A group of SaveDarfurWashington members met with one of your staff representatives on October 2 to advocate for stronger American involvement in halting the genocide of hundreds of thousands of Sudanese civilians. Many other members, including myself, did not attend that meeting. We are Jews and October 2 was Yom Kippur, the holiest of holy days of the Jewish calendar.
That doesn�t mean we won�t raise our voices, as at this very moment I sit in the comfort of my neighborhood coffee shop writing you this letter. I tell you that because, as you may have guessed, I am white, I am privileged, I live in the most powerful country of the world. I live far away from murder, fear, desperation, homelessness, and starvation. But I have a historical consciousness: I am a Jew.
On Yom Kippur we Jews fast for twenty-five hours and pray. We are prohibited from eating and drinking, showering and engaging in the pleasures of the material world. I grumble each year over the length of the fast, the tedious repetition of prayer, and the inevitable headache from caffeine withdrawal that makes me want to vomit. And yet I am commanded on this one day of the year to atone for my sins, sins of omission and sins of commission, sins having to do with harm against other human beings.
It is a small sacrifice I make, one day a year, given the magnitude of suffering of the victims of murder, rape, displacement, and starvation inflicted by the Sudanese government against its own people.
We Jews know of persecution, of murder of millions of our people, of indifference by the governments of the world. We also know of those who risked their lives for Jews and other victims of Nazi hatred. Those righteous Gentiles should serve as a reminder to us of moral consciousness.
On the day of atonement, I will face myself and my Maker. And I will vow that I will not stand idly by, as the world did with the Holocaust, and then Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, and now, in the 21st century, Darfur.
The SaveDarfur coalition members urged you to push for immediate deployment of the already authorized UN peacekeeping force in Darfur; to strengthen the understaffed African Union force already in Darfur until the UN force is deployed; to negotiate a fair and lasting Peace Agreement; and to increase humanitarian aid and ensure its delivery.
I too urge you to demand that President Bush stand behind his words, �not on my watch.�
I am committed to sending money, letters to my leaders and the media, and to wearing my Save Darfur shirt. But for Yom Kippur, when I face my transgressions, ask for forgiveness, and resolve to act in the world with a moral conscience, I have asked more from myself. I resolved to send this letter to my friends and ask that they too speak out. Let�s not wait for a �Hotel Rwanda� about Darfur, to be made for us to wake up to genocide taking place on �our watch.�
We Jews pray that we will be inscribed for a healthy, sweet, and peaceful New Year because none of us knows �who shall live and who shall die� in the next year.
Let us all pray that we will not be responsible for who shall die.