Jewish groups urge White House to act on Sudan


WASHINGTON — Jewish leaders delivered a letter to the White House urging action to allow food to reach hundreds of thousands of people facing starvation in Sudan’s border regions.

Ruth Messinger, the president of the American Jewish World Service, and Rabbi Steve Gutow, the president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, presented the letter Tuesday to Samantha Power, the top National Security Council official dealing with multilateral affairs, and Grant Harris, the top Africa official at the White House.

The letter was signed by 350 Jewish clergy and lay leaders as well as 15 interfaith leaders who often work with Jewish groups on humanitarian matters.

“The border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan have recently seen indiscriminate bombings, targeted killings and the displacement of over 400,000 people,” the letter said. “With an already fragile humanitarian situation, the disruption of the current planting season combined with the Sudanese government’s refusal to allow unimpeded access to humanitarian organizations is a recipe for massive suffering.”

Speaking to JTA afterward, Gutow and Messinger said the White House officials made it clear that they were addressing the issue.

The key, the Jewish officials said, was to get other nations to pressure Sudan’s government to allow in food and relief.

“The issue is getting food in,” Messinger said. “What the government wants, and we would love to support them, is to get other countries to recognize the seriousness of this, to pressure the offending government — in this case, the Bashir government — to let more food in.”

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is wanted for war crimes for actions committed during years of religious and ethnic wars in his country.