(Thursday, March 17th, 2016) – Over the last few days, a groundbreaking multinational conference of Jewish and Israeli organizations involved in global service and development took place in Washington, D.C. The Focal Point conference was held under the auspices of OLAM, a new initiative of the Alliance for Global Good, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and Pears Foundation. OLAM is designed to help advance the global Jewish service movement and functions as a coalition of 42 organizations dedicated to promote, enhance and showcase the impact of Jewish organizations and individuals in the field of global volunteering, aid and development.
Addressing the conference were several high-ranking officials of American and international institutions and organizations who praised the organizations and their valuable work.
“One of the most inspiring things here is that so many of the people in this group are inspired by Jewish values to help people around the world, Jewish and non-Jewish alike,” said Matt Nosanchuk, White House Associate Director of Public Engagement serving as the liaison to the American Jewish community and on international issues.”
Adam Russell Taylor, the Lead for the Faith-Based Initiative at the World Bank Group spoke about the need for different religious and faith groups to work together to combat the many global development challenges.
“We dream of a world free of poverty,” Taylor said at the conference. “Today this is no longer a dream; it can become a reality, because extreme poverty is an affront to our faith.”
“Our diversity can be a source of strength, not weakness. The world of religion is critical to development because built into the DNA of religious organizations is protecting the week and the vulnerable.”
Liz Schrayer, President & CEO of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC), a broad based coalition of over 400 businesses and NGOs that supports a smart power foreign policy, spoke about building coalitions, saying: “When you bring people together, others will follow.”
Dyonna Ginsburg, Executive Director of OLAM, emphasized the significance of the event, the role of those in attendance and how to get more involved in Jewish service organizations.
“There is a deep wisdom amongst those working on the ground,” Ginsburg said. “Our job is to amplify that and to provide opportunities to share that wisdom.”
“It’s crucial to our work to hold deep and authentic conversations, both about development but also about the interaction with Jewish values and texts. There are many ways across a lifetime to get involved.”
The conference included over 40 organizations such as the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), The Arava Center for Sustainable Development, Energiya Global Capital, HIAS (formerly the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) and AJEEC-NISPED, an Arab-Jewish nonprofit based in southern Israel, which is dedicated to strengthening active citizenship through education and economic development.
Yosef Abramowitz, President & CEO of Energiya Global Capital, and a former CNN Green Pioneer, spoke for many of the attending organizations when he said: “The sessions have been inspiring, it’s an honor to be here and to be your partner.”
At the conference, a new partnership between two OLAM partners, Energiya Global Capital and Project TEN, the Jewish Agency’s Global Tikkun Olam initiative, was announced.
Project TEN and Energiya Global are joining together to create a three-pronged partnership that will development solar fields near Project TEN volunteer centers that will also create revenue for these centers to help sustain them for the long term, design and implement a professional solar internship training program for Project TEN staff and participants in Jerusalem and at the Arava Institute.
Additionally, a specialized MASA program in the field of solar energy will be created that will have MASA participants intern at the Energiya headquarters in Jerusalem for six months and then spend 3 months in developing countries implementing what they learned in Jerusalem.