment has been a very important
one," said Reiser, a sociologist who has

Mazon: A Jewish
Response to
Hunger urges Jews
to contribute 3
percent of the cost
of celebrations as
"offerings" to
combat hunger. In
1986, Mazon
distributed $20,000
in grants. This year,
grants are expected
to total $1.1 million.



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