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Social Action Month (JSAM) returns for its third year this month. So, keep your Rosh Hashana honey out and join us in turning this festival-free month into a celebration of positive Jewish social action around the globe.
JSAM is an initiative of KolDor, a global network of young Jewish leaders, the Office of the Prime Minister of Israel and SocialAction.com. In just two years since its launch, JSAM has evoked a remarkable response. Political support has come from the presidents of both Israel and the United States, British parliamentarians, US senators and congressmen, Knesset members and others from around the globe. A wide spectrum of Jewish religious leaders, major institutions, youth groups, communal organizations and many others from around the world endorsed the initiative and created exciting and widespread programs.
As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the movement to free Soviet Jewry we are reminded of the immense power of global Jewry to make a real positive difference in the world - promoting freedom, reducing poverty and fighting tyranny. Today one million more Jews live in freedom. And, billions of people in the East and West, who once lived in fear separated by "walls and curtains," now speak freely to one another.
As a people who were dispersed around the globe following the destruction of the Second Temple, we have been preparing for the era of globalization 2000 years before the age of the Internet. Today, global Jewish communities have an opportunity to realize their potential and focus their positive energies on improving our planet. Unifying around the values of tzedek (righteousness) and tikkun olam (repairing the world), we need to reduce poverty, save the environment and prevent genocide. This is the call of our age, so log on and join in.
LAST YEAR, JSAM 2006 brought together hundreds of local actions by both Jews and non-Jews into a global initiative. In the United States, the St Louis Jewish Community coordinated a month of community wide social action projects. Ten synagogues of varying affiliations came together in Chicago to call for an end to violence in Darfur. BabagaNewz provided 35,000 postcards for children to sign and send to the UN demanding a peacekeeping force in Darfur. Activities in Israel ranged from environmental projects to volunteer fairs on campuses. In Mexico, Jewish school students of all ages began a year-long commitment to a social action project. South African youth groups advocated for better government handling of the AIDS crisis and ran picnics for HIV positive children. In Australia, ways to combat global warming were promoted and practised.
This year, JSAM 2007 promises to deliver even more. In London, the Make Poverty History Jewish Coalition-Jewish Social Justice Network kicked off JSAM 2007 with an activist day that included a mixture of workshops and discussions focussing on the "doing," with special emphasis on Darfur. The Washington Action Office of United Jewish Communities hosted a reception that focused on social issues for federation leaders from a dozen communities along with Members of Congress. The Stichting Collective Belangenbehartiging Van Joden en Moslims and the World Federation of Moroccan Jewry have endorsed JSAM 2007 and are planning local social action-related activities. The UJA in New York is promoting assistance to the elderly, refugee and immigrant populations, orphans in Ukraine and local poor, programming for the developmentally challenged, environmental issues, support for emergency medical services, cultural preservation, and outreach to Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans. And, in Israel there are a multitude of different activities.
As members of the Israeli Government and Knesset we are so very proud of our affiliation to JSAM. In Israel and around the world we see two interconnected phenomena: (1) a rise in public consciousness to help eradicate hunger, poverty and genocide throughout the globe; and (2) a growing number of people who are able and willing to dedicate their time and resources to realizing these goals.
We call on all Jews and members of the human race to join us as partners in this process.
The Jewish month of Tishrei, that precedes Heshvan, contains the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. During our prayers we recount our deeds of the previous year and set ourselves goals for the forthcoming one. We have written our pledges, now we must deliver.
Heshvan is the month of delivery.
So, come online, connect to the Jewish People and join the largest ever global Jewish effort to improve our communities, our world and global environment. (see www.cheshvan.com http://www.cheshvan.com> for more details)
MK Herzog is minister for Social Affairs and Services and Diaspora Affairs. MK Rabbi Melchior is chairman of the Education, Culture and Sports Committee.
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