Statement by Rabbi Marla J. Feldman, Director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, at Not Now, Not Ever Rally
Rabbi Marla J. Feldman addressed the "Not Now, Not Ever Rally" in Central Park and noted, "Jews stand here today with the victims of ethnic cleansing because we have been victims ourselves; because not so long ago, a few righteous individuals stood by us -- and because far too many others did not."
Lessons of the Past
Rabbi Marla J. Feldman
Director, Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism
Not Now, Not Ever Rally
May 8, 2005
Many gathered together on this Mother’s Day are members of the Jewish community, compelled to be here by the call of our own history. Today marks the 14th day of the Counting of the Omer, the period during which we count the days between Passover and Shavuot, marking the time between our ancestors’ liberation from slavery, and the moment when we stood together at Sinai to declare ourselves a single people.
This past week we commemorated Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, marking the 60th anniversary of our people’s liberation from hell. Slavery, massacres, inquisitions, persecution… we remember it all, and we count the centuries of human history until bondage leads to freedom, hatred becomes compassion, and fear turns to hope. 60 years of remembrance… and we are counting the decades until nations will stand as one to declare: Not Another Genocide; Not Now; Not Ever.
As we remember the murdered millions and console the still-grieving survivors, we say to world leaders… we are counting. How much time will pass until you learn the lessons of this shameful chapter in human history??
The government of Sudan has learned a lot from our history. It has learned to use proxy militias to get away with murder under the guise of civil unrest. They have learned how to instill hatred and breed distrust among neighbors and that sane people can be convinced to do insane things. They have learned how to use execution, torture, and terror to change their maps and their population. Hundreds of thousands murdered and millions displaced… we are counting.
World leaders have learned that it is easier to establish commissions and studies than to enforce treaties and international conventions. They have learned to avoid taking responsibility for ending atrocities by dithering over the venue for tribunals and blaming others. They have learned that if they debate long enough, soon there will be nothing left to debate, because there will be no one left to save. According to Nicholas Kristof, it is now 118 days since our President has spoken about this human tragedy – we are counting.
Yet, there are other lessons to be learned from our history; lessons about courage and integrity. Lessons about what it takes to remain human when surrounded by evil. Lessons about the kind of world we wish to create for our children and future generations. And we have learned that, as Elie Wiesel has taught, the greatest sin of all is our indifference.
Yesterday we read from our sacred scrolls the command: "You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor." In our global village, we are all neighbors. We must not remain bystanders as people are terrorized into leaving their homes and villages are destroyed. We must not remain bystanders as women and girls are raped and tortured as part of a military strategy. We must not wait patiently for the politicians and diplomats to debate protocol while people are being annihilated. Hundreds more each week; thousands more each month… we are counting.
Jews stand here today with the victims of ethnic cleansing because we have been victims ourselves; because not so long ago, a few righteous individuals stood by us -- and because far too many others did not. It has been 60 years, and we are still counting…
Sudan is a test of which lessons the world has learned from our past. Bosnia, Kosovo, and Rwanda were 20th Century failures to learn the right lessons. We pray that the suffering of the 21st Century’s first victims of genocide will soon end; and we pray they will be the last. And we will keep counting…