When I told people I was going to work for a Jewish charity the reactions from friends and acquaintances sometimes surprised me; “a Jewish charity? Huh”, “that’s interesting…” about sums it up. I come from a latently Christian background at best, a secular upbringing more realistically. Why a Jewish charity? I guess that was the question. Going to school in Suffolk, university in the north of England, and in Scotland, I was seldom exposed to Judaism. When I first heard of Tzedek through a mutual friend, I dismissed the option to apply on the grounds that they’d have no interest in hiring someone who couldn’t adequately represent their views.
But of course I was pretty wrong. Whilst Judaism is an important part of Tzedek’s drive, its just as important to them as education, or global citizenship or freeing people from poverty. And this is really why I’ve enjoyed working here so much; I had a unique opportunity to learn about how an international development charity actually works, where ideology meets practice and what projects should be funded over others. But I also got to find out about a religion I ashamedly knew almost nothing about. I asked annoying questions, like “do you believe in God?”, “what’s Pesach?” and “are you sure you don’t mind translating office gossip into English?”
I got to spend time working with people from very different backgrounds, with histories much more interesting than mine, all of whom are passionately engaged in resolving social problems and spurring others on to roll their sleeves up. I got to learn about how a buffalo can help break cycles of poverty, or how human waste can be turned into free fertilizer. Tzedek engages in the kind of development work that, to me, is most relevant, but also sometimes the most overlooked. It’s not as sexy as affecting international trade agreements, or prosecuting human rights violations, but it’s the hard grafting; it’s helping destitute women in India provide a pound extra a day for her children, it’s providing an alternative to begging on the streets for children in Uganda. As bombarded as we are with humanitarian messages of all kinds, sometimes I think this work isn’t celebrated nearly enough.
The manner in which I found Tzedek really is testament to what I’m trying to say; it was independently suggested to me from friends I’d met at different times and in different places. They had come away from their experience with Tzedek with nothing but recommendations. In the office, the calibre of people that choose to give up their free time to volunteer or intern alongside me are likewise an example of the faith people have in the goals Tzedek is striving to achieve. In a time when religious values are perhaps under more scrutiny that any other time in the past, Tzedek’s work is good, and it is important, and I am proud to have played even a small part in their ambitions. And I’d like everyone at Tzedek to know how much I’ve enjoyed working alongside them, how much I’ve appreciated their support and how grateful I am that my first step on a career in international development was here.