Causes, Charities, and Opportunities

This page summarizes the missions of a few of my favorite causes and charities -- with more on the following linked pages. I invite you to explore the mitzvah opportunities these organizations offer, and to share your own list of favorite charities. –Rabbi Debra Orenstein

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.

Breaking the Chain Through Education ( is a grass-roots, volunteer-based charity that helps to liberate child slaves in Ghana and to ensure their ongoing freedom. Founded in 2006 by a social studies teacher from Metuchen, NJ, who read about child slaves in The New York Times one day and made it his mission to make a difference, BTCTE continues to free boys as young as six and provides former slaves with education, food, and health care.

The Fistula Foundation is dedicated to preventing and curing obstetrical fistulas, holes that develop during childbirth between a woman’s birth passage and one or more of her internal organs. While we see very few fistulas in the West, they are rampant in the poor countries of Africa and Asia, due to malnutrition and inadequate obstetrical care. The results are catastrophic: women suffer infertility, incontinence, infections, foul smells, and, most seriously, abandonment by their families and communities. The good news is that the cure rate for a relatively simple, low-cost surgery is 90%, and prevention costs pennies, while curing other ills simultaneously.

Free the Slaves is among the most influential and effective abolitionist organizations operating today. Working on the frontlines, in partnership with many local activists, it uncovers slavery and liberates men, women, and children. It also partners with businesses, ngo’s, governments, and people like you and me to change the policies and practices that allow slavery to flourish.

Frieda’s Table
Absolutely Tolerable, Actually Fun, Distinctly Jewish, Guaranteed Non-Embarrassing Jewish Singles Programming. Frieda's Table is a grass-roots program for Jewish singles in their 30’s and 40’s, with committed Jewish couples serving as hosts. Frieda's Table is, unfortunately, on temporary hiatus. If you are interested in helping us revive it, please click here and let us know.

Good People Fund , founded by some of the same folks who worked on Danny Siegel’s Ziv Tzedakah Fund, is named for the good people who do grass-roots charitable work, the good people who need those services, and the good people who lend their financial support. Through this fund, small donations are leveraged to make an enormous difference.

Hadassah , the world’s largest Jewish women’s organization, does ground-breaking work in medicine and community-building, both in Israel and in the Diaspora.

Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey , Yes, it’s my home Federation, so I am a bit prejudiced in its favor. But it has extraordinary leaders, both lay and professional, a track record of innovative programming, excellent stewardship, and unparalleled support for local synagogues through the Synagogue Leadership Initiative.

Jewish World Watch (JWW) is a coalition of over 70 synagogues dedicated to advocating for the prevention of genocide and the proper care for its victims.

The Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) is the overseas arm of the American Jewish community, providing support to Jews and non-Jews across the globe. I grew up hearing about “the Joint,” and couldn’t initially figure out how some speakeasy was able to do so much good, world-wide.

The New Israel Fund (NIF) supports the vision of the Israeli declaration of independence: social justice and equality for all people in the Jewish State, without regard to religion, race, or gender. To date, NIF has supported 800 cutting-edge organizations with over $200 million in grants.