Josh Fine considers himself lucky to have all the comforts of life while millions around the world lack adequate food, shelter, medical care, and education.
Driven by a Jewish sense of justice and a belief that Americans should shoulder more of the burden in caring for the world’s most vulnerable, the Highland Park resident is volunteering for the Seattle-based Borgen Project.
The grassroots nonprofit mobilizes people to contact political leaders and urge them to make poverty a political priority.
Fine is serving as regional director for the sixth congressional district, which covers parts of Middlesex, Monmouth, Somerset, and Union counties.
“I was looking to do some volunteer work that would really make an impact and be very helpful to people all around the world,” he said.
Fine, who took on the position several weeks ago, is marshaling residents in the district, represented by Rep. Frank Pallone. Constituents are also being asked to contact New Jersey’s senators.
Fine hopes to gain Pallone’s support for House Resolution 157, which proposes a “Global Marshall Plan” aimed at alleviating poverty in the United States and abroad. The project also supports efforts to provide 1 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product to nonmilitary foreign assistance, and a “Water for the World Act” (S. 624) to boost global access to safe drinking water and sanitation.
Fine is contacting synagogues and rabbis and local government leaders for support. He plans on meeting with non-Jewish religious leaders and organizations such as the NAACP in the district. He has also contacted Pallone and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) about setting up an in-person meeting.
“Americans mistakenly believe that international aid is about 25 percent of the federal budget, when in reality it is less than 1 percent,” said Fine. “We spend $540 billion on defense. With $30 billion per year — or less money than the U.S. pays its largest military contractor each year — global hunger could be reduced substantially. In terms of potential to give, the U.S. is actually near the bottom in helping the world’s poor.”
‘Repairing the world’
Fine is deeply troubled by reports that 29,000 Somali children under age six died from starvation in a three-month period.
“I do think it’s an important part of being Jewish to be involved in repairing the world,” he explained. “The idea behind the Borgen Project is really the same idea as in Judaism; even those who are not well off must do what they can to help those who are even less well off than them. Even in these hard economic times, we as Jews should be supporting global poverty reduction legislation.”
The 36-year-old environmental insurance claims analyst is a member of Orthodox Congregation Ahavas Achim in Highland Park, serving as fund-raising vice president. He is also on the board of directors of the Rabbi Pesach Raymon Yeshiva in Edison and is about to take a seat on the Highland Park Human Relations Commission. He previously served on the municipal planning board and environmental commission.
Addressing global poverty also makes economic sense, Fine said. “A lot of corporations support this anti-poverty legislation because they realize their economic future is tied to turning the impoverished into consumers,” said Fine. “These are huge untapped markets.”