American Jewish World Service (AJWS), has announced a leadership transition that ensures continuity of its strategy and mission while entrusting the stewardship of AJWS to a new generation. Following an 18-month proactive planning process, the Board of AJWS has appointed Robert Bank, the organization’s current Executive Vice President, to succeed Ruth Messinger as AJWS’s next President, commencing on July 1, 2016. On this date – which will conclude a nine-month transition period – Messinger will take on a new role as AJWS’s Global Ambassador, continuing her crucial work of engaging global leaders, rabbis and interfaith leaders in efforts to end poverty and promote human rights in the developing world.
Over the past six-and-a-half years, Bank and Messinger have forged a close partnership in leading and managing AJWS, and the AJWS Board voted unanimously to name Bank the organization’s next President, with Messinger’s enthusiastic support. Bank’s selection will allow AJWS to pursue its current strategy, which he helped shape, to work on behalf of some of the poorest and most oppressed people in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.
The decision to begin a proactive leadership transition process was prompted by the shared desire of the AJWS Board and Messinger to secure AJWS’s future at a high point in Messinger’s remarkable presidency.
Messinger leaves an unparalleled legacy, having transformed AJWS into a global leader on some of the most pressing human rights issues of our time, ranging from the genocide in Darfur to the fight against the hateful anti-homosexuality law in Uganda. Over the course of her tenure, she has helped to grow the organization from raising less than $3 million to $60 million annually. Messinger came to AJWS in 1998, after a 20-year career as an elected official in New York City.
At AJWS, she has worked to influence American foreign aid and policy to benefit people in the developing world. A tireless activist, Messinger has become known for her global activism and for articulating a Jewish approach to global citizenship, which enables American Jews to stand up as Jews in pursuing justice for people of other backgrounds and in other countries. As AJWS’s Global Ambassador, Messinger will continue to be a leading voice for human rights for people in the developing world.
Bank, a skilled leader with a proven record of managing successful local, national and international organizations, brings passion and dedication to public service and the pursuit of justice. For more than 25 years, he has advocated for human rights for people and communities in the United States and around the world. He has worked in close partnership with Messinger over the past six-and-a-half years to lead and manage AJWS and has shaped its current strategy and advanced the organization’s growth and impact.
Prior to joining AJWS in 2009, Bank served as Chief Operating Officer of GMHC, one of the leading organizations in the world engaged in combatting HIV and AIDS. At GMHC, he led a successful effort to overturn the Federal ban that blocked HIV-positive individuals from entering or immigrating to the United States in 2008 and played a leadership role in establishing the nation’s first comprehensive HIV and AIDS strategy in 2010. Before his tenure at GMHC, Bank served as Deputy Assistant Chief at the New York City Department of Law where he brought strategic litigation cases to enable New York City’s poorest residents to live healthier lives in safer communities. Bank also served as a law clerk at the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Born in South Africa, Bank attended Jewish day schools in Cape Town and then studied at the University of Cape Town before immigrating to the United States in 1977. He holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from The Juilliard School in New York and a J.D. from the City University of New York Law School. Bank has received the Wasserstein Public Interest Fellowship from Harvard Law School, the Lifetime Achievement Award from GMHC and the Partners in Justice Award from AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps.