I arrived in Guatemala early this afternoon. This sign publicizing the crime of the sexual exploitation of children was the first thing I saw upon entering the airport in Guatemala City. American Jewish World Service (AJWS), which is sponsoring this rabbinic global justice fellowship I’m participating in, supports three critical areas in its grant-making work in the developing world: (1) sexual and reproductive health, (2) civil and political rights and, (3) natural resource rights. Interestingly, while AJWS does a lot of work around sexual exploitation in other countries, its country strategy docket in Guatemala only includes the portfolios of civil/political rights and natural resource/land rights. I will be curious to learn more about why that is and how the organization decides upon its priority areas for grant making in each country.
Since I’d left all my jewelry home (including wedding ring) for safety reasons, and locked all other valuables in the room safe, I took a walk in the neighborhood, before coming back to greet the rest of the gathered group, have lunch, and start our official programming. As the next presidential election is coming up on September 6, the streets are covered in political signage and photographs of the candidates. I will write more about this candidate Zury and her infamous father in another post.
Following a brief reflection session on what we want to leave behind and what we bring with us as we start this long-awaited trip abroad and then another short session on AJWS’s 5 organizational values as we interact with grantees (including the essential dignity of every human being, a sense of possibility, partnership and community, initiative and accountability, and humility), we had a fascinating overview of Guatemalan history presented by Megan Thomas, the AJWS in-country consultant. I will not turn this into a history lesson, but suffice it to say that the AJWS reading list I’ve been working through over the last few months has offered depth and complexity to my understanding and Megan helped bring some of the ripples of that history into what is happening with the upcoming election.i will surely write more about that soon (after I’ve had more sleep).
The program is full and it is holy, the learning is deep, the leaders are stellar. I am so grateful for this amazing opportunity to test my curiosity about the world and grow my political awareness in this way.
If you would like to read my previous posts about the AJWS policy summit I attended in May, read the previous posts “The Week of Bonding –Yesod,” “Days 38-39 –Meeting Randy Barry, Eliot Engel and MLK Anew,” and “Lobbying on Capital Hill.”
Before closing for the night, I’d like to acknowledge the death this afternoon of Gene Wein, z”l, the father of my friends Roberta, Paulette, Sherry, and Larry. May his memory be for a blessing.