Six area rabbis joined almost 200 of their colleagues across the denominational spectrum in signing a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urging the United States to stay the course on justice for Darfur. The letter was organized by the American Jewish World Service.
The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor is seeking an arrest warrant for Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir on charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Bashir, however, is trying to block such efforts through the United Nations Security Council.
The Dec. 17 letter applauds the U.S. role in pushing for Bashir’s arrest and reiterates the Jewish community’s solidarity with the people of Darfur. It goes on to insist that the United States not allow Bashir to block the warrant through the United Nations.
“The United States has been a really strong opponent of any deferral,” said Ian Schwab, national grassroots organizer for AJWS. “We’re trying to ensure the United States stands firm because there has been pressure for deferral and the United States has been a real leader.”
While the genocide in Darfur is of a different nature from that of the Holocaust, some rabbis said that Jews are morally obligated to speak out, inasmuch as non-Jews should have spoken out during the Holocaust.
“In a post-Holocaust world we have an obligation to do what we can,” said Rabbi Randall Mark of Cong. Shomrei Torah in Wayne. “It may be limited to sending a donation or writing a letter. If any small action will help, we have to do what we can.”
Any effort to publicize the tragedy is worthwhile, said Rabbi Jonathan Woll of Temple Avoda in Fair Lawn. Americans face many distractions at home, he said. He couldn’t predict what kind of impact the petition might have, but said he would consider it an accomplishment if only one person’s interest is aroused.
“The economy seems to have taken most people’s attention away from many things that we would have ordinarily thought important,” he said. “Many people are struggling, fearful, and worried about their personal circumstances. That doesn’t mean that we should withdraw our support for bringing justice to Darfur.”
Rabbi Steve Golden, Judaic director of the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, asked where the outrage is over the genocide in Sudan.
“The conundrum is that most of the world is silent,” he said in an e-mail to The Jewish Standard. “Where is the mass condemnation?”
This summer’s Olympics in China should have been marked by mass demonstrations against Sudan, he continued. He cast China, a permanent member of the Security Council, as a “stalwart supporter” of Sudan’s Bashir.
As a founding member of the Save Darfur Coalition, the American Jewish World Service has spearheaded efforts to protest the situation there. While many regard the AJWS, a Jewish organization, as the leader of the Darfur efforts, Golden seemed dismayed that non-Jewish groups have not spoken out as much.
“If the other world religions preach peace and love, where is the overwhelming cry – on the part of religious people throughout the world – their cry for justice in Darfur?” he wrote. “I believe that each of us will be called to account for remaining silent. Torah faith requires us not to be silent about evil perpetrated on anyone, wherever and whenever it occurs.”
Other local signers of the letter are Rabbis Neal Borovitz of Temple Sholom in River Edge, Elyse Frishman of Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes, and Rachel Kahn-Troster of Teaneck.