Jewish Values and Action
Jewish Values and Darfur
We are taught in Leviticus that “You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.” (Leviticus 19:16). Yet blood continues to be shed on Sudanese soil. Our tradition teaches us that human life is sacred because all of humanity is b’tselem elohim, created in the image of God (Genisis 1:26), and the Torah makes clear that we have an obligation to preserve the sanctity of life by speaking out in response to oppression and brutality in our world. As a people intimately acquainted with the horrors of genocide, we are obligated to speak out and take action when other peoples are similarly threatened with annihilation.
Position of the Reform Jewish Movement
The Reform Jewish Movement has been a leader focusing attention on the ongoing genocidal activity in Darfur. In 1979, the Union for Reform Judaism passed a resolution entitled “Genocide” which called for the United States to approve and for the President to ratify the International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. In December 1999 the Union passed a resolution entitled "Commitment to Africa” which calls for the Secretary General of the United Nations and the President of the United States to condemn acts of violence against innocent populations, and reaffirms our commitment to basic international human rights. In 2004, the Union passed the "Resolution on the Need for Action in Sudan," followed by 2007’s “Resolution on Divestment from Sudan,” in which the URJ resolved to “divest, to the extent feasible, investment funds from businesses currently supporting the Sudanese government.”
On July 29 2004, to draw attention to the crisis gripping the people of Darfur, David Saperstein, along with RAC Legislative Assistant Zach Rosenberg and Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield (of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream) was arrested in an act of civil disobedience outside the Sudanese embassy. News of the arrests was covered in the Washington Post, Associated Press and other major media outlets. The Reform Movement continues to push the President and State Department, and the Security Council of the United Nations to follow through on their commitments to Sudan.
In October of 2005, David Saperstein, along with Rabbi David Stern of Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, Rabbi Rick Jacobs of Westchester Reform Temple in New York, John Fishel, president of the Los Angeles Jewish Federation, and Ruth Messinger, president of the American Jewish World Service, visited Chad to assess the needs of the refugee camps and the Sudanese people who occupy them after escaping the terror and persecution in Darfur. They heard stories from Darfurian refugees about Janjaweed militias sweeping into towns; killing, raping, and branding women then burning the villages to the ground, and saw pictures drawn by traumatized children depicting the Sudanese government’s helicopter gunships flying overhead, supporting the Janjaweed. Rabbi Saperstein wrote an op-ed calling for, among other things, stronger support for the NGOs that are providing humanitarian aid, Congress and the Administration to enact the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act, and the United Nations Security Council to expand the mandate of the African Union troops in Darfur to include protection of civilian populations.
On April 30, 2006 the Religious Action Center helped organize the Save Darfur: Rally to Stop Genocide in Washington, DC. Rabbi David Saperstein addressed the crowd as reform Jews from across the country joined in with tens of thousands of individuals to raise awareness and urge greater U.S. action.
Immediately following the Save Darfur: Rally to Stop Genocide, the Reform Jewish Movement launched the “30 Days for Darfur” campaign, designed to harness the energy generated by the rally and other like-events held across the country. The goal of the campaign was to visit a consulate, embassy, or United Nations office for every NATO and African Union country, as well as China and Russia. Reform Jews, along with other Americans of faith, advocated for urgent action from these foreign governments to do their part to stop the genocide and support UN resolutions to create an effective peace-keeping force with a clear mandate to protect innocent civilian life.
After the “30 Days for Darfur” campaign ended, the Movement’s launched the “Blue Helmet Campaign,” an online postcard campaign through which the five UN Security Council permanent members were urged to continue to work to transferring the African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur to a United Nations force.
The Reform Movement played a large part in the September 17 “Voices to Stop Genocide” Rally in New York City, organized by the Save Darfur Coalition, where an estimated 30,000 people advocated for the deployment of United Nations troops.
April 27, 2009, Rabbi David Saperstein, along with five members of Congress and other anti-genocide leaders, was arrestedon the steps of the Sudanese embassy. Their act of civil disobedience was in protest of the ongoing suffering in Darfur, exacerbated by Sudanese President Bashir's expulsion of more than a dozen aid agencies from the region.
In June of 2009, Rabbi David Saperstein, along with American Jewish World Service President Ruth Messinger and lead over 80 Rabbis and many other cantors and lay leaders in a water-only fast to call attention to the lack of aid for victims of the genocide in Darfur.
Resolution on Divestment Policy to End Geoncide in Darfur (2007)