Today is my birthday, and I’ve received an incredible gift. In about two weeks I leave for a very special invitation-only trip to Rwanda curated for Jewish leaders, educators and influencers, spearheaded by OLAM — a collaborative platform of 53 Jewish and Israeli organizations committed to engaging the Jewish world in global service and international development.
Why Rwanda? Because surprisingly, Rwanda is a place where Jewish organizations are deeply engaged in driving social change and social justice in agriculture and international development. And because Rwanda is linked to the Jewish people through a joint history of genocide and growth. Israel has just established an embassy in Kigali, the capital, plus, the city boasts a Genocide Memorial, and also a new Chabad center that will include the nation’s first synagogue served by the country’s first permanent rabbi.
Rwanda is one of the smallest countries on the African mainland, yet it has a rapidly growing Jewish community of men and women assisting with poverty relief, health care and economic development. Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, for example, a Rwandan-based organization founded by an American Jew who was inspired by the Israeli youth village model. It works with vulnerable and orphaned children, drawing inspiration from how Israel helped Jewish orphans after the Holocaust.
The trip excites me because it’s all about shared values and the potential of the Jewish people to address urgent global challenges. I’ll spend five days in “The Land of 1000 Hills,” seeing the work of Jewish organizations and individuals who are supporting vulnerable communities. Along with Israelis and other American and British Jews, I hope to learn about some of the pressing issues facing the developing world and think deeply about our Jewish responsibilities to the wider world.
Rwanda is a beautiful and challenging nation and I’m beyond excited to travel there. I’m hoping to see first-hand, some prime case studies that model Jewish engagement in global service, international development, and philanthropy. Watch my Facebook page for updates and insights from the trip!