Darfur rally energizes community


Four hundred thousand people have died in Darfur thus far, 3.5 million people are hungry, and 2.5 million have been displaced due to violence, according to reports by the World Food Program, the United Nations and the Coalition for International Justice.

The local and national Jewish communities are preparing to take a stand against the genocide in Darfur.

On Sunday, April 30, thousands of people from around the country — including members of the St. Louis Jewish community — will join together in Washington for the Save Darfur Rally to Stop Genocide, organized by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

Preceding the rally, RAC will host Shabbat services with a special D’var Tikkun on the situation in Sudan, and a Havdalah Service on Saturday, April 29, the night before the rally, at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington.

There will also be Capitol Hill Advocacy Visits on Monday, May 1.

Locally, the St. Louis Save Darfur Coalition, coordinated by the Jewish Community Relations Council, is organizing a Call to Action Vigil for Darfur on May 10 at 6:30 p.m. at the steps of the Missouri History Museum.

“The purpose is to have people gathered as a group to show their solidarity,” said Judy Hoffman of the JCRC, “and we want to inspire them to act.”

Hoffman said there are a number of things people can do here in St. Louis to help.

“There have been a lot of legal issues in the House and Senate, and we’ve mobilized members of the coalition to respond to those kinds of things. We are educating others in St. Louis about it, because we find in many circumstances people have barely even heard of Darfur, let alone understand the situation and it’s impact, so it is important to get people to the point where they can respond,” she said.

The vigil will be followed by a presentation by Jerry Fowler, the first staff director of the Committee on Conscience, which guides the genocide prevention efforts of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The presentation, “Genocide Emergency — Darfur, Sudan — Who Will Survive Today?” will take place at 7 p.m. at the Missouri History Museum Marcella Wiget Macdermott Grand Hall.

Fowler’s presentation is co-sponsored by the St. Louis Holocaust Museum and Learning Center, the JCRC, the Center for International Studies of the University of Missouri at St. Louis, the Whitney R. Harris Institute for Global Legal Studies, Washington University and the Missouri History Museum.

Additionally, a special Havdalah Service to raise awareness about the crisis in Darfur will be held on Saturday, April 29 from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. at United Hebrew Congregation, together with Congregation Shaare Emeth and B’nai El Congregation.

Brigitte Rosenberg, associate rabbi of United Hebrew, said the congregation would have liked to send a delegation to participate in Washington but were unable to, so they decided to host the Havdalah service.

“We thought it was important that here in St. Louis we also have some way to be a part of this national voice that is happening in D.C. that weekend,” Rosenberg said.

The service is being done in solidarity with the RAC Havdalah service in Washington.

“In essence we are doing the same thing and standing up at the same time as other Reform Jews, and saying it is important to educate ourselves about what is going on in Darfur, and so that we can ultimately take action in whatever way we as individuals choose is the best way for each of us to take action,” she said.

For information on the Save Darfur Rally to Stop Genocide in Washington, visit www.rac.org.

For information on the St. Louis Save Darfur Coalition Coordinated by the JCRC, call 314-442-3716.

For information on the Havdalah Service at United Hebrew, call 314-460-0700.

Keren Douek is a staff writer and can be reached at [email protected].