Darfur Fast for Life

We fast in solidarity with the hungry and starving in Darfur and for lasting peace in Sudan
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Ruth W. Messinger


Ruth W. Messinger is the president of American Jewish World Service (AJWS), an international development organization providing support to more than 350 grassroots social change projects in 35 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. AJWS realizes this vision through strategic grant making and volunteer service in the developing world, and education and advocacy within the American Jewish community.

Prior to assuming her position at AJWS in 1998, Ms. Messinger was in public service in New York City for 20 years. She served 12 years in the New York City Council and eight years as Manhattan borough president. She was the first woman to secure the Democratic Party’s nomination for mayor in 1997. Known in New York City government as the “conscience of the Democratic Party,” Ms. Messinger is continuing her lifelong pursuit of social justice at AJWS, helping people around the world improve the quality of their lives and their communities.

In February 2006 in honor of her tireless work to end the genocide in Darfur, Sudan, Ruth Messinger received the Jewish Council for Public Affairs’ prestigious Albert D. Chernin Award. And in tribute to her life’s work, she was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in May 2005. She was also awarded the 2005 Union for Reform Judaism Maurice N. Eisendrath Bearer of Light Award at the Union’s biennial conference. Among many other honors, she received the Women’s Funding Network’s Changing the Face of Philanthropy Award in the spring of 2005, and in 2004 was one of three recipients of the Lives of Commitment Award from the Auburn Theological Seminary.

She was named one of the 50 most influential Jews of the year seven times by the Forward, putting her in the top spot on the list in 2005 and 2006. The 2006 entry included the following citation about Ms. Messinger: “No single American has been more central in mobilizing public protest over the genocide in Sudan.”

Ruth Messinger is a visiting professor at Hunter College, teaching urban policy and politics. Her volunteer activities include being an active member of the Society for the Advancement of Judaism. She sits on the boards of several other not-for-profit organizations, including the Jewish Foundation for Education of Women, the Jewish Funders Network, and Interaction, an umbrella organization for nonprofits engaged in international development and relief.

Ms. Messinger graduated from Radcliffe College and received a Master of Social Work from the University of Oklahoma in 1964. It was in Oklahoma where she began her professional career in public service, running a child welfare agency. Her commitment to service and volunteerism is strongly based on the Jewish values of pursuing justice and healing the world, values which were instilled by her parents and which she has shared with her children.

Ruth Messinger’s Journal #2

June 16, 2009 By: Admin Category: Ruth W. Messinger

I have found that access to water makes a difference in fasting. It is not only the water itself but the act of putting something in my mouth. This explains why in some situations where people are starving, they are known to eat dirt.


A certain level of acceptance has settled in—as I walk through my day and watch other people eat, I think, food is for others. At the same time, there is the dull headache and increased level of confusion when tackling various intellectual tasks.


I have thought often today of the people I met in various camps on my trips to Darfur and Chad. Do they have food? Are they hungry? In pain? How is it possible to deal with all of the most basic life challenges when one is perpetually hungry and somewhat confused?


I feel a connection to those who are joining the fasting chain, even those I don’t know, because they have decided to put themselves out somewhat in order to create a link to the people of Darfur.

Ruth Messinger’s Journal

June 15, 2009 By: Admin Category: Ruth W. Messinger

I am already amazed at the power of announcing that a cause is worth fasting for. People have sent e-mails with all sorts of opinions, and have approached me at events to wish me luck and ask about my motivation. Many people have inquired about the fast and many more have visited our website to join up to fast in solidarity.

It is amazing when you have made a decision to fast how quickly it appears that food is everywhere; not even actual food—that I anticipated—but photos of food, articles about eating… as I go through my day and absorb just how much food is around us, I now think about Darfur, in a tangible reminder of the daily suffering experienced on the other side of the world as we concern ourselves with restaurants, dieting and organic produce.

Every day I receive a variety of Darfur-related emails which I scan, read and delete as a matter of course. But today I am downloading each and reading it through carefully to keep front-and-center what I am doing and why. This fast is reminding me of the people on whose behalf we are organized and organizing that they may some day soon resume their lives.

Ruth Messinger joins Darfur Fast for Life

June 09, 2009 By: Admin Category: Ruth W. Messinger

Ruth Messinger on Vimeo.

AJWS President Asks Jewish Community to Fast with Her for Darfur
Ruth Messinger to Jewish Community: Let our hunger instruct us to listen and act!


To express solidarity with the people of Darfur, Ruth Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service (AJWS), will fast on the 15th and 16th of June and has invited the American Jewish community to fast with her for at least one of the two days.


Messinger’s fast is part of the Darfur Fast for Life “fasting chain,” involving numerous congressmen and women, activists and entertainers who have agreed to fast in successive two-day blocks. The AJWS president says she is fasting so she can try to appreciate how it feels to be hungry and how difficult it is to function under those circumstances. AJWS has circulated a petition, along with a videotaped statement, to more than 70,000 supporters encouraging them to sign a pledge to join her.


“Each day, in Darfur, mothers and fathers look into the suffering eyes of their children knowing, like all parents, that they would sacrifice anything for their children not to suffer, but also knowing that there is nothing they can do as long as they remain in limbo,” Messinger said in her videotaped statement. “A person can suffer no greater indignity than not being able to feed his or her children or prevent dehydration that is often deadly.


“As difficult as it may be for us to function at a high level, during our fasts, this type of hunger is an everyday reality for hundreds of millions of people worldwide; it prevents children from learning and adults from working productively to sustain economies; but just as importantly, it undermines the very kind of belief in a better future that is the lifeline for the world’s most vulnerable.


“For those of us fasting for Darfur, our hunger is a choice and a temporary state… But there are hundreds of millions worldwide – in Darfur and elsewhere – who feel powerless. They are crying, and we must hear them. Fast with me and let our hunger instruct us to listen. Fast with me and let our hunger instruct us to act.”


To view Messinger’s entire statement and sign the petition, please visit ajws.org/darfurfast.


About American Jewish World Service


American Jewish World Service (AJWS) is an international development organization motivated by Judaism’s imperative to pursue justice. AJWS is dedicated to alleviating poverty, hunger and disease among the people of the developing world regardless of race, religion or nationality. Through grants to grassroots organizations, volunteer service, advocacy and education, AJWS fosters civil society, sustainable development and human rights for all people, while promoting the values and responsibilities of global citizenship within the Jewish community.


SOURCE American Jewish World Service