May 06, 2009

Interview with MAZON Board Member Ruth Laibson

By Sarah Steinberg

Hunger bears many faces; luckily, the anti-hunger movement has just as many unique faces & personalities. One of the most beloved around our offices is Philadelphia-based activist, musician, mother, grandmother & MAZON board member Ruth Laibson.

In the midst of all that, she took the time to answer a few of my questions last December.
Q:  First off, congratulations on the triple simcha – your birthday, your husband’s birthday, and your anniversary. At this point, we’ve received dozens of contributions in your honor. How does such a public issue as hunger fit into such a private and personal celebration?

A: My husband, Peter, and I are wonderfully blessed as we approach the end of this year – we will be celebrating Peter’s 75th birthday, my 70th and our 45th wedding anniversary with our children and grandchildren in December.  In recognition of these three life-affirming events, we decided to ask our family and friends to join us in an act of tikkun olam.

We both feel that the eradication of world hunger is the most significant issue facing this generation and the next.  With this in mind, we spread the word that we would like to use these occasions to consider the shocking “disconnect” between our mazal and the plight of the hungry around the world.  Raising funds for MAZON was the obvious vehicle for us.

Q:  How did you become involved with MAZON?

A:  Over the past four decades, I have been involved in many challenging volunteer efforts, in the greater Philadelphia region as well as nationally, to build a more just and compassionate society. MAZON Board member and Philadelphian Ted Mann, whose career for over fifty years in the volunteer sector is the quintessential model for all of us, was always someone to whom I turned for guidance and example. When he suggested to me that the work of MAZON would be a good match for me, I jumped at the invitation.

Hunger relief had not been an area in which I had been active, but the opportunity to learn more about MAZON and to find a role for myself in the organization, was compelling.  And here I am!

Q:  Besides serving on our board, you also have a storied career as a community organizer. How does this experience affect your work with MAZON?

A: Community-building efforts, both in the Jewish community and beyond, have served as great teachers for me; they have also given me some of the most joyful and satisfying experiences of my life. The tachlis skills that I have acquired over the years, including finding collaborative partners, working in coalitions, honing dialogue techniques, creating outreach possibilities, and on and on, are invaluable to me now as I seek ways to help MAZON get its message out.I love the positive energy and sense of purpose that I experience when I am in the presence of the MAZON board, and I marvel at the successful partnership that has been forged and continues to be refined between the team, led by [MAZON President] Eric [Schockman], and the board members, led by [former Chairman Rabbi] Arnie [Rachlis]. Serving on the Grants Allocation Committee and learning first-hand how our funds are helping to alleviate hunger, is especially rewarding.


Thanks Ruth, for answering those questions. While we are grateful to her and all our board members for their years of support, you don’t have to be on a committee or a board to make a difference with MAZON. 

Ruth began her fight against hunger as a MAZON donor, and continues to recruit friends & family in our struggle. In this time of such great need, that’s one of the most important things you can continue to do. More ways to become involved are posted here.