Nation’s Largest Jewish Organization Does Not Want Minimum Age of Child Soldiers to be Dropped
Contact: Jeff Mandell, (202) 387-2800
WASHINGTON February 2, 2000 — Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center applauds the United States' decision to keep the minimum age of child soldiers at 18 years of age. In a letter issued today to General Henry H. Shelton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he commends the United States as well as the General for making such an important decision.
The complete text of the letter follows:
Dear General Shelton:
On behalf of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, whose membership includes 895 congregations and 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis representing 1,700 Rabbis, I write to commend the U.S. for making the important moral decision to drop its opposition to raising the minimum age to 18 for soldiers around the world. The administration's opposition threatened to block efforts to revise the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to raise the minimum age for soldiers to 18 from 15. The United States' endorsement is critical, not only to strengthen international momentum for ratification of the treaty, but, more importantly, because it signals recognition of the true problem at hand.
Approximately 300,000 child soldiers, some as young as 10 years old, are serving in armed conflicts around the world witnessing and participating in murder, rape, torture and other acts of violence. Our religious tradition demands that we seek to end this practice. We are taught, "One person was created to teach us the sanctity and importance of every life, for one who destroys one life, it is as if he destroys an entire world, and one who saves one life, it is as if he saves an entire world." A lost life need not apply only to death. Child soldiers are being robbed of their childhood, of their civility, of their humanity. No more should a child be forced to hold a machine gun than he should be targeted by one.
By changing its position, the United States is moving in the right direction, but as long as children are killing and being killed, our work must continue.
Rabbi David Saperstein
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, representing its 895 congregations across North America, whose membership includes 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the 1700 rabbis of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.