November 25, 2004
Tragedy in Sudan Spurs Local Action
On Rosh Hashanah, Rabbi Harold Schulweis of Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) gave a sermon on the tragedy of Sudan and what the Jewish community needs to do about it.
His proposed remedy: Start the Jewish World Watch (JWW), a commission of caring men and women that will monitor atrocities around the world by organizing educational evenings with international relations experts and raise money to help societies being ravaged by genocide.
"We wish to be educated, to know what atrocities lie out there and where they are," Schulweis said in his sermon. "We wish to raise our voice, because we global Jews know that silence is lethal and meekness is inexcusable."
After the sermon was publicized, clergy from different congregations, such as Sinai Temple, Kol Tikvah and Stephen S. Wise, contacted Schulweis and asked if they could get involved, too.
The result was the Inter-Synagogue World Watch Council, which is co-sponsoring JWW's first event -- a talk by Jerry Fowler, chair of the Committee on Conscience of the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., on "Genocide Emergency Sudan: Who Will Survive?" Fowler is an expert on Sudan who has traveled there several times.
In addition to the speech, JWW is also raising funds to build a medical clinic in Chad for Sudanese refugees. The clinic is expected to cost about $45,000 to build and will also serve as a rape counseling center and a food distribution center. After that, the JWW will raise money to dig a well in Chad, which is expected to cost about $3,000.
"The fact that it costs so little to build [the clinic] is probably a statement on the economy, as well as the medical conditions there," said JWW Chair Janice Kaminer Reznik. "It's a small amount of money for such a huge impact."
Currently VBS has 100 of its members involved in JWW. In addition to raising funds and organizing functions, they have initiated letter-writing campaigns to the United Nations, which they say is ignoring the tragedy in Sudan; established a youth division that will provide speakers to youth groups; and started the sale of green ribbons to be worn as a symbol of solidarity with the people of Sudan. They are also planning a trip to Chad in 2005.
"This whole project was born out of the notion that 'never again' is supposed to mean 'never again,'" Kaminer Reznik said. "But there have been other genocides since [the Holocaust], and it seems it just went over our heads. One of the main objectives of JWW is educating people in our position that there is this terrible thing happening that we can't separate ourselves from, and that is what being Jewish is all about."
Fowler will speak on Dec. 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the Skirball Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 440-4500.