At least 80 rabbis in five countries will fast with Rabbi David Saperstein “as a protest and as an emblem of solidarity” with the people of Darfur
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WASHINGTON, D.C., June 18, 2009 – From sundown last night until sundown tonight, 80 rabbis across five countries are participating in a water-only fast to call attention to the lack of aid for victims of the genocide in Darfur. In addition, many others, including cantors and lay leaders, have joined in the fast.
Yesterday afternoon, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, attended a meeting at the State Department, where U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration expressed his appreciation and encouragement for all those participating in the fast.
Rabbi Saperstein began a three-day, water-only fast on the evening of Monday, June 15th, and invited rabbis of all four major streams of American Judaism (Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative and Orthodox) to join him for the final stretch of his fast. Participants include rabbis from the United States, Canada, Israel, Mexico and England; a full list is included below.
On April 27th, Rabbi Saperstein was arrested in his third act of civil disobedience calling attention to the situation in Darfur, this time with longtime civil rights activist Rep. John Lewis, other members of Congress and leaders of Darfur advocacy groups. He now joins a long line of politicians, celebrities and activists in carrying on a water-only fast begun that day by actress Mia Farrow to call for the restoration of humanitarian aid to the people of Darfur. On May 9th, Farrow’s doctor ordered her to end her hunger strike due to serious health risks; since then, others have carried on the fast for her. More information about the chain of fasters can be found at www.fastdarfur.org.
Speaking to the importance of the fast, Rabbi Saperstein issued the following statement: “Activists around the world have committed to continuously pounding the drumbeat for Darfur. U.S. Special Envoy Scott Gration is working hard to negotiate a restoration of the humanitarian aid and to restart a just peace process, and recent reports indicate that he is making progress in his negotiations. Yet negotiations about returning aid groups have not yet achieved real results, so beginning last night, the stomachs of 80 of our Jewish leaders go hungry to draw attention to those dying in Darfur, urging the restoration of aid to the people of Sudan.
“Fasting is a traditional part of Judaism, usually accompanying the memory of a great tragedy or deep repentance. But here we must do a fast as a protest and as an emblem of solidarity with the individuals in the camps, sharing the plight of too many in Darfur – water but too little food. Let us do everything possible to ensure that this will be the last fast necessary to draw attention to the urgent need for both relief and long-lasting peace in Sudan.”
It has been more than three months since Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir expelled humanitarian aid groups from the country. Despite assurances that Sudan will allow international NGOs into the country and close existing humanitarian gaps, the situation has worsened. Aid groups report that efforts to send aid to those who need it are unsustainable and insufficient. The onset of the rainy season will likely lead to mass migration and water-borne disease epidemics in internally displaced persons camps, putting, as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon predicted, more than 1 million people at life-threatening risk.
Follow along with live updates of the fast at Twitter.com/theRAC, and visit the RACblog for blog posts from Rabbi Saperstein and participating rabbis.
Partial list of rabbis fasting for Darfur:
Rabbi David Saperstein, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (Washington, DC)
Rabbi Alan Henkin, Union for Reform Judaism Congregational Support Center – West (Northridge, CA)
Rabbi Alan Lachtman, Temple Beth David (Temple City, CA)
Rabbi Alyssa Ralston, Congregation Rodef Sholom (San Rafael, CA)
Rabbi Avi Schulman, Temple Beth Torah (Freemont, CA)
Rabbi Arthur Gross-Schaefer, Loyal Marymount University Hillel (Los Angeles, CA)
Rabbi Camille Angel, Congregation Sha'ar Zahav (San Francisco, CA)
Rabbi Douglas Kohn, Congregation Emanu El (San Bernadino, CA)
Rabbi Eve Ben-Ora, Jewish Community Center San Francisco (San Francisco, CA)
Rabbi Jonathan Brown, Beth El Congregation (Winchester, VA)
Rabbi Rosalind Gold, Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation (Reston, VA)
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 1,800 Reform rabbis.