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WASHINGTON, DC, December 4, 2008 — Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center, today joined Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, Director of Outreach at the Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center, Ishani Chowdhury, Director of Public Policy for the Hindu American Foundation, David Kinnaman, President of the Barna Group, and Mark Brinkmoeller, ONE Sr. Director of U.S. NGO Partnerships & Faith Relations, in a media call to promote the ONE Sabbath initiative. ONE Sabbath aims to save lives and transform impoverished communities by harnessing the power of American’s faithful to raise awareness and advocate for the world’s poor.
“In the Jewish community, there has been a growing consciousness over the last decade about the need to engage with global poverty issues,” Rabbi Saperstein noted. “For the Jewish community, there’s been, from the very beginning, a recognition that response to the poor and obligation to the poor is the most common repeated moral theme of sacred scripture – the obligation to take care of the stranger and treat the stranger as we would ourselves, and to take care of the poor and the elderly and the child and the widowed and the hungry.”
Rabbi Saperstein pointed to the efforts of faith communities to address global crises, and specifically highlighted the Reform Movement’s Nothing But Nets campaign, in partnership with the UN Foundation. Reform Movement congregations and youth groups in particular have embraced the campaign, teaching about malaria and raising money for the delivery of 50,000 nets through urj.org/nets.
“This month, an entire refugee camp in Uganda (which is drawing refugees from Sudan and the Congo) is going to be covered by our nets. Just this week, we called on the Jewish community to tie Nothing but Nets to the Chanukah celebration and to make one of their gifts that they give this year a net.” Speaking about the ability of each net purchase to have a direct, life-saving impact in the face of an overwhelming crisis, Rabbi Saperstein remarked, “When you buy one net for $10, you are saving a life. That is a very rare thing to do. When you feed someone for $10 you will need to do it again. When you buy one net, it stays there.”
Rabbi Saperstein praised ONE Sabbath for providing resources that will help congregations organize around global poverty and global disease and will help individuals contribute as part of a larger movement. “The Jewish tradition never saw the obligation to help the poor only as individual but as a societal one, as one for the public sector of the government, as well. It was 2,000 years ago in the Talmud when every community that grew to a certain size had to have all kinds of funds – one for the poor and the hungry and the sick in their communities … The recognition that there have to be societal, governmental responses and individual responses working together if we’re to really ameliorate global poverty is at the core of our efforts, and we’re working strongly on both tracks.”
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.