Although AJWS' west coast office is in San Francisco, this new space gives them a presence in Southern California.
Shawn Landres, co-director of Jumpstart, welcomed AJWS in with some opening remarks, "For me, this is wonderful, because we look for ways to do good in the world Jewishly. Because being Jewish for us, I think, is not just a noun and it’s not just an adjective, it’s an adverb – it’s a way of being in the world. And AJWS gives us a way of doing in the world that’s very powerful. "
Joshua Avedon, the other co-director of Jumpstart, then remarked on what JSpace beta is, saying that "Jumpstart undertook with a number of partners throughout the LA Jewish community to create a center that would allow emerging non-profits and established non-profits that were working within the Jewish space to find a place to have a hub where they can work together, think together, think creatively, and find new collaborations. "
Then Ruth Messinger, the executive director of AJWS, spoke, remarking that, "With great happiness, we are now building these partnerships by getting in on the ground floor, as it were, of shared space in a Jewish community which is a vibrant Jewish community with lots and lots of interest in social justice." Messinger continued:
As an organization, this is part of our challenge, because, as you all know, our work is thousands and thousands of miles away. And that means we have a tremendous amount to do to decide when a country for an in-country consultant; how often to take donors or supporters to actually visit our extraordinary grassroots, social change partner projects who are, in fact, changing the world. But as we focus energies there, we have this other huge responsibility, which is to grow a sense of global social justice in the Jewish communities of North America. And part of figuring out how to do that is, of course, figuring out where to rely on friends, where to actually put staff, and how to grow ourselves in the United States. And we've tried to do that in a minimalist way, so we save most of our resources for Ghana, Burma, and Peru. But, we have a west coast office in San Francisco. And, since the founding of that office, which has a handful of staff people, the notion was "How can we tackle LA?" The first big piece of that answer came literally with Allison Lee. And we are very happy to say that our commitment to LA means that we are now doubling the size of our LA staff.Messinger finished off by saying "So we are honored to be here."
But I think, most importantly for us, is not just getting a physical space, but getting a physical space that has meaning, that is about the Jewish commitment to social justice, that is about Jewish commitment to growing our community so that it has a variety of new progressive points, out of which more and highly relevant and pertinent Jewish community for the 21st century will grow.
Lastly, Rabbi Sharon Brous, the senior rabbi for Ikar, shared a devar Torah, including describing the importance of AJWS' work:
In a world of immense brokenness, of terrible human suffering, and great tragedies that unfold on a daily basis. So it's ultimately completely irresponsible to just thrive in our freedom. And, for many, many years, that's where the Jewish community was in this country: just living in a place of abundant privilege and great pleasure and not really knowing how to connect what was happening, brewing in our hearts when we hear about terrible things with what we could actually do to help make the world a better place.
Following the speeches, everyone in attendance proceeded down the hall to AJWS' new space, where a mezuzah was affixed to its doorpost, followed by singing.
More pictures of the event are here.