OLAM: Global Jewish Citizens Changing the World

OLAM logo_0By Lisa Eisen

Last month, at the Jewish Funders Network conference in Tel Aviv, our foundation joined with The Alliance for Global Good and the Pears Foundation to launch OLAM, a new initiative designed to help advance the global Jewish service movement. The launch event was an exciting moment, as more than 150 funders, practitioners and government officials from across the globe gathered together to focus on how Jews and Israelis can make a difference as Jews in the world.

OLAM comes at a critical time. From the very beginning, Jewish tradition has taught us to help make the world a better place, to look after the stranger and to be a light unto the nations. Today, as the Jewish people and communities around the world face extraordinary and complex challenges, it is more important than ever to strengthen Jewish efforts to repair the world and to make the imperative of tikkun olam central to Jewish identity and purpose.

OLAM speaks directly to the task at hand. OLAM seeks to increase the number of Jews involved in global Jewish service work, promote involvement in volunteering and professional opportunities that address real needs of vulnerable communities and shape a vanguard of committed global leaders in the Jewish community and well beyond.

As a platform designed to promote and enhance the field of global Jewish service, OLAM acts as a champion for the sector, showcasing the impact of Jewish organizations and individuals in the field. It also serves as a shared resource, helping organizations, practitioners and volunteers to tap into a growing pool of knowledge, best practices, training opportunities, curricular resources, evaluation tools and much more.

Under the skilled leadership of our wonderful executive director Dyonna Ginsburg, OLAM will offer a much-needed foundation for collaboration and coordination. According to Global Citizens Changing the World, an analysis commissioned by OLAM of the global service landscape, over 40 Jewish organizations operate in the fields of volunteering and service learning, international development and social justice advocacy. Each individual organization is tackling vast challenges, often operating on small budgets and without the resources and exposure befitting its cause.

We hope that OLAM will paint a new picture, one characterized by partnership and greater philanthropic support and public profile, as well as increased involvement of Jews and Israelis in improving the lives of others in need. Indeed, by drawing more attention and resources to global Jewish service, we hope that OLAM will “raise the tide for all ships,” signposting service opportunities around the globe, strengthening practitioner networks and expanding the Jewish community’s awareness and support of this diverse and growing field.

In recent years, there has been a groundswell of interest from Jews in Israel and around the world to make a difference through international service and development work. They are seeking compelling ways to act on their values and explore and define their personal and professional identities, but all too often without any Jewish context or connection. We believe that providing Jewish frameworks and networks through OLAM and its partners will enrich the lives of these volunteers and practioners and their experiences as active global Jewish citizens.

OLAM’s work is not easy but it is necessary. At a moment in time when our detractors around the world are raising their voices, we have the opportunity to show the world who the Jewish people are and what we stand for. We have the opportunity to define ourselves rather than be defined by others – as a people committed to service to others and to making a positive impact in the world.

OLAM is designed to be a valuable tool in helping to achieve these important goals, and we look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with all of those engaging in the field to refine, expand and strengthen their vital work.

In this Passover season, I hope we will all pause to hear the age-old call to ensure others are delivered from suffering and recommit ourselves to helping to repair the world to the benefit of all global citizens.

Lisa Eisen is Vice President of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.

cross-posted on the Schusterman Foundation Blog