American Jewish World Service (AJWS)




Tax ID:


Tax-Exempt Status:


Budget (2022):

Revenue: $45,997,172
Expenses: $46,991,300
Assets: $71,781,906


Grantmaking and International Aid



President and CEO:

Robert Bank

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The American Jewish World Service (AJWS) is an international philanthropic organization that funds disaster relief and left-of-center social activist initiatives abroad. Founded in 1985 with the primary goal of helping address humanitarian crises around the world, the organization has since expanded into an operation of more than $30 million per year, which also places significant emphasis on normalizing same-sex sexual relationships and other LGBT-related identity issues, as well as promoting the interests of ethnic or religious minority groups and advancing a narrative of impending global crisis due to man-made climate change. 1

Since its inception, the AJWS has accepted millions of dollars from the philanthropic network of billionaire activist financier George Soros. The organization’s former president Ruth Messinger also maintained close relations with the Clinton administration and the political influence network which grew out of it. 2 3

The AJWS has run into controversy over its backing of service trips and pilgrimages to Israel, which some far-left Jewish activists accuse of minimizing Israel’s perceived culpability for the ongoing conflict with the Palestinian territories. 4 At the same time, the organization has received criticism for allegedly disregarding advocacy for Israel’s regional security interests in favor of promoting causes in other parts of the world. 5 The AJWS also takes public stances on controversial events in the United States: this includes the January 2021 Capitol riot, when it claimed that the Trump Administration should be forcibly “removed from office,” and the May 2020 police killing of George Floyd, when it claimed that “institutionalized racism” exists in American society. 6 7

From its inception, the AJWS has often framed its work in religious terms. The organization ties both its humanitarian relief activities and its aggressive promotion of left-of-center societal values to the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, which claims that Jews have a unique responsibility to reshape society in what they perceive to be a positive way. 8 9 In its 2022 annual report, the AJWS also featured an endorsement from a supporter who described the organization’s activities as “holy work” and part of a “mandate to repair the world.” 10

Major Initiatives

American Jewish World Service primarily operates in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. It funds humanitarian relief efforts with a particular emphasis on the interests of what it considers to be indigenous populations. The organization also works to advance a variety of societal causes, from less-political ones like ending child marriage to more explicitly left-of-center ones like normalizing same-sex relationships and gender identity. 11

In addition, the AJWS conducts lobbying and activism in America to facilitate its agenda abroad. A significant example of this is how former AJWS president Ruth Messinger pressured the George W. Bush administration to escalate American involvement in the ongoing ethnic violence in the Darfur region of Sudan. 12 AJWS later said that a Bush administration statement criticizing the Sudanese government and the administration applying sanctions to Sudanese companies and leaders were insufficient. 13 The group also urged then-President Bush to not attend the 2008 Beijing Olympics opening ceremonies unless China stopped supporting the Sudanese government. 14

In recent years, the organization has been pushing the United States government to fund and expand the availability of abortion and promote a left-wing environmentalist agenda around the world, as well as to work against governments perceived to be opposed to American policy priorities. 15


Robert Bank is the president and chief executive officer of the American Jewish World Service. He initially joined the organization as executive vice president in 2009. Bank is a career activist lawyer who has worked on LGBT-related and other identity politics issues, as well as left-of-center race and immigration initiatives. Bank attended the City University of New York Law School. 16

Bradley Abelow is the chairman of the AJWS board of trustees. He has spent his career in both public and private sector finance, starting out at the major investment firm Goldman Sachs and eventually becoming the treasurer of the state of New Jersey. Abelow is also the chair of the Century Foundation board of trustees. 17

Ruth Messinger is the AJWS “global ambassador.” She was previously the president of the organization from 1998 to 2016. Messinger primarily lobbies Jewish and other religious leaders to align themselves with the AJWS social agenda and help promote left-of-center values. Messinger also holds a “social justice” fellowship at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. 18

Messinger started her career in New York Democratic politics in the 1970s when she unsuccessfully ran for the New York State Assembly. The following year, she instead ran for City Council. As a Council member, Messinger helped push through a piece of pro-LGBT legislation and prevent the construction of a biomedical center on the grounds that the planned site was notable for being the place where radical black nationalist leader Malcolm X was killed in 1965. In 1990, she became Manhattan Borough President, and in 1997, she ran against then-New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (R), losing by a large margin. After her defeat, Messinger left New York politics and assumed the presidency of the AJWS. During her nearly two-decade tenure, the organization’s resources grew from approximately $3 million to at least $60 million, and the AJWS adopted a more explicitly left-wing social agenda. 19

Since the 1990s, Messinger has had close ties with the Clinton political family. Then-President Bill Clinton campaigned with her during her run for New York City mayor. Messinger has also appeared at the Clinton Global Initiative, an exclusive annual conference hosted by the former President and his wife Hillary Clinton from 2005 to 2016 which required a $20,000 donation and a further commitment to back the Clintons’ preferred causes in order to attend. 20 21


The AJWS’ total revenue fluctuated between $39 million and $74 million from 2011 to 2021, with the notable exception of 2014, when the organization raised less than $16 million. 22 The AJWS is backed by some of the largest and most influential left-wing grantmakers in the country. In 2022, these included the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, another Jewish philanthropy and a major force behind the push to add same-sex and transgender advocacy to school curricula, as well as the Open Society Foundations, the flagship organization of the Soros Network. These institutions were among the ten grantmakers that contributed more than $1 million each to the AJWS that year. The organization’s other notable supporters include the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Ford Foundation, two of most powerful left-leaning philanthropic organizations in the United States since the middle of the 20th century. 23

AJWS also donates to other groups. Like the rest of its work, many donations are to ostensibly apolitical groups. Others, however, go to organizations with explicitly left-of-center agendas. In 2020, a sampling of its politically oriented donations included $500,000 to National Public Radio; $50,000 to International Trans Fund, a transgender activist group; $26,700 to the policy group Center for Economic and Policy Research; and $86,500 to the Unitarian Universalist Association, the socially left-of-center activist arm of the Unitarian Universalist Church. 24


  1.  “Our Story and Mission.” American Jewish World Service. Accessed November 25, 2022.
  2. David M. Herszenhorn. “Clinton, in New York, Shows Support for Messinger.” The New York Times. September 22, 1997. Accessed November 25, 2022.
  3. Elizabeth Daube. “Ruth Messinger at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative.” American Jewish World Service. October 10, 2013. Accessed November 25, 2022.
  4. Josh Nathan-Kazis. “Israel Trip Divides Jewish Service Group.” The Forward. November 13, 2011. Accessed November 25, 2022.
  5. Martin Raffel. “Human Rights Is a Sacred Cause, Not A Pro-Israel Message.” Jewish Telegraphic Agency. September 1, 2015. Accessed November 25, 2022.
  6. “American Jewish World Service Calls for President Trump and All Complicit Elected Officials to Resign or Be Removed from Office in Wake of Violent Insurrection.” American Jewish World Service. January 12, 2021. Accessed November 25, 2022.
  7. “Statement of Robert Bank, President and CEO of American Jewish World Service (AJWS), on the Murder of George Floyd and the Crisis of Structural Racism in the United States.” American Jewish World Service. June 1, 2020. Accessed November 25, 2022.
  8. “Jewish Text Studies, Conversation, and Discovery.” American Jewish World Service. Accessed November 25, 2022.
  9. “What Is Tikkun Olam?” Tzvi Freeman. Chabad. Accessed November 25, 2022.
  10. “Our Supporters.” American Jewish World Service. November 1, 2022. Accessed November 25, 2022.
  11. “What We Do.” American Jewish World Service. Accessed November 25, 2022.
  12. “Where We Work.” American Jewish World Service. Accessed November 25, 2022.
  13. “Much More to Do: Response from Ruth Messinger to President Bush’s Statement on Sanctions Against Sudan.” American Jewish World Service. May 29, 2007. Accessed November 25, 2022.
  14. “AJWS calls on President Bush to boycott Biejing opening ceremonies,” American Jewish World Service. April 11, 2008. Accessed November 28, 2022.
  15. “What We Do.” American Jewish World Service. Accessed November 25, 2022.
  16. “Robert Bank.” American Jewish World Service. Accessed November 25, 2022.
  17. “Bradley Abelow.” American Jewish World Service. Accessed November 25, 2022.
  18. “Ruth Messinger.” American Jewish World Service. Accessed November 25, 2022.
  19. Elisabeth Israels Perry, David E. Kaufman. “Ruth Messinger.” Jewish Women’s Archive. December 7, 2021. Accessed November 25, 2022.
  20. David M. Herszenhorn. “Clinton, in New York, Shows Support for Messinger.” The New York Times. September 22, 1997. Accessed November 25, 2022.
  21. Elizabeth Daube. “Ruth Messinger at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative.” American Jewish World Service. October 10, 2013. Accessed November 25, 2022.
  22. “American Jewish World Service Inc.” ProPublica Nonprofit Explorer. Accessed November 25, 2022.
  23. “Our Supporters.” American Jewish World Service. November 1, 2022. Accessed November 25, 2022.
  24. “American Jewish World Service Inc 2020 990,” ProPublica Nonprofit Explorer. Accessed November 28, 2022.

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Susan Rosenberg
    Former Communications Director
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: April - March
  • Tax Exemption Received: August 1, 1994

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2022 Apr Form 990 $45,997,172 $46,991,300 $71,781,906 $6,010,608 N $45,509,275 $0 $506,962 $2,860,101
    2021 Apr Form 990 $65,333,616 $46,286,265 $78,564,070 $8,784,880 N $62,879,514 $0 $473,261 $1,785,653
    2020 Apr Form 990 $44,452,378 $42,515,528 $54,416,985 $7,044,419 N $44,004,528 $208,072 $708,318 $2,063,738 PDF
    2019 Apr Form 990 $39,611,387 $44,016,266 $50,639,183 $5,309,791 Y $38,692,397 $219,150 $559,606 $2,059,030 PDF
    2018 Apr Form 990 $64,741,672 $52,454,406 $57,350,491 $7,955,384 N $63,664,162 $233,328 $388,594 $1,466,606 PDF
    2017 Apr Form 990 $66,631,656 $67,069,742 $46,444,356 $9,161,267 N $66,032,840 $188,000 $254,453 $1,961,444 PDF
    2016 Apr Form 990 $68,958,539 $65,415,820 $44,968,492 $7,140,033 N $68,840,622 $168,227 $202,686 $1,907,031 PDF
    2015 Apr Form 990 $58,158,816 $61,487,233 $42,349,218 $7,913,731 N $57,408,254 $347,512 $205,408 $2,108,841 PDF
    2014 Apr Form 990 $15,884,153 $9,677,732 $44,449,173 $6,710,803 N $15,717,478 $79,901 $48,723 $338,907 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $73,244,782 $58,885,606 $47,461,475 $16,015,075 N $72,780,195 $223,751 $118,136 $2,065,633 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $51,185,141 $53,832,698 $29,328,948 $12,353,757 N $50,583,433 $447,691 $132,219 $1,630,690 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $49,326,397 $52,412,031 $33,324,370 $13,761,110 N $48,758,530 $307,110 $153,029 $1,598,170 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    American Jewish World Service (AJWS)

    NEW YORK, NY 10018-7641