Tag: genocide

Don’t Lose Sleep… Stand Up and Walk!

We all lose sleep worrying about things.
For me, it’s about
The health of my parents and inlaws
My kids’ latest challenges
The illness facing a beloved member of our community

Fundamentally though I – like so many other American Jews – rest pretty easily because we know that as Americans, as Jews, and as human beings we are protected by the strength and democracy that is the United States. Most of us don’t have to worry about being battered because of our religions. Being slammed because of our nationality. Being violated because of our gender.

Yet I have memories, vivid memories, of a different experience, born of stories told and shared about the horrors inflicted upon my European Jewish ancestors who, in the midst of World War II, were singled out for violence and murder. Just because they were Jews. And every time I read about the Holocaust or view a video or artifact from that time, I tremble with the burning question: why?

Why were humans so brutal and hate filled?
Why did newspapers, including the New York Times, so willing to bury truths abou the situation in the unread middle of the paper?
Why were American so silent in the face of Jewish suffering?

And I choke down the other, equally horrifying question:
Could it happen again?
To us?
To anyone?

Apparently hate is alive and well worldwide. 
According to Jewish World Watch, the Jewish community’s hands-on leader in the fight against genocide and mass atrocities, in addition to the continuing deteriorating situations in the Sudan and in the Congo, 19 other countries worldwide are experiencing conflicts at high risk of escalating into genocide.

It is too easy to ignore what is happening. It is too easy to allow the baseless hatred to infiltrate across borders and through countries, murdering innocents for fun and political gain. Holocaust survivor and moral voice Elie Wiesel said that “the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” 

Na’ama Haviv, Assistant Director of Jewish World Watch, teaches that the opposite of hate is not love, but compassion. And boy, does the Or Ami community ever live with compassion! Thank you for all you do!

Would you make this vow with me?

Whenever I can, I will raise up my voice, and inconvenience myself, to endure that I can go to sleep worried about the first list and not survival of myself and my people.

Walk the Walk with Me
Join me on the Los Angeles Walk to End Genocide, sponsored by Jewish World Watch, on Sunday, April 27, 2014 at Pan Pacific Park in Los Angeles from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. Team Congregation Or Ami is putting together a huge delegation to again help lead the walk. Sign up today to walk, or if you cannot attend, sign up to to support our team.

Because the Shoah was atrocious.
Because genocide still rears it’s ugly head in far off places like Sudan and the Congo.
Because never again needs to be more than a slogan. It needs to be a way of living. And
Because the opposite of love is not hate. It’s indifference.

For the Women of Congo and Sudan

I adapted this prayer for Jewish World Watch, the is a hands-on leader in the fight against genocide and mass atrocities, engaging individuals and communities to take local actions that produce powerful global results. JWW is about to embark on a fact finding mission to the Congo, and will share this prayer with the survivors of the mass rapes and violence. The prayer will also appear in Jewish World Watch’s High Holy Day publication.

Lest we somehow forget, Sudan and the Congo are home to some of the worst genocidal mass murders and mass rapes of the 21st century.

The prayer is adapted, with permission, by me, from two prayers by author/liturgist Alden Solovy –
For the People of Norway and For 9-11 Survivors. These prayers are © 2011 Alden Solovy and www.tobendlight.com. All rights reserved.

G-d of the survivors, mourners and witnesses, 

Grant strength to those still held by physical, emotional and spiritual distress from the continuing violence in Congo and Sudan. Release them from visions of rape and death, from guilt or shame, from fear or anger. Bind their wounds with Your steadfast love.

Grant them shelter and solace,
Comfort and consolation. 

     Grant them endurance to survive,
     Faith to mourn,
     Courage to heal
     Devotion to each other. 

Bless those who have healed.
Bless those who suffer. 

     Bless those who forgive.
     Bless those who cannot forgive. 

Bless those who speak.
Bless those who stay silent. 

Baruch Atah, Tzur Yisrael, Oseh tikvah v’nechamah
Blessed are You, Rock of Israel, Source of hope and comfort.

The Antidote to Compassion Fatigue OR Just Get Up Off Your Tush and Get Walking

Five years…

  • Five years of walking to end genocide.
  • Five years of showing up, standing up and demanding an end to the wholesale slaughter of human beings.
  • Five years to contemplate whether our participation makes a difference.

There is renewed killing in Darfur. They are still raping women by the hundreds of thousands in the Congo.  And we are still walking to end genocide – with Jewish World Watch – five years later.

Some people chose to stay home this year, in part because they feel like nothing is changing. We call this compassion fatigue. About it, our ancient rabbis wrote in Pirkei Avot: Lo alecha ham’lacha ligmor; v’lo ata ben chorin l’hitbatel mimenah – it is not your responsibility to finish the task; but neither are you free to shrug off your part. We Jews do our part, being upstanders. Standing up for what is right; showing up to make sure our voices are heard.

So Congregation Or Ami did. For the fourth year in a row, our synagogue brought the largest delegation and raised the most money to expand awareness about genocide around the world. Though we joked that this year is the last year – end genocide this week or we are done walking – but we know this is not true.


  • Because Lo ta’amod al dam rei-acha – Torah teaches us that we cannot stand idly by while our neighbor bleeds.
  • Because our voices at past marches – combined with those of others around the country –  (1) convinced President Obama to appoint a special envoy to the Darfur region, and (2) supported the international Criminal Court as it indicted Sudan’s president for his actions supporting the genocide, and (3) helped build international support for the referendum which led to southern Sudan’s vote to secede from the Sudan, and (4) began the pressure in the US and the state of California to boycott Conflict Minerals from the Congo, which according to people in the know has slowed down some of the enslavement by rebel groups in the Congo.
  • And because Kedoshim Tehiyu – the Torah’s call that you shall be holy – is based not on our beliefs but on our actions. When we act ethically, or as the prophet Micah counseled us, pursuing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly before God – then, and only then, can we claim the title of being holy.

So push through the compassion fatigue and get out and walk. Our voices are heard and our footsteps felt.

Thank you to Or Ami’s Walk chair Laurie Tragen-Boykoff for motivating so many of us. Mazel tov also to Program Director Marsha Rothpan who was one of the two JWW coordinators of the whole Walk, and to Youth Advisor Michelle Westmiller who as JWW Student Activism Coordinator helped put on this amazing Walk.