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Ruth Messinger

Ruth W. Messinger is the president and executive director of American Jewish World Service (AJWS), an international development organization providing support to more than 200 grassroots social change projects in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. AJWS realizes this vision through strategic grant making and volunteer service in the developing world, and education and advocacy within the American Jewish community. Ms. Messinger is also a visiting professor at Hunter College, teaching urban policy and politics.

Prior to assuming her position at AJWS in 1998, Ms. Messinger was in public service in New York City for 20 years. She served 12 years in the New York City Council and eight years as Manhattan borough president. She was the first woman to secure the Democratic Party’s nomination for mayor in 1997. Known in New York City government as the “conscience of the Democratic Party,” Ms. Messinger is continuing her lifelong pursuit of social justice at AJWS, helping people around the world improve the quality of their lives and their communities.

Among her numerous accolades, Ms. Messinger has been named one of the 50 most influential Jews of the year by the Forward for the last five years. In February 2006 in honor of her tireless work to end the genocide in Darfur, Sudan, Ruth Messinger received the Jewish Council for Public Affairs’ prestigious Albert D. Chernin Award. And in tribute to her life’s work, she was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in May 2005. She received the Women’s Funding Network’s Changing the Face of Philanthropy Award in the spring of 2005.

Ms. Messinger graduated from Radcliffe College and received a Master of Social Work from the University of Oklahoma in 1964.

Entries by Ruth Messinger

Men Stepping Up: Ben Horowitz, Demba Diawara and Our Worldwide Fight to End Violence Against Women

(3) Comments | Posted February 26, 2014 | 4:58 PM

In the early days of the modern feminist movement in the 1970s, we used to make the case for women by reminding everyone that "women hold up half the sky" -- and therefore must have equal rights. Decades later, and with so much accomplished and so much more to do...

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Open Letter to Uganda's President Museveni: Veto the Anti-Homosexuality Bill

(0) Comments | Posted February 14, 2014 | 5:18 PM

Dear President Museveni:

This week I received a call for help from your people that I cannot ignore. My lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender friends and colleagues in Uganda are frightened, and I am concerned that they have every reason to be. Over the past several years they have been...

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Seeking Transformative Justice in the Aftermath of the New Delhi Rape Case

(1) Comments | Posted October 9, 2013 | 2:41 PM

Originally published on Feministing and co-authored with Javid Syed, a senior program officer for Asia at American Jewish World Service.

On September 13th, 10 months after the brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old Indian woman in New Delhi, the four men accused of the crime were...

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Celebrating Three Mothers in the Developing World

(1) Comments | Posted May 10, 2013 | 5:47 PM

This piece was originally published in Women's eNews.

Each year when Mother's Day approaches, I feel a mix of emotions: gratitude for my mother -- the most influential person in my life -- and pride in my children who made motherhood a reality for me.

I am also...

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Investing in Haiti's Future Means Listening Humbly to People on the Ground

(2) Comments | Posted January 14, 2013 | 5:05 PM

"Who is wise? One who learns from all people." So teaches a passage in the Pirkei Avot, an ancient collection of Jewish texts. I'm reminded of this insight's relevance today when I see how governments and international organizations are responding to disasters -- those that strike thousands of miles away...

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Standing in Solidarity With LGBT Ugandans

(15) Comments | Posted November 30, 2012 | 4:22 PM

As the mother of a lesbian woman, a committed Jew, and a life-long advocate for human rights, I am alarmed that the infamous Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda has resurfaced, and may be voted upon as early as next Monday. First introduced by a member of the Ugandan Parliament in 2009,...

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U.S. Farm Bill Fail: Will Congress Act on World Hunger?

(12) Comments | Posted November 5, 2012 | 10:06 AM

On America's Election Day, Nov. 6, nearly 1 billion people around the world will go hungry. By the end of December, nearly 11 million children in the developing world will have died this year from causes related to malnutrition. Hunger is the world's number one health risk, killing more people...

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What We Can Learn From the Developing World to Help Us Fight Poverty at Home

(18) Comments | Posted September 5, 2012 | 9:00 AM

Ending poverty in America has always been a passionate concern of mine, and doing so is an ethical obligation of my Jewish religious tradition. I began my career as a social worker supporting low-income women of color in the South Bronx and then worked on child welfare issues in rural...

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Our Current Global Food Crisis and How We Can Feed 17 Million More People

(14) Comments | Posted May 25, 2012 | 4:28 PM

This year during Shavuot, the Jewish holiday that marks the early summer grain harvest and the giving of the Torah, I am reminded of my commitment to alleviate hunger. Reading about the ancient systems of food aid from the Book of Ruth, I cannot help but reflect on the current...

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Tzedakah: 9 Designs That Challenge Our Notions Of Philanthropy (PHOTOS)

(10) Comments | Posted April 23, 2012 | 3:11 PM

Like many people in my generation, I first associated tzedakah, the Hebrew word for charity, with the pushke -- the little metal box given out in Hebrew school, rusting on my parents' windowsill. I learned in the 1950s that Jews were supposed to collect pennies in the pushke to plant...

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Two Years After the Earthquake

(0) Comments | Posted January 11, 2012 | 10:54 PM

Today marks two years since Haiti's devastating earthquake. Though the tragedy was billed a "natural disaster," an earthquake is not enough to explain the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives and the destruction of millions of homes. It isn't enough to explain the acute food shortage immediately following the...

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An Empty Place at My Seder Table

(2) Comments | Posted April 14, 2011 | 5:38 PM

Last spring, my organization, American Jewish World Service (AJWS), asked its supporters to set an empty place at their Shabbat tables. This was a gesture to show solidarity with the hundreds of millions of people who go to bed hungry every night.

As I prepare for Passover,...

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To Congress: Quit Playing Politics With Food Aid

(1) Comments | Posted March 28, 2011 | 12:51 PM

After my teenage granddaughter returned recently from a service experience in Uganda, sponsored by American Jewish World Service, she remarked that she would never again say she's "starving" on her way to the fridge. In Uganda, she had the chance to meet people living on a few dollars...

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Why Foreign Aid Matters to Women

(0) Comments | Posted March 8, 2011 | 3:20 PM

Each year on International Women's Day, I take time to reflect on the many inspiring and courageous women I've had the privilege to meet in my travels as president of American Jewish World Service (AJWS), an international development and human rights organization that supports grassroots projects in 36...

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Chronicle of a Death Foretold

(4) Comments | Posted February 17, 2011 | 2:23 PM

Fr. Michael A. Evans, S.J., National Director, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, co-authored this piece.

In early December, less than a year after the devastating earthquake that sent Haiti reeling into a downward spiral of death, destruction, displacement, and cholera, the Department of Homeland Security quietly announced to a small group of...

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President Obama: This Is No Time to Let up on Sudan

(5) Comments | Posted February 1, 2011 | 7:15 PM

The referendum on independence for Southern Sudan has come off with minimal violence, and it seems that Sudan's president Omar Hassan Al-Bashir will accept the inevitable outcome: Southern secession. The Obama administration is rightfully pleased with how the referendum has been carried out, but this is not the time to...

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Haiti's Recovery Must Be Haitian-Led

(2) Comments | Posted January 12, 2011 | 10:51 AM

It has now been one year since an earthquake ravaged Haiti, a nation that continues to struggle along the path to recovery. In fact, with streets still covered with rubble, municipal services in very short supply and a cholera epidemic that is overwhelming Haiti's limited healthcare infrastructure, it is not...

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G20 Must Create Fix for Debt Crises

(1) Comments | Posted November 11, 2010 | 11:23 AM

As the G20 meets in Seoul this week, global leaders must not forget their responsibility to fix the global financial system for the world's poorest. Many impoverished countries face crippling debts -- often due to odious loans made to brutal and corrupt dictators or to shocks out of their control...

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Don't Forget About Perinatal Mental Health

(1) Comments | Posted October 7, 2010 | 12:05 PM

Recently, at the United Nations Summit on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Secretary Gereral Ban Ki-moon acknowledged that "the world has failed to invest enough in the health of women, adolescent girls, newborns, infants, and children. As a result, millions of preventable deaths occur each year, and we have made less...

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A Better Path For Haiti's Recovery

(0) Comments | Posted July 12, 2010 | 3:07 PM

It appears that Haiti's "15 minutes of fame" are up. With few exceptions, the journalists who flooded the zone following the earthquake are nowhere to be seen. And the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee's harsh criticism of the rebuilding effort six months after the earthquake is a sign that patience...

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