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Reform Jewish Leader Speaks at Chinese Embassy as Part of Torch Relay for Darfur

Saperstein: Lights—a symbol of freedom and hope.  The Chanukah menorah from events 2000 years ago; the Olympic torch today… It is for this reason, in this moment that we stand here with this torch in front of the Chinese Embassy to ask that they join the community of nations in cutting off the financial support that facilitates this ethnic cleansing. 

Contact: Sean Thibault or Jonah Perlin
202.387.2800 | news@rac.org

Washington, December 10, 2007 – Today, at a rally outside the Chinese Embassy, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, offered the following remarks as part of the international Dream for Darfur/Save Darfur Coalition Torch Relay:

“Today, I stand here at the Chinese Embassy with all of you, my esteemed colleagues in the tireless fight to end the horrific Genocide in Darfur.  We gather during the eight day celebration of the Jewish holiday Chanukah—commemorating the struggle for freedom against the Greek oppressors in the Second Century BCE.

Despite all our efforts I fear that we will commit what Dr. King described as the most tragic political sin good people can make –we will be “too late.”  As he said, “We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.”  And, make no mistake – our legacies will be measured not by our sentiments or even our efforts – but by whether in the end we stop or fail to stop this genocide, by whether we save the children or they perish on our watch.

Many of us began this morning at a gathering at the Holocaust Museum.  I have a nightmare, that years from now, there will be a Museum of the Darfurian Genocide – that will be part of the genocide trail. And tourists will go from Cambodia to Rwanda, from Auschwitz and Treblinka to Darfur to learn of the pillage, rape, murder, and starvation. And they will gasp and they will sob, and many among them will doubtless wonder: Where were our parents?  Where were our President and Congress?  Where was NATO? the EU?  Where was the UN?    And where was China, which played such a critical role in shaping whether the people of Darfur lived or died? Did they not know?  Did they not care?

That is why we stand here today.  To urge China to join the fight for life; for hope.

This week Jews across the globe celebrate Chanukah, which commemorates the Jewish defeat of the Greeks who sought to destroy our culture and our religion. The resistance to the Greek oppression of the Jews began by refusing political, cultural and economic cooperation with the Hellenists.  So too our response to the forces in Sudan that facilitate and support the decimation of the people and culture of Darfur: divestment, protest and political suasion.  Then the Hasmoneans led by Judah Maccabee successfully challenged the oppressors militarily. So too the prospective UN deployment of forces to protect the innocent.  But those troops will address only the symptoms of ethnic cleansing.  We are here today to urge China to help us address some of the root causes.

Chanukkah also commemorates the miracle that took place when the Jews returned to the Temple only to find enough oil to keep the eternal light lit for one day.  Yet, this modicum of oil lasted eight days.  As Jews we recognize the powerful symbol of light representing freedom and the often difficult fight that such freedom requires.  Each and every one of the eight nights, as we add one candle each night we are reminded of the possibility of achieving the impossible, of fighting against all odds and against those more powerful than we.  And, night after night as we add another candle to our Menorah, our ritual candelabra and place it in our window, we pass this message of freedom and the need to fight for that freedom to our children and to the world. 

Lights—a symbol of freedom and hope.  The Chanukah menorah from events 2000 years ago; the Olympic torch today.  As Pierre de Coubertin the founder of the modern Games described it “the Olympic Torch” is to “pursue its way through the ages, increasing friendly understanding among nations, for the good of a humanity always more enthusiastic, more courageous and more pure.”  It is for this reason, in this moment that we stand here with this torch in front of the Chinese Embassy to ask that they join the community of nations in cutting off the financial support that facilitates this ethnic cleansing.  We ask them to come to join us today in recognizing the image of the Divine in every human life, renouncing inaction in the face of this enormous tragedy, and ensuring that someday soon Darfur will be ablaze with the light of justice, freedom and above all peace to all its people – in their homes, in their hearts and throughout their land.

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the
Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more
 than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership
 includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis



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