Tuesday, May 02, 2006

A Crazy Weekend: Part III havdalah

my folks came back mid-afternoon and suggested that they'd happy to walk to the recon havdalah at 6th and I so that we could get there right as shabbat went out. We met up with Evin along the way. I was pleased with the seriousness of the program and the willingness of the presenters to engage in the tough questions.

We were blessed to hear Rabbi Brant Rosen discuss Darfur as the first presenter. Brant is the head of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association. He laid out 4 very insightful questions related to his experience bearing witness and calling for and end to the genocide in Darfur.

First he asked how we should talk about this genocide in relation to our own holocaust. Clearly each horrible, heinous mass act of genocide is as unique as it is terrible. What is going on in Darfur is quite different from the fires that burned in europe consuming most of my family, and so many others. its not news that different genocides are different and that none of them are easily comparable. Brant went over this and then said the real question was not whether the genoicdes where different but how we would proceed acknowledging this difference. For years, he said, so many Jews have felt compelled to argue the uniqueness of the holocaust and shoot down others who claimed parallels between other terrible acts and ours. Some people even used this history as a weapon. Brant said the days of using the holocaust as a crutch should be over and the days of using it as a club must be over. The holocaust should help us reach out to people with similar experiences and inspire us to act so that others won't have the experiences we have had. The holocaust should be used as a point of connection not a as a point of division.

Brant's second question was "why should we invest our energy in Darfur? Aren't there more people being killed elsewhere? Why not Congo or Burma?"
His answer was that it is foolish to view human rights work as a zero-sum game. Spending energy on one thing which is wrong does not make you less likely to spend time on something else. Action breeds action not inaction. Working to fight injustice of any sort leads us to fighting in other ways on other issues, taught Brant. He called on us to fight things that we see as wrong and reject the argument of the apathetic that we should be inactive until we find the perfect approach to the best issue.

The third question was "isn't this a centuries old ethnic conflict? why should we be involved? what could we even do?" Brant tackled some of the actual facts on the ground and helped us see how this is also a hindrance to action.

The last question was "but i am only one person my behavior can't make a difference, can it?"
Brant echoed Jacob Feinspan's words from TLS to answer this question. He helped show how concern, lobbying, phone calls, postcards, etc have softened Bush's heart and made him take increasingly good positions on this issue over the course of his presidency.

Brant's teaching was wonderful. It was especially exciting to hear the leader of a major Jewish organization say it was time to use the Holocaust as a way to build connection rather than a tool to attack others. Amen brother!


At 5/02/2006 , Blogger bpteutsch said...

And Amen, Son!
It was very inspiring to be part of a massive group demonstrating for the welfare of others...... And wonderful to see so many young 'uns.

At 5/04/2006 , Blogger ZT said...

and wonderful to see so many generations from the grandchild to the grandfather, from the newborn to the walker toting elders, everyone was there. all the generations were there to bear witness.


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