Statement of Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, at the Launch of the Global Action for Children Campaign
September 29, 2003
Contact:Alexis Rice or Jacob Fain 202-387-2800
This weekend, Jews all around the world celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of our new year. We looked back at the past year, celebrating our achievements, learning from our failures, mourning our loses, and recalling the way we lived our lives, from the moments that we're proud of to those we would prefer to forget. And we look forward to the New Year, to the accomplishments we wish to realize and the mistakes we will try not to repeat. But most of all, we look forward with hope -- hope that the new year will bring peace, empowerment, and prosperity.
But we begin this year knowing that around the world hundreds of millions live without hope. The World Bank estimates that more than 1.3 billion people live on less than a dollar a day. Around the world, 115 million primary school aged children have never set foot in a school. In Africa, over 12 million AIDS orphans have lost one or both parents to the HIV epidemic. What kind of future can the poorest of the poor hope for?
If there is one central principle of economic justice that dominates the 3,000 years of Jewish thought and communal practice it is this: the moral test of any society is what its economic and social policies do for the most vulnerable of God's children: the elderly and the ill, the widow and the orphan, and, above all, for the children.
Today's launch of the Global Action for Children Campaign marks a turning point in the lives of tens of millions of children and their families around the world. Working together we will ensure:
· That all children have access to education, health care, and adequate nutrition;
· That AIDS orphans have the opportunity to live their lives as a part of their community; and
· That children living with AIDS get access to lifesaving drugs and that parents afflicted by the HIV virus also get access to these medication, so that their children have parents to raise and nurture them.
By so doing, we can bring hope for a brighter future to the world's most vulnerable citizens.
From the beginnings of our Diaspora, the Jewish community has understood that for the sake of peace and stability in our villages and towns, everyone in our community must benefit equally from struggle for social justice. Jewish tradition understood and Jewish history teaches what we understand intuitively today: that we will never -- never -- be safe, never secure, in a world in which others suffer discrimination and deprivation.
The Global Action for Children Campaign, of which the Reform Jewish Movement is proud to be a founding sponsor, speaks to the heart of thousands of years of Jewish thought. By working together to ensure the well-being of our world's children we bring hope not only to our future, but to our present - through their parents and communities. Our rabbis taught that there is nothing in the world more grievous than poverty - the most terrible of sufferings - and if all the troubles of the world are assembled on one side and poverty is on the other, poverty would outweigh them all. (Midrash Exodus Rabbah 31:12). Nowhere is the mandate for action clearer than when we think about the urgent needs of desperately poor children around the world. For their sake, and for the sake of our shared humanity, we cannot afford to fail.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), whose over 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1800 Reform rabbis .