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Ruth Messinger is a New Yorker through and through. She “[walks] fast, [talks] fast, [thinks] fast and, most importantly, [stands] up fast when the best interests of [her] city are being sold down the river.” Born in 1940 on the Upper West Side, Messinger worked tirelessly throughout the 1990s in the public service in New York City to fight for women’s and minority rights. During her years as the Manhattan Borough President, Messinger noted that, while there was an increase in the percentage of women that held such positions, there was still a distinctive discrimination in the financial support of political donors as well as the treatment of herself by colleagues. One of her colleagues would ask “all sorts of questions and then, at the end of our conversation, when I push for a response, says, ‘Of course you can have a hearing. I can never say no to a pretty girl.’” 

She became the first woman to get the Democratic Party’s nomination for the mayoral race in 1997, which she lost to Rudy Giuliani. However, her role in the public sphere was far from over. She became the President and Executive Director of the American Jewish World Service (AJWS), an organisation which dedicates itself on fulfilling “Judaism’s imperative to pursue justice.” Through this organisation she has worked to alleviate poverty, hunger and disease in the developing world. Messinger is well known for her leadership in the movement to end genocide in Darfur and her efforts to give voice to women and LGBT communities in the developing world.

She has helped mobilize faith-based communities throughout the U.S. to speak out on the global plight of marginalized people. She served on the Obama administration’s Task Force on Global Poverty and Development and now sits on the State Department’s Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group.

Heading successful campaigns for human rights, Ruth Messinger works for the betterment of conditions for all people through the Jewish values instilled in her from a young age. “The expression ‘Never again’,” Messinger says, “cannot be reserved only for Jews.” Now in her 70s, she still fights inequality through AJWS as well as through the many NGOs she is active in, including Surprise Lake Camp, of which she is President. It is little surprise then that Ruth Messinger has been named numerous times as one of the 50 most influential Jews of the Year by Forward newspaper.

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