I first heard about Jewish World Watch two years ago when I was assigned to write a story on the organization’s solar cooker program. The program designed to aid Darfuri women and children in the Sudanese refugee camps sparked my interest with its creativity and compassion. Shortly thereafter I made the move to learn more about the plight of the people suffering from this modern-day genocide and have since spoken to several groups on the organization’s move to provide relief in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Last year I participated in Orange County’s first WALK TO END GENOCIDE. Being the first walk expectations were held at a conservative level and hope was that people would show. And show up they did! From all walks of life, religions, communities and schools. There were people in yamulkes, hijab (head scarf worn by women of the Muslim faith), a Catholic brother in his brown robe, babies in strollers, dogs on leases, and representation of almost every community in Orange County. It was also an opportunity to catch up with friends from the community that I had not seen in a long time, make new friends, and revel at the many drivers honking their horns in support of the myriad signs reading, “Stop Genocide NOW!” “Don’t Stand Idly By!” “Are You Aware? “Do You Care?”
That day, hundreds of people who may not have been aware of this genocide were educated by Tzivia Schwartz-Getzug, Jewish World Watch’s executive director, who has been on the ground in Sudan and the DRC and heard, first hand, the harrowing stories told by women and children who have survived the atrocities of genocide. It was an incredibly moving moment and solidified why this is such an important organization. It also brought home the organization’s mission:
“Jewish World Watch works to mobilize synagogues, their schools, their members and the community to combat genocide and other egregious violations of human rights around the world. It is the mission of Jewish World Watch to:
- 1. Educate target constituencies by developing appropriate materials and programs
- 2. Advocate for policies to stop or prevent genocide and other atrocities through community organization and mobilization; and
Develop resources and allocate funds towards Refugee Relief projects aimed at alleviating the suffering of survivors and victims of genocide.”
Shortly after the walk someone asked me, “What’s the point? How can this group expect to change what is happening thousands of miles a way?” My reply to the cynicism: They are not trying to change something thousands of miles away. They are educating and changing people here, to take action and work with those who can make changes thousands of miles away. It is never about changing the situation — it is about changing us! Sixty-plus years ago people around the world asked, “What difference can we make?” when millions of Jews, gypsies, disabled individuals, and others were interned in camps or slaughtered. Perhaps if more had raised awareness earlier on things may have been different. But that is another philosophical conversation. What is important is that JWW’s founder, Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis of Valley Beth Shalom, challenged the Jewish people to begin to honor the promise made following the Holocaust — that “Never Again” would we be silent in the face of genocide. It is this promise that brings together Jews from every movement and walk of life, and members of the Orange County community to put our differences aside and raise awareness through our similarity: an intolerance for genocide. With Rabbi Schulweis’s challenge I have one question for the Orange County Jewish Community: How far will you walk to end genocide?
Join me on Sunday, April 25, as Jewish World Watch holds the 4th Annual WALK TO END GENOCIDE to raise awareness, support, hope and funds to help the survivors of genocide in Sudan and the victims of mass atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Last year’s walk attracted hundreds people from local synagogues, schools, organizations, and communities, with money raised going to support refugee relief programs in Sudan. This year’s walk is expected to bring out more people in Orange County and organizers hope to raise even more money to help the people of Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The walk will start at Mile Square Park in Fountain Valley, with registration kicking off at 8:00 a.m.
To register on line go to: http://www.kintera.org/faf/home/default.asp?ievent=336430 or contact Mina Rush at: (310) 501-1836.
Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield, (D – San Fernando Valley) has just introduced resolution ACR 144, proclaiming April 2010 as the first annual Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month in California. The resolution is an effort to educate, bring awareness and prevent future genocides and mass atrocities around the globe.
“Californians can play an important role in helping to prevent genocide and mass atrocities around the world by raising awareness,” said Tzivia Schwartz Getzug, executive director of Jewish World Watch.
“Many genocidal acts throughout history have occurred during the month of April,” according to the resolution, which cites the start of the Armenian genocide in April 1915, the Holocaust in April 1933, the Cambodian “killing fields” in April 1975, the siege of Sarajevo in April 1992, and the displacement that led to hundreds of thousands of deaths in Sudan in April 2003.