Ruth W. Messinger is President of American Jewish World Service (AJWS), the world’s leading Jewish organization working to end poverty and realize human rights in the developing world. After a remarkable 18-year presidency, Ruth will soon take on a new role as AJWS’s first Global Ambassador, continuing her crucial work of engaging global leaders, activists, rabbis and interfaith leaders to speak out on behalf of oppressed and persecuted communities worldwide. Ruth joined AJWS in 1998, following a 20-year career in public service in New York City.
As a leading activist for human rights around the globe, she lectures widely and holds leadership roles in the faith-based advocacy arena. She chairs the social justice committee of the State Department’s Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group and is a member of the World Bank’s Moral Imperative working group on extreme poverty. Ruth has been honored by many national Jewish organizations and has been named for the past decade among the “world’s most influential Jews” and religious leaders by The Forward, The Jerusalem Post and The Huffington Post.
Sharon Douglas serves as Secretary of the Board of Directors at the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, as well as the education committee and executive committee. Sharon has been an educator for most of her adult life, teaching at the middle, high-school and adult levels. Ms. Douglas has served on the Boards of National Council of Jewish Women, Five Towns Music and Art Foundation, Women’s Division of the Long Island Jewish Hospital South Shore, SIBS of South Nassau Communities Hospital and The American Jewish Congress. Since 1998 she has been on the Board of Directors of the American Red Cross Nassau County. In 1999, she was a member of the delegation to the United Nations for the Anne Frank Declaration of Peace and in the New Millennium and in 2009 attended the ceremony celebrating the Spirit of Anne Frank Awards at Parliament in England, where an Award for Moral Courage was given to Miep Gies. In June of 2011, Ms. Douglas attended receptions for the Anne Frank Trust UK luncheon at 11 Downing Street with Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and at 10 Downing Street with Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha Cameron.
Preston Douglas has been in the private practices of law for over forty years. He is a partner in the law firm of Gurfein Douglas LLP in NYC which is primarily involved in personal injury practices. He is the editor-in-chief of the N.Y. Trial Lawyers Review, the scholarly publication of the NY State Trial Lawyers’ Institute and has published, lectured and written nationwide. Mr. Douglas has served as co-chair on The American Association for Justice Medical Negligence Group. He has been elected to Super Lawyers for more than five years, and is a member of the National Trial Lawyers Top 100.
Established in 1997, the New York State Department of Financial Services Holocaust Claims Processing Office (“HCPO”) provides institutional assistance to individuals seeking to recover assets — bank accounts, insurance policies, and works of art — lost due to Nazi persecution between 1933 and 1945. The HCPO is the only government entity in the world that aids Holocaust victims and their heirs free of charge with a variety of multinational compensation processes. The skill set of the HCPO team is as varied as the claims they pursue. Anna B. Rubin, Director, and Connie Walsh, Deputy Director, are both attorneys by trade focused on international law and human rights. Rebecca Friedman, Inna Kushnirsky and Anna Rathkopf are Claims Specialists. Rebecca is an attorney with a MA in art history. Inna has a MS in mathematics with extensive experience in information technology. Anna Rathkopf has an MA in theology and Jewish studies from Prague. Eleonora Vyadro, is a Claims Assistant, has a BA in engineering and French. Inspired by the legacy of Anne Frank, New York State is committed to correcting the injustices of the past.
Taylor Weckstein is the founder of Giving 1 Family at a Time or G1FT in Traverse City, MI. G1FT is a non-profit organization that identifies and helps at-risk poverty level families transition out of poverty by providing mentoring and items that assist with returning to work, continuing education, and restoring health and well-being. Since founding this organization at age 11, Taylor has raised over $55,000 through various fundraisers. Each year, G1FT supports one family, providing highly individualized support and providing the right stepping stones for that particular family to regain their financial independence. Taylor will be attending the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in the fall as an Innovation Scholar. As Taylor states in her essay, “One word, one action, one family at a time, adversity—no matter its magnitude—can be overcome.”
Feeling disheartened by her inability to help her native country, Marwa founded the New Jersey Chapter of Indian Muslim Relief & Charities, a charity that reaches the impoverished and underprivileged in India. Since 2014, Marwa has held fundraisers raising over $100,000 to help rehabilitate refugees from the Muzzafarnagar riots and support the education and upbringing of orphaned girls in Hyderabad. After visiting India to directly see the effects of the IMRC support provided to communities there, Marwa continued her efforts raising $52,500 in 2015 to build tube wells in Kashmir villages to provide clean water to its impoverished citizens. She hopes to continue this summer program for youth volunteers in giving back to their communities at home and beyond. In her essay, Marwa states “This is the spirit of Anne Frank that I wish to embody – to bring smiles to faces that I’ve never had the chance to meet. I want to change the lives of the young girls and boys of families who at one point did not have a future. I want them to live on and strive to achieve their ambitions and nurture that spirit in their own children.”
After growing up in a small community that experienced cross burnings, racist graffiti, and racial slurs, Maryalice decided to dedicate herself to encouraging acceptance and tolerance. Inspired by Anne Frank’s legacy, she became a board member of The Breakthrough Project, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to create a community that is free of bigotry, racism, prejudice, and intolerance by celebrating our diversity through communication, education, and response to acts of intolerance. Maryalice then went on to receive the highest honor in the Girl Scouts of America, The Gold Award, for starting an Educational Campaign for Inclusion and Acceptance in schools focused on eliminating prejudice. In her essay Maryalice states, “The racist sentiment of a few people can permeate a town’s atmosphere, but the efforts of small groups of diligent individuals can bring about change.”