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March for Darfur

The goal of the “March for Dafur” program was, and still is, educating our community about the genocidal conditions in Darfur. Its purpose is to create awareness leading to advocacy.

This program was developed by Temple Beth-El, Monroe Temple of Liberal Judaism as a result of the horrific nature of the situation in Darfur. It is our our commitment as human beings, and as Jews, to do as much as we could to rectify this gross injustice. In Fall 2005, our committee decided it was imperative that we redefine and recommit ourselves and our community to our Jewish tradition of pursing justice, to the need that our tradition demands of us that we not be indifferent to the injustices in this world, to Tikkun Olam.

The result of a brainstorming session, planning, and contacting the local Clergy Association resulted in:

  • Designating the month of March for the effort, marketing it as “March for Darfur”.
  • Each congregation would develop their own month-long educational programs.

Jointly we would:

  • Create a petition to be circulated throughout the various houses of worship and parts of the community at large. We would send it to the President and our Congressional delegation.
  • Hold a community gathering/interfaith service at our temple to collect the petitions, recommit to our community’s resolve, and to further educate ourselves about the event.

Within our synagogue, we set up a permanent educational and photo display of the situation in Darfur, which included a history and up to date data on all aspects of the crisis. [Example photo display: http://www.ushmm.org/conscience/alert/darfur/steidle/.] During all temple functions, including Torah School hours, a Social Action table was always set up in our temple lobby and most often with a committee member(s) present. The table displayed reprinted articles from various sources with information about the genocide, the Dolls for Darfur project (set up and run by the Temple’s Senior Youth Group), the green jelly awareness bracelets, and copies of the petition. Although our goal did not focus on fundraising, we raised over $1,700. The Temple and committee members, armed with information and the petition, actively approached congregants on all occasions, briefing them about the genocide and soliciting signatures. It never ceased to amaze us how many people were unaware of the situation, and appreciative that we brought it to their attention. The ripple affect was astounding. Congregants were also approached to write directly to the President, local newspapers, and their legislators. We wanted to directly involve our youth group members and after a meeting with our local high school principal, it was arranged for our youth group to present the information to the student body through the Social Studies curriculum at the school. The students presented to each of the Social Studies classes over a several week period. “Save Darfur” signs and banners were (and remain) displayed outside the synagogue. A power point presentation was prepared and presented, followed by discussion, at numerous times over this period to allow for people with varying schedules a chance to attend. It also allowed people to understand much more clearly and graphically the extent of the horror that is this genocide. Two committee members designed “Save Darfur” t-shirts with powerful downloaded images of children. All committee members wore the shirts at temple to promote discussion, as well as by participants at the Washington, DC and the New York City rallies. We engaged our local Jewish Federation to sponsor the bus to the DC rally. We held a communal interfaith prayer service at our synagogue. Dr. Jerry Ehrlich from Doctors Without Borders gave a powerful account of his time at one of the Darfur refugee camps. The local clergy association created the service, where the signed petitions were collected, totalling 45 pages and 921 signatures. The petitions were sent to our representatives, with a unquie one being sent to our newly elected official. We included a copy of the signed petitions and information about our program. We generated several stories about our venture in the local press, including editorial comments. The major regional paper ran several stories on Darfur as a direct result of our efforts. Through cooperation with the Clergy Association, a number of parishes in the area followed our lead and created programs for their individual congregations.