Friday, March 16, 2007

Shabbat Ideas - March 16, 2007

As it SNOWS in New York, the Reform Movement stands against the war and I really hope someone comes up to run for President, here are my Shabbat Thoughts for March 16.

AIPAC as Evil Sea Monster
Cheney’s problem is that American Jews remain, at heart, liberals and Democrats. If that was the worst of it
More Jews on Genocide

Darfur was on CNN this morning as I went to get my coffee from the guys downstairs at the office. The coverage was basic and simplistic. I said to myself “huh…well at least it is on CNN.” The war and genocide Darfur is an awful situation, yet it is nothing close to the worst international disaster taking place in Africa.

As a college student I studied international relations and focused on the Middle East and Africa. I chose to focus on this area not because I wanted a great breath of information but because of the Israeli Palestinian conflict and I started school in 2001. But as I began to study Africa and its literature, cultural and custom, I started getting extremely interested in what was happening there. It is interesting because as they say, if it bleeds it leads.

But wars in Africa get no press. King Leopold’s hold on the Belgian Congo was one of the most horrific experiences in modern times. Millions upon millions of Congolese were murdered and disfigured because of the Belgian rule in central Africa. And then Mobutu took over aiding in the assignation of the popular leader Patrice Lumumba. Uganda had similar issues with Idi Amin. The civil wars in the central African countries continue to conscript hundreds of thousands of boys to fight. Somalia is still a complete mess. More than 24.5 million sub-Saharan African Adults are infected with HIV.

And yet we are happy to see that Darfur is making the news. It is great that the West has chosen to take up an African cause. AIDS is also on most of the general public’s radar.

But as Stephen Colbert asked Nick Kristoff of the New York Times, why would Americans’ care about issues taking place in the rest of the world.

It is clear why we should care, but how do we get Americans to care about anything besides our immediate interests?

Even in the self-righteous world of Jewish blogs, we don’t take the time all that often to take the morally superior and indignant position that “we know what we are talking about when it comes to Africa.” There is one blogger I know of who spends lots of time working these issues. And his stuff is so heavy that I usually don’t read all of what is going on according to his news reports. The Head Heeb writes extensively on international affairs with such expertise that is rarely found on the major Jblogs. If it doesn’t have to do with Israel or anti-Semitism, it isn’t found in our circles.

So as we finish the book of Exodus this week and we chant Chazak Chazk Be Strong Be Strong, let us remember to be strong enough to look past our self-interest and work harder for other issues. The American Jewish World Service cannot feed all of the world’s problems to us like they did for Darfur. Just as we move from parasha to parasha and book to book, we need to have the strength to move forward to address these issues.

Shabbat Shalom

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