LGBT, Women’s Rights Help Draw Atlantans to D.C.

LGBT, Women’s Rights Help Draw Atlantans to D.C.

By Michael Jacobs |

Congressman John Lewis met with a group representing Jewish Atlanta on May 13, but for those who made the trip north, personal time with the Democratic lawmaker wasn’t the main draw.

AJWS for Atlanta Jewish Times
Leah Fuhr, Rabbi Josh Lesser, Ruth Messinger, David Raus, Mike Salamon, Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal and Kathleen Levin meet with Rep. John Lewis in Washington on May 13. (Photos by Richard Green for American Jewish World Service)

The group, including Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal of Ahavath Achim Synagogue and Rabbi Josh Lesser of Congregation Beth Haverim, went to Washington for the annual American Jewish World Service Policy Summit, including time with AJWS President Ruth Messinger.

In an interview before the summit, Rabbi Lesser said he has known Messinger for more than 20 years, and “in terms of Jewish leaders that I personally admire and have a social justice message, she’s one I continue to learn from. It’s exciting to have AJWS have a greater presence here for that reason.”

Rabbi Rosenthal, who was making his first trip to the AJWS Policy Summit, is part of that larger Atlanta presence for the organization. He has been an AJWS global fellow for a year and a half and is a big fan of the organization and its approach to using partnerships in its policy work overseas.

Leah Fuhr, Ahavath Achim’s youth and young adult community director, said AJWS appeals to her vision for human rights and Torah values because the organization is sensitive to local cultures and listens to people in foreign countries instead of dictating to them.

People in Washington, in turn, listen to Messinger and AJWS. Fuhr, who attended the summit last year as well, expected to be welcomed by Lewis.

The summit and the associated day of lobbying members of Congress focused on legislation to protect girls and women from violence and to advance rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

“AJWS has begun to make clear that its primary way of making a dent in global policy is to focus on advocating for women, children and LGBT people,” Rabbi Lesser said. “That feels particularly relevant to my personal rabbinate.”

He said he was looking forward to learning where some of the new members of the Georgia delegation, all Republicans, stand on those issues.

AJWS for Atlanta Jewish Times
American Jewish World Service activists from Atlanta and around the country gather on Capitol Hill to lobby members of Congress to pass laws to combat violence against women and girls worldwide and to protect LGBT rights. (Photo by Richard Green for American Jewish World Service)

Rabbi Rosenthal, who has lobbied Congress with AIPAC, also was looking forward to sounding out lawmakers on issues of importance to him, including protection for children and support for refugees.

As Jews, he said, “we have a whole world we have to focus on.”

Rabbi Lesser hopes AJWS will help Atlanta Jews see that they can have a global impact while applying the organization’s global expertise to local effect beyond the Jewish community.

To that end, Fuhr said she would love to see AJWS, which sends staff to Atlanta for such special events as the annual Pride Parade and SOJOURN’s Purim Off Ponce party, open a Southern office here.

read more: