Darfur Fast for Life

We fast in solidarity with the hungry and starving in Darfur and for lasting peace in Sudan

Rabbi Saperstein

Rabbi David Saperstein is the Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Described in a Washington Post profile as the “quintessential religious lobbyist on Capitol Hill” and topping Newsweek’s “Most Influential Rabbis” list, he represents the national Reform Jewish Movement to Congress and the administration. During his 35‐year tenure as Director of the Center, Rabbi Saperstein has headed several national religious coalitions. He currently co‐chairs the Coalition to Preserve Religious Liberty, which comprises more than 50 national religious denominations and educational organizations, and serves on the boards of numerous national organizations including the NAACP and People for the American Way. Rabbi Saperstein currently serves on President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith‐Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. In 1999, he was elected as the first Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, created by a unanimous vote of Congress.

Under Rabbi Saperstein’s tutelage, writes J.J. Goldberg in his book, Jewish Power, the Religious Action Center “has become one of the most powerful Jewish bodies in Washington.” The Center not only advocates on a broad range of social justice issues but provides extensive legislative and programmatic materials used by synagogues, federations and Jewish community relations councils nationwide, and coordinates social action education programs that train nearly 3,000 Jewish adults, youth, rabbinic and lay leaders each year.

Rabbis Across the Globe Join in Fast for Darfur

June 18, 2009 By: Admin Category: Rabbi Saperstein

At least 80 rabbis in five countries will fast with Rabbi David Saperstein “as a protest and as an emblem of solidarity” with the people of Darfur

From sundown last night until sundown tonight, 80 rabbis across five countries are participating in a water-only fast to call attention to the lack of aid for victims of the genocide in Darfur. In addition, many others, including cantors and lay leaders, have joined in the fast.

Yesterday afternoon, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, attended a meeting at the State Department, where U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration expressed his appreciation and encouragement for all those participating in the fast.

Rabbi Saperstein began a three-day, water-only fast on the evening of Monday, June 15th, and invited rabbis of all four major streams of American Judaism (Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative and Orthodox) to join him for the final stretch of his fast. Participants include rabbis from the United States, Canada, Israel, Mexico and England; a full list is included below.

On April 27th, Rabbi Saperstein was arrested in his third act of civil disobedience calling attention to the situation in Darfur, this time with longtime civil rights activist Rep. John Lewis, other members of Congress and leaders of Darfur advocacy groups. He now joins a long line of politicians, celebrities and activists in carrying on a water-only fast begun that day by actress Mia Farrow to call for the restoration of humanitarian aid to the people of Darfur. On May 9th, Farrow’s doctor ordered her to end her hunger strike due to serious health risks; since then, others have carried on the fast for her. More information about the chain of fasters can be found at www.fastdarfur.org.

Speaking to the importance of the fast, Rabbi Saperstein issued the following statement: “Activists around the world have committed to continuously pounding the drumbeat for Darfur. U.S. Special Envoy Scott Gration is working hard to negotiate a restoration of the humanitarian aid and to restart a just peace process, and recent reports indicate that he is making progress in his negotiations. Yet negotiations about returning aid groups have not yet achieved real results, so beginning last night, the stomachs of 80 of our Jewish leaders go hungry to draw attention to those dying in Darfur, urging the restoration of aid to the people of Sudan.

“Fasting is a traditional part of Judaism, usually accompanying the memory of a great tragedy or deep repentance. But here we must do a fast as a protest and as an emblem of solidarity with the individuals in the camps, sharing the plight of too many in Darfur –water but too little food. Let us do everything possible to ensure that this will be the last fast necessary to draw attention to the urgent need for both relief and long-lasting peace in Sudan.”

It has been more than three months since Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir expelled humanitarian aid groups from the country. Despite assurances that Sudan will allow international NGOs into the country and close existing humanitarian gaps, the situation has worsened. Aid groups report that efforts to send aid to those who need it are unsustainable and insufficient. The onset of the rainy season will likely lead to mass migration and water-borne disease epidemics in internally displaced persons camps, putting, as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon predicted, more than 1 million people at life-threatening risk.

Follow along with live updates of the fast at Twitter.com/theRAC, and visit the RACblog for blog posts from Rabbi Saperstein and participating rabbis.

Partial list of rabbis fasting for Darfur:

· Rabbi David Saperstein, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (Washington, DC)

· Rabbi Alan Henkin, Union for Reform Judaism Congregational Support Center – West (Northridge, CA)

· Rabbi Alan Lachtman, Temple Beth David (Temple City, CA)

· Rabbi Alyssa Ralston, Congregation Rodef Sholom (San Rafael, CA)

· Rabbi Avi Schulman, Temple Beth Torah (Freemont, CA)

· Rabbi Arthur Gross-Schaefer, Loyal Marymount University Hillel (Los Angeles, CA)

· Rabbi Camille Angel, Congregation Sha’ar Zahav (San Francisco, CA)

· Rabbi Douglas Kohn, Congregation Emanu El (San Bernadino, CA)

· Rabbi Eve Ben-Ora, Jewish Community Center San Francisco (San Francisco, CA)

· Rabbi Haim Asa, Temple Beth Tikvah (Fullerton, CA)

· Rabbi Hillel Cohn, Congregation Emanu El (San Bernadino, CA)

· Rabbi Jonathan Kupetz, Temple Beth Israel (Pomona, CA)

· Rabbi Marty Lawson, Temple Emanu-El (San Diego, CA)

· Rabbi Linda Bertenthal, Union for Reform Judaism (Encino, CA)

· Rabbi Roberto Graetz, Temple Isaiah (Lafayette, CA)

· Rabbi Steven Rueben, Kehillat Israel Reconstructionist Congregation (Pacific Palisades, CA)

· Rabbi Elisheva Salamo, Keddem Congregation (Palo Alto, CA)

· Rabbi Pam Frydman Baugh, OHALAH: Association of Rabbis for Jewish Renewal (San Francisco, CA)

· Rabbi Karen Bender, Temple Judea (Tarzana, CA)

· Rabbi Leah Lewis, Leo Baeck Temple (Los Angeles, CA)

· Rabbi Stanley Kessler, Beth El Temple (West Hartford, CT)

· Rabbi Charles Feinberg, Adas Israel Congregation (Washington, DC)

· Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, Ohev Sholom (Washington, DC)

· Rabbi David Oler, Congregation Beth Or (Deerfield, IL)

· Rabbi David Young, Temple Sinai of North Dade (North Miami Beach, FL)

· Rabbi Isaac Serotta, Lakeside Congregation (Highland Park, IL)

· Rabbi Laurence Edwards, Congregation Or Chadash (Chicago, IL)

· Rabbi Michael Zedek, Emanuel Congregation (Chicago, IL)

· Rabbi Eric Siroka (Temple Beth El, South Bend, IN)

· Rabbi Susan Silverman (Israel)

· Rabbi Alexandria Shuval-Weiner, The Temple-Congregation B’nai Jehudah (Overland Park, KS)

· Rabbi Debbie Stiel, Temple Beth Sholom (Topeka KS)

· Rabbi Debra Kassoff, Temple Emanu-El (Marblehead, MA)

· Rabbi Jonathan Kraus, Beth El Temple Center (Belmont, MA)

· Rabbi Raphael Kanter, Tifereth Israel Congregation (New Bedford, MA)

· Rabbi Shoshana Perry, Congregation Shalom (N. Chelmsford, MA)

· Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt, Congregation B’nai Tzedek (Potomac, MD)

· Rabbi Susan Shankman, Washington Hebrew Congregation (Potomac, MD)

· Rabbi Phil Posner (Ajijic, Mexico)

· Rabbi Adam Spilker, Mount Zion Temple (St Paul, MN)

· Rabbi Jared Saks, Temple Israel (Minneapolis, MN)

· Rabbi Alan Cohen, Congregation Beth Shalom in Kansas City (Kansas City, MO)

· Rabbi James Stone Goodman, Congregation Neve Shalom (Creve Coeur, MO) and Central Reform Congregation (St. Louis, MO)

· Rabbi Batsheva Appel, Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life (Jackson, MS)

· Rabbi Batsheva Meiri, Congregation Beth Hatephila (Asheville, NC)

· Rabbi Bradley Bleefeld, Temple Beth Hillel-Beth Abraham of Carmel (Vineland, NJ)

· Rabbi David Nesson, Morristown Jewish Center (Morristown, NJ)

· Rabbi Debra Hachen, Temple Beth El of Northern Valley (Closter, NJ)

· Rabbi Geri Chaikin, Temple Shaari Emeth (Manlapan, NJ)

· Rabbi Rabbi Kim S. Geringer, Temple Sha’arey Ha-Yam (Barnegat, NJ)

· Marcus Burstein, Temple Har Shalom (Warren, NJ)

· Rabbi Michael Goldstein, Temple Beth Torah (Ocean, NJ)

· Rabbi Michael Pont, Temple Beth Ahm (Aberdeen, NJ)

· Rabbi Gerald M. Kane, Temple Beth-El (Las Cruces, NM)

· Rabbi Avi Weiss, Hebrew Institute of Riverdale (Bronx, NY)

· Rabbi Barbara Goldman-Wartell (Temple Concord, Binghamton, NY)

· Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz (Central Conference of American Rabbis (New York City, NY)

· Rabbi Jennifer Jaech, Temple Israel of Northern Westchester (Croton-on-Hudson, NY)

· Rabbi Josh Davidson, Temple Beth El North Westchester (Chappaqua, NY)

· Rabbi Marim Charry (Great Neck, NY)

· Rabbi Mark Hurvitz, Davka.org (New York City, NY)

· Rabbi Paula Drill, Orangetown Jewish Center (Orangeburg, NY)

· Rabbi Paula Winnig, Temple Sinai of Long Island (Lawrence, NY)

· Rabbi Theodore Tsuroka, Temple Isaiah of Great Neck (Great Neck, NY)

· Rabbi Yocheved Mintz, Valley Outreach Synagogue (Las Vegas, NV)

· Rabbi Eddie Sukol (The Shul, Pepper Pike, OH)

· Rabbi Frank Muller, Congregation Rodef Shalom (Youngstown, OH)

· Rabbi Stephen Wise, Shaarei-Beth El Congregation (Oakville, ON)

· Rabbi Jack Paskoff, Congregation Shaarai Shomayim (Lancaster, PA)

· Rabbi Merryl Crean, Martins Run Senior Residential Community (Media, PA)

· Rabbi Michael Holzman, Congregation Rodeph Shalom (Philadelphia, PA)

· Rabbi Robert Rubin, Adath Israel (Merion Station, PA)

· Rabbi Shawn Zevit, Jewish Reconstructionist Federation (Jenkintown, PA)

· Rabbi Brian Zimmerman, URJ Congregational Support Center – South (Dallas, TX)

· Rabbi Nancy Kasten (Dallas, TX)

· Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, New North London Synagogue (Finchley, London, UK)

· Rabbi Gilah Dror, Rodef Sholom Temple (Hampton, VA)

· Rabbi Jeffrey Saxe, Temple Rodef Shalom (Falls Church, VA)

· Rabbi Jonathan Brown, Beth El Congregation (Winchester, VA)

· Rabbi Rosalind Gold, Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation (Reston, VA)

Rabbi Saperstein BLOG 6/17/09

June 17, 2009 By: Admin Category: Rabbi Saperstein

The latest on Darfur

I just walked out of a meeting with General Scott Gration, President Obama’s Special Envoy to Sudan.  Here’s the latest on Darfur and Sudan:

With regards to the internally displaced persons camps in Darfur, General Gration says that the efforts of the U.S., international community, outside groups to encourage the Sudanese government to allow aid back in is being felt with food aid growing again and approaching the levels it was before the eviction of the major aid groups. In other areas, such as health provision, the improvements are not yet so great but progress is being made. With some aid groups returning, or rather differently named aid groups being allowed entrance, there is some hope for the humanitarian situation in Sudan, although there is little question that all of the humanitarian groups will be operating very much at the mercy of the Sudanese government.  The Christian Science Monitor reports, “For now, aid officials believe many short-term needs are being met by aid groups and United Nations agencies that remained in Darfur. But they warn that the long-term impact could be devastating, particularly with the rainy season starting this month.”  It is critical that aid groups are allowed to enter and work quickly at high capacity.

In the meantime, the New York Times reports that attacks on civilians and arbitrary arrests in Darfur continue, and violence in South Sudan has increased to a level greater than that in Darfur.  This weekend, dozens were killed in an attack on an aid convoy in South Sudan.

General Gration recently returned from a whirlwind tour meeting with key international players who can contribute to a comprehensive peace process for Sudan.  As the North-South peace agreement remains tenuous, and as an election on Sudan’s leadership and a referendum on the future of Sudan’s unity approach, the crisis in Darfur is one of many factors General Gration is focusing on.  The State Department is hosting delegations from all the involved parties next week to try to get the peace process on the South back on track.

Tonight over 70 rabbis from around the world will be joining me in my solidarity fast for Darfur.  Their efforts, and the activism of citizens around the world, have helped immensely in drawing the world’s attention to the crisis in Darfur, making it clear that increased death rates are not acceptable.  Now is the time to turn the increased attention into meaningful results on the ground.

Rabbi Saperstein BLOG, 06/16/09

June 16, 2009 By: Admin Category: Rabbi Saperstein

Why I am fasting for Darfur.

Today I find myself once again fasting for Darfur. My first fast for Darfur, which I did only a few days after being arrested with Representative John Lewis, four other members of Congress, and leaders of Darfur advocacy groups, was undertaken to underline the urgency of the suffering in the internally displaced persons camps in Darfur after President Bashir had expelled over a dozen aid groups from the region.

Now, though, three months later, as I take up the same fast again, the situation has not materially improved.  Aid groups report that while they have covered some gaps, their efforts are neither sustainable nor sufficient.  Food and other supplies have been unable to be pre-positioned before the rainy season in necessary amounts. Aid groups report that hunger and water-borne diseases will spread in the rainy season, with feared results of mass migration. Children are disproportionately susceptible to the results of insufficient sanitation, food and medical supplies. Families in other parts of Sudan also suffer as aid groups were pushed out.

All this while our hopes for a lasting peace in Sudan also dwindle, as reports of clashes in South Sudan has raised death rates to levels even higher than that of Darfur.

On my last day of fasting, I am honored that rabbis from around the world will join in the fast.  Fasting is a traditional part of Judaism, usually accompanying the memory of a great tragedy or deep repentance.  But we cannot let this fast be a yearly activity, as our traditional fasts are.  If that is the case, it will mean the world will have allowed the children of Darfur to slowly die, not the quick deaths at the hands of the Janjaweed, but slow deaths of hunger and disease, while promises and negotiations fail to return life-saving aid to these displaced people.  Let us do everything possible to ensure that this will be the last fast necessary to draw attention to the urgent need for both relief and long-lasting peace for the people of Sudan.

Together, activists around the world have committed to continuously pounding the drumbeat for Darfur, and Special Envoy Gration is working hard to negotiate a restoration of the humanitarian aid and to restart a just peace process and recent reports are that he is making progress in his negotiations. Yet they have still not been able to stop the suffering that is at once urgent and slow-moving. Negotiations about returning aid groups have not yet achieved real results. So, the stomachs of one group of our nation’s moral leaders will be hungering this Thursday to draw attention to people who are dying – urging the restoration of aid to the people of Sudan.