American Jewish World Service

Taking Up The Torch At AJWS

Robert Bank, a pianist and lawyer who has worked at the agency since 2009, will succeed Ruth Messinger.


American Jewish World Service, the 30-year-old nonprofit organization that supports human rights and anti-poverty activism in the developing world and educates the American Jewish community about global justice, recently announced that in July, Robert Bank, executive vice president, will succeed Ruth Messinger as president. Messinger has headed AJWS since 1998.

Bank, a native of South Africa, moved to New York to study piano at Juilliard. He went on to study law at the City University of New York Law School and worked for the New York City Law Department and Gay Men’s Health Crisis before joining AJWS in 2009.

We caught up with Bank by phone earlier this month.

AJWS’ new head Robert Bank will follow in the footsteps of an icon, Ruth Messinger.

Ruth Messinger: Global Ambassador


You won’t find any photos of prominent politicians or major donors at Ruth Messinger’s office at the American Jewish World Service, which describes itself as “the first and only Jewish organization dedicated solely to ending poverty and promoting human rights in the developing world.” Rather, the AJWS president displays pictures from meetings with the poorest of the poor, often young girls, from around the world, and small handmade artifacts she has received on her travels as tokens of admiration.

Ruth Messinger To Step Down As Head Of American Jewish World Service


Ruth Messinger will step down as president of the American Jewish World Service, the international relief organization she has guided to prominence since taking its helm in 1998.

Ruth Messinger. Wikimedia Commons

AJWS Founder Larry Phillips Dies At 88

He was 'generous materially — and of spirit,' son says.

Editorial Intern

Larry Phillips, co-founder of the American Jewish World Service died on Friday afternoon at the age of 88.

Larry Phillips

Human Rights As A Sacred Cause


Martin Raffel makes a strong argument for why human rights should be a priority in the Jewish community in his Opinion column “Human Rights Is a Sacred Cause, Not A Pro-Israel Message,” Sept. 4. We certainly share his belief in human rights, however we are disappointed that he inaccurately described American Jewish World Service (AJWS) as having ended its advocacy on behalf of human rights. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Human Rights Is a Sacred Cause, Not A Pro-Israel Message

Special to The Jewish Week

Advancing human rights around the world should be consistently high on the Jewish community’s advocacy agenda. Grounded in our basic religious values and historical experiences as a persecuted people, this effort can and should be undertaken with deep conviction. I long have wanted the Jewish community to be more active and visible in this space.

Martin Raffel

Jewish Journey To The Margins

Special To The Jewish Week

For many in our community, the Dominican Republic (DR) is a magical Caribbean nation we contemplate visiting in the winter for beach time, gambling and relaxation. For those of us who spent 10 days there in June, the picture is starkly different: the DR is a place of poverty, discrimination, violence, potential deportation and increasing marginality. And yet, it is also a place of strength, dignity, principle and tenacity, and a warm welcome.

Stuart Himmelfarb

ADL And Other Jewish Groups Hail Ruling Against DOMA


The Anti-Defamation League on Wednesday hailed the decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the federal rights of same sex couples in states that allow same sex marriages.

The DOMA lawsuit had been brought by a Jewish woman, Edith Windsor, who was forced to pay federal taxes on the estate of her late wife, Thea Spyer, who was also Jewish, despite the fact that their Canadian marriage was recognized as legal by the state of New York, where they resided.

A Book For A Better Future

Writers, critics and publishers keep trying to refine their definition of a Jewish book, whether it’s a Jewish author, subject, or just sensibility. After meeting Molly Melching when she spoke at a breakfast sponsored by the American Jewish World Service, I’d vote to stretch the category. “However Long the Night,” which was written about Melching’s tremendous humanitarian work in helping African women, is essential reading – it’s a book about transforming the world.

Photo courtesy Tostan

The JW's 'God-Talk'

AJWS CEO Ruth Messinger sees God as a 'force for justice.'
Special To The Jewish Week

Ruth Messinger left a 20-year career in politics, including Manhattan borough president, in 1988 to become president of the American Jewish World Service (AJWS), supporting human rights for marginalized people around the world. Alfredo Borodowski is executive director of the Skirball Center for Jewish Learning at Temple Emanu-el and founding rabbi of Larchmont’s Congregation Sulam Yaakov.

Ruth Messinger
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