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Fundraiser for Chevra Lomdei Mishnayot Synagogue/Auschwitz Jewish Center

Project Overview

A student fundraiser to help fix a retaining wall holding up the only synagogue house in Oswiecim, Poland.

Identifying the Problem

In February 2013, the Chevra Lomdei Mishnayot Synagogue, the only surviving synagogue in the immediate vicinity of the Auschwitz concentration camp (in Oswiecim, Poland), made national news. The synagogue was in serious danger of collapse due to structural weakness, as the retaining wall holding up the building was on the verge of giving way.

According to the Auschwitz Jewish Center's website, the synagogue "exists to serve as a guardian of Jewish memory, as well as to educate the public about the Holocaust." For Amanda, the idea that this house of prayer and center for site-based Holocaust education might be destroyed merited swift action, and she knew she wanted to participate in ensuring that the synagogue would continue to exist.

Creating A Solution

Knowing she wanted to contribute to the Auschwitz Jewish Center’s efforts to restore the structural integrity of the synagogue, Amanda decided to organize a fundraiser. As the current Vice President of Advocacy for Georgetown Human Rights Action - Amnesty International (HRA-AI, pronounced "hooray"), one of the largest student organizations at Georgetown Law (GULC), Amanda decided that the best approach would be to leverage the team effort and expertise of the rest of the board and organization to take action on this issue. 

GULC has a weekly event called "Bar Review," where each Thursday, a different student group chooses a local bar or club and invites everyone from the school to come out and spend time together. Amanda thought that the day on which HRA-AI had its Bar Review would be the perfect opportunity to raise money to send to the Auschwitz Jewish Center. Amanda spoke with a representative at the Center's New York office and found out that the Center not only still needed money for the retaining wall project for the synagogue, but also for the renovation of the residence of the last remaining Jewish person in Oswiecim. She also learned about the Center’s larger educational mission, particularly in regards to Jewish life and culture in the town before the Holocaust, and its participation in Holocaust education programs. Preserving the Center's ability to provide Holocaust education programs was a perfect fit for HRA-AI, which works tirelessly within the human rights system that sprang up after World War II.

In order to raise more money before the Bar Review event, Amanda and her organization decided to reserve a table at school at which they sold baked goods and advertised their fundraising event. Looking to expand into interfaith collaboration, Amanda invited the Jewish Law Students Association, which decided to officially co-sponsor HRA-AI's Bar Review and effort; additionally, the President and Vice President of the Muslim Law Students Association volunteered at HRA-AI’s bake sale. Amanda managed the volunteer sign-up sheets using Google Docs and delegated tasks, such as securing a venue for the Bar Review event and the fliers, to other volunteers. 

Amanda worked extensively with the school administration to ensure that her organization complied with fundraising policies, and she is also in charge of ensuring that the Auschwitz Jewish Center receives the funds raised. There were about 20 volunteers who participated in the three-day effort, which raised $230 for the Auschwitz Jewish Center's building efforts in Poland.

Lessons Learned

For Amanda, the biggest challenge she faced was the date on which her organization had been assigned for Bar Review: April 18th. Since the date fell at the end of the semester, right before finals and during a week-long final for first-year students, the fundraising event was impacted. Not only did the specific date limit the number of people who came to the event, but it also made it very difficult for many of the first-year students to volunteer that week. While Amanda believes the event went very well, the only major change she would make in the future would be to start planning earlier in order to get a better event date.

Funding

The main resources needed for this project were people, power and time. There were many steps that needed to be taken, such as communicating with the administration, securing the venue, designing the flier and posting it around campus and tabling or volunteering at the Bar Review. Members of HRA-AI donated baked goods that they had made themselves, so the only cost to the organization was the cost of printing fliers and information sheets. Amanda also bought a piece of poster board for use at the event. The total cost of the event was around $10.

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About This Project

HIA Program:

Germany Germany 2012

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