UNION FOR REFORM JUDAISM CONTRIBUTES TO GIFT OF HOPE FOR DISPLACED & ORPHANED SUDANESE CHILDREN
Rabbi Marla Feldman, second from left, joins others in announcing Sudan Refugee Childrens Education Project in Chad.
(New York, NY, December 15, 2004)Jewish leaders held a press conference today with Israeli Consul General Arye Mekel and Ruth Messinger, president and executive director of American Jewish World Service, to announce an educational initiative, Sudan Refugee Childrens Education Project in Chad, for orphaned and vulnerable Sudanese children. Rabbi Marla Feldman, director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, represented the Reform movement at the conference.
Jewish tradition commands: You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor. In our global village, we are all neighbors, Feldman said. The Reform Jewish Movement stands with others here today to declare that we will not wait patiently for the politicians and diplomats to debate protocol while people are being annihilated.By joining together to support Sudanese refugees, we hope we will inspire others of good will to work to end the suffering of the 21st Centurys first victims of genocide. We pray they will be the last.
Speaking on behalf of the Sudanese community and offering his gratitude was Mohamed Yahya, a founder of the Representatives of the Massaleit Community in Exile. His group has been documenting human rights violations in Darfur for more than 10 years. After being exiled by the Sudanese government for criticizing the persecution of the Massaleit tribe in Darfur, Mr. Yahya spent eight years in Egypt before coming to the United States as a refugee two years ago.
All my life I was taught that Jews are the enemy, but when I came here I saw that you are a passionate, kind and supportive people, said Mr. Yahya as he addressed the room full of Jewish supporters. My own people are killing us, but it is the Jews who are working to save us, he said. From today on, you are our best friends. When one is killed in Tel Aviv or Darfur, you will hear our cry, he vowed.
The Union for Reform Judaism joined the State of Israel, the American Jewish World Service, UJA-Federation of New York, and United Jewish Communities of MetroWest New Jersey in contributing more than $100,000 to aid Sudanese refugees. The funds are being donated to the Jewish Coalition for Sudan Relief to provide formal and informal education in the Kashuni refugee camp, which was built and is managed by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in northeastern Chad.
The grant will allowIRC to open a fourth school in the camp that will provide a culturally sensitive curriculum combined with major psychosocial support. Informal education will be offered to children who are unable to participate in normal schooling because they have been forced to take on adult obligationsbecoming the head of the household or caring for younger siblings. In addition to basic literacy and numeracy programs for these children, activities will focus on tailoring, knitting, brick making and carpentry, allowing them to learn life skills and earn a living.
I cant think of a better gift to give this holiday season than the gift of hope, said Will Recant, assistant executive vice president of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, who emceed the news conference.
The Jewish Coalition for Sudan Relief is the latest effort organized by the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief (JCDR) to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Sudan. Coordinated by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the JCDR is comprised of 46 North American Jewish organizations as a mechanism to assist victims of natural and man-made disasters outside of the United States on a non-sectarian basis.
The Coalition has raised more than $250,000 for Sudan relief to date. Combined with the appeals launched by the Union and American Jewish World Service, close to $1 million has been raised for humanitarian relief by the organized Jewish community.
The Union for Reform Judaism is the central body of Reform Judaism in North America, uniting 1.5 million Reform Jews in more than 900 synagogues. URJ services include camps, music and book publishing, outreach to unaffiliated and intermarried Jews, educational programs, and the Religious Action Center in Washington, DC.