Why I View My Career as a Fundraiser as Holy Jewish Work
We live in difficult times, and as a progressive Reform Jew who cares deeply about injustice and human rights, I sit in frustration and horror at the atrocities unfolding daily. I wonder, like so many others, what can I do?
My Judaism tells me I need to do something. It propels me, especially as a person of privilege, such that I must act.
In recent years, I’ve become particularly concerned about continued crises in immigration, gun violence, and reproductive rights. Beyond signing petitions and showing up to marches, I began to feel a pull to do more. As a fundraiser, I knew I had skills that could be utilized by a mission-critical organization – and I wanted to put those skills, along with my time and energy, to use for a cause that needed me.
As a fundraiser, I’m used to seeing people bristle when I share what I do for work. “How can you ask people for money?”, they ask me. “I could never do that.”
My response is always the same: “I do not ask people for money; I offer an opportunity to be a stakeholder in something important, something people believe in or care about, and to take part in tzedakah, the mitzvah of giving charity.”
Early in my career, a mentor told me that our work is sacred and holy. Though I loved this concept, it took me a while to fully embrace what that means – but now, more than ever, I do.
Until recently, my eight-year career as a fundraiser was focused primarily on Israel and Reform Jewish organizations. I’ve always been proud to be a part of the Reform Jewish community: We speak up, loudly and clearly, taking stands, encouraging and supporting organizing based on our values.
When our current political climate compelled me to want to work for a human rights organization, that, too, was driven by my Reform Jewish values – an extension of my commitment to raising awareness of and speaking out against human rights abuses wherever they exist.
Judaism implores us to treat people with dignity and equality, free from discrimination. The Torah says that human life is sacred because all of humanity is created b'tselem Elohim, in the image of God (Genesis 1:26) – and this concept inspires me daily. That’s what was on my mind when, seven months ago, I accepted a position at the Center for Reproductive Rights.
The Center uses the power of law to advance reproductive rights around the world – and it is the only organization solely dedicated to these efforts. Our mission states:
“We envision a world where every person participates with dignity as an equal member of society, regardless of gender. Where every woman is free to decide whether or when to have children and whether to get married; where access to quality reproductive health care is guaranteed; and where every woman can make these decisions free from coercion or discrimination.”
This statement also beautifully aligns with Reform Jewish values: There are dozens of statements from Reform Jewish organizations in support of reproductive rights, heath, and justice, dating back as far as 1935. Fundraising for this organization, then, allows me to express the values of my faith through my work – without imposing my religious beliefs on anyone.
At the Center, we work to keep abortion legal and accessible in the United States and improve access to reproductive health care for women and girls around the world, having worked in more than 50 countries. In our U.S. litigation division, we currently have 31 cases in 19 states, representing abortion and health care clinics and providers – the heroes in this fight, those on the front lines, often in hostile environments with threats to their personal safety.
In March of 2020, we will be back at the U.S. Supreme Court representing our client, Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport, LA, fighting a case identical to the one the Center won at the Supreme Court in 2016 (Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt). Though the Court and the political climate have since changed, we remain steadfast in our work – and hopeful that the rule of law and justice will triumph.
I am emboldened by the brilliant leadership and lawyers at the Center who have dedicated themselves to fight for what is right – but they cannot do their work without the support of donors. I am proud that my work supports their efforts and the work of the organization, and I am heartened knowing that my faith not only supports abortion rights and reproductive freedom but that it actively takes a stand. It is with great pride, too, that I share with my colleagues the emails and other messages I receive from the Reform Jewish community – all outspoken and in strong support of reproductive rights, health, and justice.
I feel so fortunate that I can do what feeds my nefesh (soul) and to take part in tikkun olam, healing the world, by living my Jewish values through my work – every day.