Posted by JewishJournal.com
Posted by Naama Haviv
I knew I shouldn’t have gone into the room about children long before I stepped inside. It’s the last room of the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center here in Rwanda, and it’s not like the kind young man that greeted us at reception didn’t give me fair warning that it was coming. I was already in tears – the memorial is intensely powerful and personal – and I knew it would push me over the edge.
No little boy’s last words should be “Mama, where should I run to?” I didn’t want to know about the little girls, sisters, best friends, who shared a doll and were murdered together. I didn’t want to know about the brother who was a mama’s boy and the sister who was a daddy’s girl who were shot as if they were not, somehow, brimming with humanity and potential.Bullet Holes
I don’t want to know these things. There is no way of making these stories academic, of turning back to my books and explaining away this intensely personal brutality with theory and analysis. And that’s the way I operate – making the intimacy of genocide either academic or actionable. I’ve been doing this – studying genocide, analyzing genocide, trying to understand how to prevent genocide – for thirteen years.
But now it’s personal.
These children that died – that were murdered, whose families were destroyed by their destruction, whose potential was snuffed out so early – some were only a little older than my daughter. My sweet girl who has only just started chatting and babbling, who desperately wants to crawl and who I am desperate to see grow and develop – how lucky am I that I will have this with her? How horrible that Rwandan parents – those that survived their children – do not? That they have to live now every day knowing their children are missing from this world? That in some cases they need to continue to live, side by side, with their children’s murderers – possibly not forgiving, definitely not forgetting, but nonetheless coping, somehow, with the reality?
Tomorrow morning we leave for Goma – and from here on out nothing will be academic. It will be impossible. We will hear about brutality that is unparalleled the world over. And I will know the women and children who are telling me these stories. I will hold their hands and cry with them. It will be very, very personal, and very, very hard.
But I also know why we’re here. Because I know that behind every terrible story, there is a person with strength that is working to rebuild. And I know the incredible potential of Congo – in the character of its people, in the depth of its culture, in the richness of its resources.
After the Genocide Memorial today we visited the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, where now 350 of Rwanda’s most vulnerable orphaned children have the opportunity to study as a community and grow as adults. They learn to resolve conflicts and trust themselves. After only a year they have the confidence to confront Rwanda’s government ministers on the most difficult of national questions. Their potential is only just blooming – it’s a long road, but an important investment in a country still working to rebuild.
I know Congo can do it too. And I’m positive that we can help.
5.22.13 at 9:09 am | Eric Garcetti became the first elected Jewish. . .
5.22.13 at 8:16 am | UPDATE 8:00 am: Eric Garcetti wins the mayoral. . .
5.21.13 at 11:06 am | Using his preternatural smoothness, Justin. . .
5.20.13 at 11:40 am | Proving once again that there isn’t anything he. . .
5.14.13 at 9:59 am | This week on his podcast, Jewish comedian Marc. . .
4.30.13 at 10:58 am | Michael Diamond (Mike D.) and Adam Horovitz. . .
4.24.13 at 3:15 pm | So, 17-year-old Milken Community High School. . . (1640)
4.25.13 at 4:47 pm | (531)
5.22.13 at 8:16 am | UPDATE 8:00 am: Eric Garcetti wins the mayoral. . . (431)
November 5, 2009 | 2:58 pm
Posted by Susan Freudenheim
Anyone celebrating how far women have come since the heyday of the Women’s Movement of the 1960s and ‘70s should take a look at the survey just released by The Forward, which shows that among leading U.S. Jewish communal organizations “fewer than one in six are run by women, and those women are paid 61 cents to every dollar earned by male leaders.” This is despite the fact that women occupy approximately 75 percent of the workforce in those organizations, according to the report.
Indeed, when the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles recently named JTN chief Jay Sanderson as its new president, it was widely known that all four finalists for the job were men: Sanderson, former City Councilman Jack Weiss, former William Morris COO Irv Weintraub and Joshua Fogelson, executive director of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation. Were there no qualified women, many were asking? Or did all the great women decline to be considered?
Given the contribution women make to the Jewish community, on every level, there ought to be both more head scratching and consciousness raising on this issue. Among us all, male and female alike.
November 5, 2009 | 3:48 am
Posted by Tom Tugend
“The Little Traitor,” opening Nov. 13 at Laemmle’s Music Hall in Beverly Hills and Town Center in Encino, harkens back to 1947, when “Palestinians” referred to the Jewish inhabitants and the hated enemies were British soldiers wearing red berets.
The film, based on the semi-biographical novel “Panther in the Basement” by Amos Oz, combines the coming of age story of a young patriot with historical insights on the struggle for a Jewish state.
Proffy (short for “professor”) is an 11-year Jerusalem boy, who hates the British soldiers who occupy his land, impose strict curfews, and conduct midnight house raids.
With two like-minded playmates, he forms the “underground cell” FOD (“Freedom or Death”), which sprays “British Go Home” graffiti on walls and tries to disable a British convey by scattering nails on the road.
On most evenings, Proffy sneaks up to the rooftop to scan the roads for the British enemy through binoculars. Not infrequently, his attention strays to a lovely young woman in a neighboring apartment in various stages of undress.
One evening, Proffy, played with remarkable authenticity by Ido Port, is caught after curfew hours by British Sgt. Dunlop, played by a sympathetic, if slightly corpulent, Alfred Molina.
An unlikely but warm friendship develops between Proffy and the bible-reading soldier during mutual language lessons, in which Dunlop explains the meaning of “snooker” and Proffy introduced his friend to the subtleties of “meshuggah.”
After a short time, Proffy’s fellow young freedom fighters discover the relationship and denounce him as a traitor. Proffy is hauled before a Jewish Agency “court” and sternly examined by Thodore Bikel as an interrogator.
In one of its most emotional scenes, the film recreates the almost unbearable tension of the November 1947 vote by the United Nations, which will determine the partition of Palestine between Arabs and Jews. Families huddle around the radio, keeping score of each country’s vote, and then burst into the street in wild jubilation after the final count.
Lynn Roth, who directed “Little Traitor” and wrote the screenplay, is a veteran Hollywood writer and producer, who has won numerous awards, especially as showrunner (executive producer) of the long-running 1980s television series “The Paper Chase.”
She has also been a longtime teacher in the master class for Israeli filmmakers in the Los Angeles/Tel Aviv Partnership Program and said that she had dreamt for decades about making a film in Israel.
After extensive preparations, she began filming “Little Traitor” in the old Musrara quarter of Jerusalem in the summer of 2006, and three days into the project the Lebanon War broke out.
“It struck me as ironic that I was making a film about fighting in Palestine in 1947, and now, almost 60 years later, the bullets were flying again,” she said.
Despite such distractions, including the army call-up of some of her crewmembers, Roth “miraculously” completed shooting the film in 28 days.
Roth, a New York native, said she is bound to Israel by many ties, not least the graves of all four grandparents in the Jewish state.
November 4, 2009 | 4:26 am
Posted by Rob Eshman
The Jewish biographical particulars of Claude Levy-Strauss, the French anthropologist who died Tuesday at the age of 100, are well-documented. But the influence of his Jewish background on his thought and creativity leaves room for the knd of speculation he himself delighted in.
The man who gave the world the idea of deeply rooted logical structures that underpin human mythmaking, kinship, and other cultural manifestations—that is, structuralism—grew up in a religious tradition that venerates definition and boundaries, that translates the most elusive and ambiguous myths, stories, and legends, into rites and laws.
Born in Brussels in 1908, Claude Lévi-Strauss was the son of Alsatian Jews. As the New York Times reported:
Claude Lévi-Strauss was born on Nov. 28, 1908, in Belgium to Raymond Lévi-Strauss and the former Emma Levy. He grew up in France, near Versailles, where his grandfather was a rabbi and his father a portrait painter. His great-grandfather Isaac Strauss was a Strasbourg violinist mentioned by Berlioz in his memoirs. As a child, he loved to collect disparate objects and juxtapose them. “I had a passion for exotic curios,” he says in “Conversations.” “My small savings all went to the secondhand shops.” A large collection of Jewish antiquities from his family’s collection, he said, was displayed in the Musée de Cluny; others were looted after France fell to the Nazis in 1940.
The grandson of a rabbi set off to discover what lay behind the cultural differences of tribes in Brazil. What he determined was that binary structures of thought undergird human mythmaking. We are hardwired as humans to recognize and reconcile opposites: hot/cold up/down, raw/cooked. From this we create systems of kinship, culture, eating and social structures that help us make sense of world whose greatest opposite constantly haunts us: life and death.
How much of a stretch to understand how young Claude first exposure to these ideas in a nascent, inchoate form as he was exposed to the laws of kashrut, the firm boundaries between kosher and treyf (non-kosher), between Jew and Gentile, between the sabbath day and the rest of the weeks? Judaism is structuralism’s neatest tool box—you have to wander far into the hazy Hasidic and kabbalistic mystery worlds of golems, dybbuks, spirits and magic before you can truly blur the myriad boundaries Jewish life and literature set before you. Levi-Strauss had to have drunk it all in, and saw it come alive again in the jungles of Brazil.
But there’s more.
When Levi-Strauss fled Vichy France, determining he was “potential fodder for the concentration camp”, he ended up teaching at the New School for Social Research in New York. He taught ethnology, and befriended the great American anthropologist Franz Boas. Boas was a German Jew whose own theories of anthropology broke from the linear idea of culture an a continuum, from primitive to civilized. He promoted the idea that it was important to actually experience and understand various tribes and cultures, to understand them on their own terms. This cultural particularism evolved into relativism, a word which has been reduced to four letters among conservatives and talk radio hosts. But Boas advanced his ideas in part to help broaden the idea of the human family, to strengthen democracy and reduce the kind of hatred that he, as a Jew, was exposed to.
It is easy to assume Levi-Strauss saw in his own work the power of his own theories to break down walls among humans by showing how our differences arose from our essential Oneness—our brains worked similarly, though their manifestations took on many different forms. At a time when his fellow Jews were being treated as subhuman, creatures apart, this idea had to have more than just theoretical power for Levy-Strauss.
November 3, 2009 | 9:20 pm
Posted by JewishJournal.com
Posted by Janice Kamenir-Reznik
It took us 30 hours from the time we departed from Los Angeles to when we arrived in Kigali, Rwanda. We spent the evening visiting with our new Rwandan friends who will be our guides and translators While we have not yet seen Kigali in the daytime, from our conversations tonight and by the looks of our brand new hotel, (which has free wireless, a swimming pool befitting a Hawaiian resort, a workout room, and more), Rwanda is working diligently on its tourism, its urban development, and on its economy. And, of course, wants desperately to create an all time record for post genocide reconciliation. We will learn much more tomorrow as we visit the genocide memorial.
I have the question lingering in my mind about the small village “justice courts” by which genocide perpetrators are supposed to seek direct forgiveness from the mother whose baby he killed or from the husband whose entire family he destroyed. When almost one million were slaughtered in 100 days, can an apology assuage the pain and reduce the rage? I know that our day tomorrow will give me lots more to think of on this theme.
November 3, 2009 | 9:05 pm
Posted by Tom Tugend
[Please note: this story has been updated]
Donald T. Sterling, real estate tycoon and owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, has agreed to pay $2.725 million to settle the largest housing and apartment rental discrimination suit ever obtained by the U.S. Justice Department, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.
The suit alleges discrimination against African Americans, Hispanics and families with children at many of the 119 apartment buildings Sterling owns or manages through his Beverly Hills Properties company.
The settlement in the three-year old legal action must still be approved by U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fisher.
Sterling promotes his charitable image through constant insertions of large newspaper ads, featuring his smiling face and frequently sporting a Star of David.
Most recently, his charitable foundation advertised its sponsorship of the Oct. 20 game between the Clippers and Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv, with Israel’s Migdal Ohr orphanage as the designated beneficiary.
If the settlement is approved, Sterling and his wife Rochelle will have to pay $2.625 million to a fund for people victimized by their discriminatory practices, plus $100,000 penalty to the government.
According to court filings, the Sterlings are charged with making statements “indicating that African Americans and Hispanics are not desirable tenants and that they preferred Korean tenants.”
Ironically, Sterling was the recent recipient of the NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award at a dinner marking the 100th anniversary of the African American civil rights organization.
Bob Platt, Sterling’s attorney, said in a statement that “My clients vehemently and unequivocally deny that anyone was discriminated against ,” and that Sterling and his wife maintained “a zero tolerance policy prohibiting all forms of housing discrimination.”
Platt added that the Sterlings decided to settle the suit to avoid what could well be a far more continued litigation.
Sterling, 76, has been the target of a number of discrimination suits and two sexual harassment complaints over the past decade.
November 3, 2009 | 4:05 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
Almost everything about The Wall Project screams brilliant.
On the south side of Wilshire Blvd. and Ogden St., across from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, cranes have placed eight segments from the original Berlin Wall. The 40 by 10 foot section of wall is the largest displayed outside of Berlin, where the entire wall divided Communist East Berlin from democratic West Berlin for 28 years.
The Culver City-based Wende Museum of the Cold War launched The Wall Project to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, on November 9, 1989.
From the Wende Museum’s press release:
Wilshire Blvd. will close at 10pm for the installation of a concert stage and an 40’ by 10’ wall of art that was painted by dozens of L.A. artists as an homage to the original Berlin Wall. Contributing artists include SHEPARD FAIREY and original Berlin Wall artist THIERRY NOIR. Festivities begin at 11pm with films, recorded music, and meetings with the artists in front of their wall panels. At 11:30pm, dignitaries and special guests will be introduced followed by a live performance by legendary German chanteuse UTE LEMPER. At midnight, the Mayor of Berlin, KLAUS WOWEREIT, will deliver a delayed big screen message from Berlin and a large section of the 80’ art wall will be ceremonially torn down. Festivities close with an encore performance by Ute Lemper.
The event is FREE and being presented by THE WENDE MUSEUM AND ARCHIVE OF THE COLD WAR in Culver City, which houses one of the largest collections of Eastern European Cold War art and artifacts in the world.
I drove to visit the wall section yesterday, parked my car on Ogden and walked out to the wall, which looks puny at the foot of a massive white hi-rise. Chilling, to think how many people and nations were held captive by this load of concrete. On my tiptoes I could reach up and almost touch the very top.
The Wall became a medium for some of the most powerful street art ever made, beginning when Berlin artist Thierry Noir had the audacity to enoble the barrier with his bright colors. Wende executive director Justinian Jampol had the brilliant idea of bringing Noir to the festivities, along with Shepard Fairey, the artist who created (yes, off an AP photo) Obama’s iconic “HOPE” poster. Both men will paint a symbolic wall across Wilshire Blvd. on Nov. 9 to demonstrate the cruel reality of life behind a barrier.
Fairey told The Los Angeles Times blogger Diane Haithman he will use the opportuinity to draw parallels between the Berlin wall, the U.S. Mexico border, and “The Wall of Palestinine:”
In my exclusive story in today’s Calendar section on the Wall Project—an ambitious effort spearheaded by the Wende Museum of the Cold War that calls for erecting a symbolic Berlin Wall across busy Wilshire Boulevard in November, on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the real wall in Berlin—it was revealed that Los Angeles artists Shepard Fairey (above with his iconic “Hope” poster for Barack Obama) and Kent Twitchell, along with Berlin-based Frenchman Thierry Noir, will be the key artists lending their work to the project. In fact, all three will do at least some of their painting on panels that will become part of the Wall Project in public spaces, where passers-by can watch the process.
As mentioned in the story, muralist Twitchell (recently in the news because of his 100-foot-tall mural of the late Michael Jackson, which was never mounted in an outdoor public space) plans to create portraits of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, the presidents leading the country, respectively, when the wall rose and when it fell. In recent weeks, Twitchell has been combing through the archives of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library in Simi Valley for photos to inspire his work. “I think I’ve found the ones I want,” he said. “Kennedy looks so young, and Reagan looks so old—when I put them side to side, they almost look like father and son.” (*Update: An earlier version of this report incorrectly referred to John F. Kennedy as Robert F. Kennedy)
In a conversation this morning Fairey also offered some of this plans. Although not wanting…
to be specific—“I don’t want to metaphorically or literally paint myself into a corner,” he joked—Fairey says he is most likely going to make an “antiwar, anti-containment piece” that makes a parallel to the Wall of Palestine.
“My feeling is that of course it’s a very complicated situation, but I’m a believer that you can’t punish the many for the crimes of the few,” Fairey says.“I believe in [former President Jimmy] Carter’s assessment that there is an apartheid situation there.”
He said the piece will not be deliberately inflammatory but, he trusts, provocative.
By the Wall of Palestine, Fairey means the controversial barrier that Israel began constructing in 1994 to separate itself from the West Bank. There are many good and some not-so-good things about the Separation barrier, which in some places is a solid wall and in others a high-security fence. But to compare it head on to the Berlin Wall does a gross injustice to Israel, to Berliners who survived the Wall, and to Truth, which Art is supposed to serve.
Our reporter contacted Jampol for an interview about this, and Jampol responded through his PR rep with this statement:
“There are over thirty artists involved in The Wall Project, which provides a canvas for diverse voices and opinions about physical and psychological walls. For nearly every position, there is an artist who takes the other side. My own biography includes a complicated relationship with the Berlin Wall. My grandparents are Jewish Americans who fought the Nazis and believed strongly that Germany should remain divided and that the Wall should stay intact. On November 8, I will oversee the 20th anniversary commemorations of the fall of the Berlin Wall.”
Writing in The Nation, Jon Wiener correctly predicted facile comparisons between Walls would upset conservatives. He wrote:
In an interview with the LA Times, Fairey said his painting on the wall in L.A. would be an “antiwar, anti-containment piece” that “makes a parallel to the Wall of Palestine.”
Thierry Noir told the Times that his painting would draw an analogy between the Berlin Wall and the border wall between the US and Mexico – the point being, he said, that “every wall is not built forever.”
Maybe Fairey and Noir mean that the Israeli wall and the US border wall should come down, the way the Berlin Wall did, and allow free movement—of Palestinians into Israel, and of Mexicans into the US.
And maybe they mean more than that. The Berlin Wall prevented victims of Stalinism from reaching freedom in the West; Fairey’s point seems to be that the Israeli wall prevents victims of Zionism from exercising their right of return to their historic homes in Palestine.
Thierry Noir’s point seems to be that the US border wall, like the Berlin Wall, divides one country into two: what was once all-Mexican territory in California and the Southwest. And, like divided Germany, the two sides of the Mexican border—“Aztlan”—should be, and perhaps will be, re-united some day.
An undivided Palestine; an undivided Aztlan: these meanings found in the Berlin Wall commemoration are likely to drive conservatives into a wild rage. First Amendment defenders of course will invoke the freedom of the artist. A fight over the meaning of freedom: what better way to celebrate the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall?
I don’t know if there will be an artist who will “take the other side” of Fairey’s parallel between the Berlin Wall and the Separation Barrier—after all, Jampol said “nearly” every position will have its counterpoint—so permit me to give 10 reasons why one is not like the other. Feel free to print, clip and distribute this at the event—which I look forward to attending. It really is a brilliant idea.
TOP TEN REASONS THIS WALL IS NOT THAT WALL
1. Israel built the wall to keep Palestinian terrorists from killing soldiers and civilians. If there were no terror attacks, there would be no barrier. The murder of an Israeli teenage girl in 1992 first prompted leaders to call for the barrier. The Berlin Wall was built by the Soviet Union not to keep terrorists out of East Berlin, but to keep civilians in.
2. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin wanted the Wall to preserve a Jewish majority in a Jewish state established by the international community in 1948. He knew that majority would be threatened by Israel’s annexation of the West Bank and Gaza, which those to the right of Rabin proposed. “We do not want a majority of the Jewish residents of the state of Israel, 98% of whom live within the borders of sovereign Israel, including a united Jerusalem, to be subject to terrorism,” he said. Berlin’s Wall was built to keep East Berliners subject to a dictatorial ideology against their will.
3. The route of the barrier has been subject to frequent rulings by the Israeli Supreme Court to mitigate the hardship it poses to Palestinians. The people who built the Berlin Wall didn’t give a crap about the hardships it imposed.
4. The security barrier has greatly decreased terror attacks in Israel, allowing Israel’s Jews and Arabs to live with greater security and prosperity, and reducing the Israeli army’s need for actions against Palestinians. The barrier has saved lives on both sides of the conflict. The Berlin Wall led directly to the death of some 200 people who tried to escape.
5. Many Palestinians have come to appreciate the security of the barrier. East Berliners were never big fans of the Wall. From Wikipedia:
In June 2004, The Washington Times reported that the reduced Israeli military incursions in Jenin have prompted efforts to rebuild damaged streets and buildings and a gradual return to a semblance of normality, and in a letter dated October 25, 2004, from the Israeli mission to Kofi Annan, Israel’s government pointed out that a number of restrictions east of the barrier have been lifted as a result of it, including a reduction in checkpoints from 71 to 47 and roadblocks from 197 to 111. The Jerusalem Post reports that, for some Palestinians who are Israeli citizens living in the Israeli Arab town of Umm el-Fahm (population 42,000) near Jenin, the barrier has “significantly improved their lives” because, on one hand, it prevents would-be thieves or terrorists from coming to their town and, on the other hand, has increased the flow of customers from other parts of Israel who would normally have patronised Palestinian business in the West Bank, resulting in an economic boom. The report states that the downsides are that the barrier has divided families in half and “damaged Israeli Arabs’ solidarity with the Palestinians living on the other side of the Green Line”.
A UN report released in August 2005 observed that the existence of the barrier “replaced the need for closures: movement within the northern West Bank, for example, is less restrictive where the Barrier has been constructed. Physical obstacles have also been removed in Ramallah and Jerusalem governorates where the Barrier is under construction.” The report notes that more freedom of movement in rural areas may ease Palestinian access to hospitals and schools, but also notes that restrictions on movement between urban population centers have not significantly changed.
6.Israelis would prefer NOT to have the barrier. The Soviets loved their Wall.
Israelis would prefer safe, free travel between Israel and the West Bank in both directions. They recognize the tremendous hardships it places on the Palestinians. They understand it can be used by the political echelons for land appropriations. They understand the cost Palestinians pay in health and economic development by being behind the barrier. But they also know a wall can be talken down when a political settlement agreeable to both sides is in place. “Walls can be torn down and land and rights can be restored,” one Israeli diplomat told me. “But you can’t replace lives lost to terror.”
7. The Berlin Wall stood for 28 years. The Israeli occupation of the West Bank is in its 41st year. Okay, you got me there.
8. Israel on the 1967 border side of the Separation Barrier is a free society, where dissent thrives, and artists like Fairey can say what they want. East Berlin was a totalitarian police state.
Israel isn’t perfect, but Tel Aviv is more like Berlin than any other city I can think of. If you had to be a gay Arab male anywhere in the Middle East, you’d want to be in Tel Aviv. As for the other side of the fence, as Thomas Friedman has reported, under the leadership of Mahmous Abbas and Salam Fayyed, Palestinians are on a path toward economic development and cooperation with Israel that will speed them toward a stable and economically viable state—as long as they can control their radicals.
9. Israel’s Right originally opposed the Separation Barrier. The Soviet hardliners loved the Berlin Wall.
Israel’s rightists saw it as a de facto cutting up of the Land of Israel, which they believe they must take over. The Left saw the barrier as a way to signify that Israel must not control territory that should be part of a Palestinian state.
10. In a future Palestinian State, Palestinians could live free, secure and economically viable lives, even with the Separation Barrier in place. East Berliners could never be free behind their wall.
The majority of Israelis do not want to control the territories or annex them. There has long been support in Israel for a two state solution with a trustworthy Palestinian partner. Yes not every Israeli government has pursued negotiations in good faith, but the Palestinians, under Yasser Arafat and under Hamas, have given Israel little reason to be trusting. If Abbas and Fayyed can enter negotiations with no preconditions and bring their countrymen along, they will find the Israeli people will be the first to take their hammers to that barrier.
More pics of The Wall Project:
November 2, 2009 | 7:26 pm
Posted by JewishJournal.com
Posted by Janice Kamenir-Reznik
In just a few hours our small group representing Jewish World Watch leaves for the Eastern Congo. Every day for the last week, my sisters each call me and ask me if I feel that going to the Congo is really necessary. My parents and my in-laws ask me on a daily basis if there is anything they could say to persuade me to cancel the trip. Of course, my husband and children have demonstrated great respect for my decision to go, but I know how anxious they are for the trip to be over and for me to be safely back home. I am definitely apprehensive; how could I not be! Actually, this is not a trip that I really want to take. Even as an “adventure”, this trip falls short. (Would a trip in 1940 to a concentration camp in Poland or Germany be considered an adventure?) Rather, this is a trip of duty. This is a trip that tests the very principle on which Jewish World Watch was formed; and, for me, this is a trip that tests my commitment to that principle.
Two years ago when I traveled (with Rachel Andres, Director of the JWW Solar Cooker Project and Tzivia Schwartz Getzug, JWW Executive Director) to the Darfuri refugee camps in Chad, I did not know what to expect. In fact, in the midst of that trip, there were several occasions when privately I asked myself if I would have traveled to the refugee camps had I known of the dangers and of the depths of sadness and tragedy we would be forced to confront head on? Once was when we were being whisked from the UN compound in Abeche, Chad, to a “safer place” in the midst of a failed coup attempt. Another occasion waswhen we sat for hours inside a sweltering grounded airplane on some God forsaken air strip waiting for a local warlord and his entourage to arrive (they ultimately sauntered on board with their bare chests, gold chains, red berets and fully loaded assault rifles – so much for TSA rules in Chad!). And, of course I asked myself this question when we sat for hours with women in the camps listening to the horrific tales of brutality, torture and death. I never had to answer that question…until now.
I know about the dangers in Eastern Chad. I know about the lawlessness and about the militias. I know about the violence, killings and massive rapes. While we have taken all precautions to ensure our safety, the facts are inescapable. In four days, we are going into an area that has been at the epicenter of the murder of almost 6 million people over the last several years and the locale of hundreds of thousands of devastating rapes. This trip will be very difficult. It will be very dangerous. It will be very sad. But, if Jewish World Watch as an organization, and if I, as an individual, intend on mobilizing against these horrors with the greatest possible effectiveness, as our JWW mission requires that we do, we have no choice. We must go and witness Congo first hand. We must be willing to bear witness. We must be willing to listen to the voices of the women who have suffered. We must be willing to look into the eyes of the children who have been orphaned. We must be willing to cry with those who were forced to watch as their children were killed and we must be willing to embrace those whose lives have been shattered by unspeakable acts.
My husband’s parents are survivors of the Holocaust. I have spoken with hundreds of survivors in my life. One of the paramount lessons I have learned from these survivors, is that their greatest sadness and despair came from their complete and total sense of aloneness; a sense that they had been abandoned by the entire world who kept silent, thereby allowing 6 million Jewish souls to be burned, starved, shot, and buried alive.
There is no doubt that I am apprehensive as we ready ourselves to leave for Congo. But, I also feel incredibly blessed and fortunate to be able to do what I am doing. I know that through this trip we will help give birth to our JWW “Congo Now!” campaign, which will educate and mobilize tens of thousands of people to decry the horrors in Congo, just as we continue to successfully educateand activate the community to decry the genocide in Darfur. I know that through this trip we will find incredible projects to fund and organizations to support, which will alleviate the suffering of the victims of this horrible debacle. I am moved by what I learned from survivors of the Holocaust and dedicate this trip to the memory of the 6 million who died alone, in a silent world where far too few were watching. How blessed are we, that we have the awareness and the capacity to do what we are about to do.