After having walked nearly three miles as part of Jewish World Watch’s (JWW) Walk to End Genocide, Effie Braun and her family decided they needed a break.
Taking a pit stop at a kosher restaurant to purchase bottled water, she said, “The Holocaust is not the only time this happened. There’s more happening out there, and it’s our responsibility to put a stop it.”
Braun, 28, of Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) in Encino, was referring to genocide, the systematic slaughter of a group of people based on their nationality, ethnicity or religion. She spoke to the Journal as she and her family — including her 9-month-old son, Eli — completed JWW’s eighth annual walk on April 27 at Pan Pacific Park.
They were among 3,000 community members who participated in the 5K (3.1 miles) journey, which was part of a 2014 fundraising effort that has brought the nonprofit nearly $500,000.
Founded 10 years ago, the San Fernando Valley-based JWW describes itself on its website as a “leading organization in the fight against genocide and mass atrocities,” with a focus on the crises in Sudan and eastern Congo. It was co-founded as a response to the crisis in Darfur by Janice Kamenir-Reznik and VBS Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis, who attended this year’s walk at the age of 89.
The organization focuses on advocacy, education and on-the-ground projects. One of its most successful programs, the Solar Cooker Project, provides refugee women in Darfur — who are susceptible to attacks whenever they venture into the woods looking for fuel with which to cook — with alternative means of cooking.
In addition to raising funds and awareness, the event also marked Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day). It was immediately followed at 1 p.m. by the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust’s (LAMOTH) annual commemoration, which attracted elected officials, community leaders and others — about 1,000 people in all.
And while the two events were different — one dedicated to action, the other focused on remembrance — both sent the message of standing against genocide, whether targeting Jews or non-Jews.
“Some people say that the commemoration of all these genocides only waters down the sharpness, the bitterness of the individual memories of the particular Holocaust,” Schulweis said at the commencement of the JWW walk. “We repudiate that claim. … Genocides are indeed not the same, but the tears are the same, and the shivers of fear of the emaciated people are the same.”
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was honorary co-chair of this year’s walk, echoed these remarks later that afternoon at the LAMOTH event: “We say every year, ‘Never again,’ but we watch it happen again and again.”
Others appearing at the LAMOTH event included Jay Sanderson, president and CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles; David Siegel, consul general of Israel in Los Angeles; E. Randol Schoenberg, LAMOTH board president; Samara Hutman, LAMOTH executive director; and Ashley Waterman, the youngest LAMOTH board member and a representative of third-generation survivors. The event honored LAMOTH board member Jona Goldrich, and Forward editor-at-large J.J. Goldberg served as the keynote speaker.
JWW walks also took place on April 27 in Santa Rosa, Calif. and in East Meadow, N.Y. One Walk to End Genocide for 2014 remains, with an event in the Conejo Valley set for May 4.
The Pan Pacific Park walk began at 9 a.m. and ended at noon. Of the 46 synagogue teams that participated in the walk, congregations Temple Isaiah, Sinai Temple and VBS raised the most funds, with VBS raising more than $100,000.
Many from the walk stayed for the later Yom HaShoah commemoration, which began at 1 p.m. and ended at approximately
4 p.m. Aqua blue T-shirts with the JWW tagline, “Do Not Stand Idly By,” sprinkled the crowd.
LAMOTH, a Federation beneficiary, describes itself as the “oldest Holocaust museum in the United States.” It focuses on commemoration and education, according to its website.
Sabrina Balter attended the commemoration ceremony with her three daughters and her son. Standing behind her 4-year-old daughter, Seraphina, at a yahrzeit table outside the museum’s entrance, Balter told the Journal that she viewed the commemoration as an opportunity to educate her children about the importance of the Shoah. It is an event, she said, important in forming Jewish identity.
“I’m passing it to them so that they can pass it to their children. And [so they can] remember to stand up for the rights [of] people across the world who are being victimized,” she said.