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October 2, 2014 | 8th Tishrei 5775
A Letter about the Situation in Zaire

The President
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

On behalf of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1700 Reform rabbis, 850 congregations, and 1.5 million Reform Jews, we are writing to urge you to take decisive action to stop the swell of violence and starvation in Zaire. If the United States does not act now to help innocent refugees in Africa's Great Lakes region, we face the likely death of tens of thousands of God's children.

As Jews, living one generation after the near annihilation of our people, we know too well the danger, the horror, of global indifference. To us, "never again" is not just a slogan, it is a firm, moral commitment on our part not to stand by -- or to allow our government to stand by -- in the face of unspeakable hatred and violence. In Zaire, the loss of human life is great. The Bible forbids us to "stand idly by the blood of [our] neighbor" (Leviticus 19:16). Mr. President, the people of Zaire are our neighbors. We cannot stand idly by.

To protect the lives of the innocent refugees, including the infants and children who are most at risk, the United States must take swift and forceful action to condemn and quell the forces of war in eastern Zaire. Our actions must be strong and unambiguous. In particular, we urge the administration to:

  • take the lead in the international community to bring all possible diplomatic pressures to bear on the governments of the region to end the violence and restore order;
  • help develop means, through mediation or force, to establish safe corridors and roads for refugees seeking food, water and shelter;
  • facilitate the airlift of food, shelter materials and other equipment to avert mass starvation among the refugee and local populations;
  • push for the release of the UN Commission of Inquiry report on arms flow, and act on its conclusions, possibly including re-imposing the international arms embargo against Rwanda and imposing an embargo against the other nations in the region that have used arms shipments to create regional instability;
  • garner broad public and congressional support to join a UN force, supported by the regional governments, to create regional stability; and
  • call on the governments of Rwanda and Burundi to ensure the safe passage of refugees back into their homes, free from harassment and arrest, and to encourage immediate repatriation.

It is imperative that the United States take action to avert the mass destruction that is imminent without our intervention. The world is waiting for American leadership, for us to make a move. Let it be a move to help protect innocent people from suffering. Let it be a move toward peace in Zaire. Let it be a move which begins now.

Respectfully,

Jerome H. Somers
Chairman of the Board
Union of American Hebrew Congregations

Rabbi Eric Yoffie
President
Union of American Hebrew Congregations

Rabbi Simeon J. Maslin
President
Central Conference of American Rabbis

Rabbi Paul J. Menitoff
Executive Vice President
Central Conference of American Rabbis
 
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