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Reform Jewish Leader Demands Increased International Action in Sudan

Contact: Alexis Rice or Zach Rosenberg

> view a picture of Rabbi Saperstein at the rally

WASHINGTON, July 29, 2004 - Today Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and Zach Rosenberg, Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, protested in front of the Embassy of Sudan in Washington, DC with Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, the founders of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, calling for increased action to stop the genocidal violence and man-made humanitarian disaster occurring in the western region of Darfur. All were arrested by the United States Secret Service for unlawful assembly during the protest. In his remarks, Saperstein said, "We are here to say we will not stand by the blood of our neighbors - not now, not ever." The complete remarks follow:

Ben and Jerry are a living embodiment of the Jewish tradition of tikkun olam-our ability to create a better and more hopeful future for all God's children. If the standards of ethics and corporate responsibility that they have set in this nation were held by all corporations-including Talisman Energy and Petro China who invest in Sudan, and others-perhaps we would not be having this crisis in Sudan, but certainly, the world would be a better place. We bless them for their work for justice.

Let me also introduce a fourth person being arrested here with us today: Zach Rosenberg, a legislative assistant at our Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, located just a block away. It is the place where the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 were drafted. It is a symbol of justice in the nation's capital. We are proud of the RAC's programs that train, educate, and inspire some 1,500 high school and college students each year. Some twenty are here with us today among this large gathering to support us and express their opposition to the killings in Sudan. Zach represents all of them-and all the young people who have come here to this vigil day, after day, after day. You make us more confident about the future of our world. Together you lift the flame of justice high; you say to Sudan -- we will not go away.

In this moment of urgency and truth, our eyes turn to Sudan's western region of Darfur. We see the worn faces of ethnic black Africans singled out for genocidal slaughter, whose voices cry out for their children, for justice, for food, for safety. Their voices cry out to world leaders for decisive and collective action in Darfur for security, humanitarian assistance, and accountability. And their voices summon us here to Sudan's embassy.

As a Jew and as a rabbi, I stand here today because, for thousands of years, the Jewish people have been among the quintessential victims of persecution and oppression simply because of who we are, because of what we believe. We waited for others to speak out, but too often we heard only silence.

Having witnessed and experienced the horrors of the Holocaust, the world collectively cried, "Never Again!" Never again would we stand idly by while human beings are slaughtered because of their race, ethnicity, nationality, or religion. We are not powerless to stop the oppression of others; we have the power to speak out, to act, to intervene, to ensure that genocidal activities stop now.

God commands humanity, in Leviticus 19, "Do not stand idly by the blood of our neighbor." Our history is replete with such examples.

In the beginning of Exodus, a cruel Pharaoh instructed the Egyptian midwives Puah and Shifrah to kill all the newborn Hebrew males. With enormous faith and courage, these women defied his order. In their exemplary act of civil disobedience to save lives, they dared not stand idly by while genocide was taking place.

Time and again the prophets arose to denounce injustice. We children of the Abrahamic traditions-Jews, Christians, and Muslims-carry on their tradition today when in the face of pillage, rape, murder, and starvation, we insist we will not stand idly by.

In our own time, when genocidal activity and ethnic cleansing has reared its ugly head-not only in Nazi Europe but in Rwanda, Cambodia, Southern Sudan, Bosnia, and Kosovo-we not only remember massive death tolls and destruction, but we honor the nameless heroes who made a difference in saving lives. They are men and women who, in the face of evil, refused to stand idly by.

It is now our time to refuse to stand idly by. It is time for all people of conscience to be heard and to act. We must never forget that the people of Sudan are our brothers and sisters, our neighbors in the global community. And we are here to say we will not stand by the blood of our neighbors - not now, not ever. Join me in this call to conscience. Let us say together-in voices so powerful and strong that they cannot be ignored by the people in this building, by the people on this street, by the people in this city, and by the people of this world that we will not stand idly by-No to Genocide! No to Genocide! No to Genocide!


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(CCAR) whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis .

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