Sunday, September 17, 2006

Darfur Rally at Central Park in NYC on September 17th

Her face is a map of the world
Is a map of the world
You can see she's a beautiful girl
She's a beautiful girl
And everything around her is a silver pool of light
The people who surround her feel the benefit of it
It makes you calm
She holds you captivated in her palm

So I attended the Darfur rally today, the one held in Central Park in our very own New York City. The experience was euphoric. I am still thrilled, still feeling a thrumming kind of beauty tingling in my veins.

Now, you may ask (I know others did)- what's the good in a rally? After all, you're not REALLY helping, right? You're not giving money, the people aren't really benefiting, nothing is being done. But I think you have to understand the meaning behind the rally. The rally isn't the end-all-and-be-all of saving Darfur. The rally isn't the end; it's a means to an end. It's a way to unify and unite people in the face of a common cause, a common goal. To bring people together and say- hey, we all have our differences, but here is one way that we are all alike. We have different faiths, different beliefs, different religions, but we are all banding together today to say genocide is WRONG.

The fact is that this is a necessary message, a message we need to proclaim loud and clear, not just for Sudan, for Darfur, for the United Nations and the countries of our world, but for ourselves. We have to remind ourselves to care, to worry about what's going on, about the innocent people dying. We have to give of ourselves. It's not an easy thing, to be aware, especially when there are so many different important ideas tugging at one's mind, each vying for priority.

I think you also have to consider people's ages. The way people help is different based upon their age. Since I am seventeen, and in school, the way that I can help is by going to a rally, by listening to people and lending my support and saying, YES, I agree with all of you that genocide is WRONG; we recognize that fact and we stand together today to say that. That's my part and that's what I'm going to do.

I've heard other people complain about the ulterior motives many have in going to such rallies. For example, the girl who is wearing the trendy skirt with "Darfur" embroidered on it as a fashion statement. Or the YU students who go in order to socialize with one another (coed activities must all have something to do with marriage, I guess.)

But see, this is about me. This is about me, Chana, how I react and what I do. I don't care about other people's ulterior motives or what motivates them; it's not my problem. It does not impact me. What does impact me are my choices, my decisions, and that's what I have to care about. And I tell you that I went to that rally for Darfur today because I feel that anyone who is a Jew has an OBLIGATION to be present if it is feasible and possible; we must be present at anything that involves taking a stand against genocide.

Because what did the world do by us? Well, you've heard Elie Wiesel, you've heard them all. The world was silent. The world silently condemned us and damned us. The world did nothing, our leaders did the book While Six Million Died amply demonstrates. People stood idly by and watched others dying and they either didn't care because it wasn't affecting them, or they weren't willing to take a stand.

So if we truly believe- and I do- in the statement "Never Again," we have to take action. It is our obligation to do something, whether it be symbolic or an actual contribution of money, food, time, effort- our obligation to take a stand and show the world that we are AGAINST genocide, against the mass murder of innocents, that we stand with Darfur and Sudan and we are striving to protect the free world as opposed to the one where ethnic cleansing is allowed.
And those are my motives- they were my motives- today, as I stood at the rally in Central Park.

Now, all the Yeshiva University students gathered together with their signs at the top of a rolling hill, which didn't please me too much, because I want to be in the thick of things, part of the experience, out there talking and yelling and screaming and pretty much doing as much as I can to be involved. So I made my way down the hill and got to where I was standing pretty much in front of the stage, holding my banner proudly (it reads in blue and white- "Yeshiva University Students say "Never Again!") and listening to the speeches. Anyone who had pushed forward to the front was there for the right reasons. Everyone there was passionate, was involved, cared deeply about what was going on.

There were people wearing blue berets- to symbolize the need for UN Peacekeeping forces to be sent in. They handed out blue bandannas/ handkerchiefs; I was wearing one in my hair. I had a blue sticker on my shoulder saying INTERNATIONAL AMNESTY and the words UN PEACEKEEPING FOR DARFUR NOW. I was also wearing an orange sticker distributed by college students from Sacred Heart University. The orange sticker reads "I'm standing in for Darfur victim #204, 117 and then"

It was amazing, truly amazing to see the great mass of people there. I've never been prouder to be a Jew. Central Park was filled with Jews; Yeshiva University students, people affiliated with Hillel (holding special Hillel signs with green and red colors and Hebrew on them), the Women's Jewish group of some kind and just more Jews. Then there were Christians, Muslims...people of every religion, truly. All gathered together to protest against the evil that is going on, against genocide.

It's inspirational to be swept up with a tide of people who believe what you believe, who are reacting to speeches and shouting their approbation or hatred of certain principles as they are suggested. People who are red in the face from shouting, people who are passionate, people who care. The fact that it was a Global Rally made it all the more special- people in Montreal and all over the world were having rallies simultaneously.

Now, perhaps this rally won't accomplish anything. I sure hope it does but maybe it doesn't. So then you might ask, again, what is the point? So you went, you screamed, you shouted; what was truly accomplished? I think that in going we still accomplished something. We symbolically stated that we stand WITH Darfur, that we are unfraid of annoucing that fact to the world, that we want to STOP genocide and killings. We're making noise for Darfur. We're not being silent, and through being silent, acting complicit in their deaths. Their blood shall not be on our hands.

And this is necessary. I am an idealist and I don't go in for cynical, jaded, practical, realistic views of the world. I know there are people who laugh at this and who think, "Oh, so what. They screamed today; tomorrow they'll go back to work and forget all about it." But it's not true. We think about it, about what's going on, about the people dying; it presses upon us and bothers us and each of us do what we can. And maybe it will have no impact at all.

But at least we tried.
We bloody well tried.

And I think we damned well deserve credit for trying, for trying to do something, to change something, to confront evil instead of letting it have its way with us.

God bless the United States of America, our freedom of speech, and the people who care enough about other countries that they organize rallies like these. They are truly, truly worthwhile, if only to give us the courage to realize that we are together; we support one another, and that we can unite against cruelty, against injustice, against all that is awful and terrible in the world.

One thing I do have to wonder...why is it that the only Rabbi who spoke there is a Reconstructionist Rabbi? Where are the Orthodox people? Why aren't they affiliated? Or are they, and do I just not know it? Why aren't they speaking openly about this? How can they, or anyone who is Jewish, remain silent?

Why do we have Elie Wiesels and the Reconstructionist Rabbis speaking out, and not the Orthodox? Orthodox Jews out of all the Jews actually have an obligation to care, a mitzvah not to stand idly by and watch others die!

We have to care about other people because of our humanity. It is our humanity that compels us to heed the blood that boils beneath the Earth, the brother's cries to God. Zecharia and Hevel; these are our examples. We must listen. We have to care. Because the ramifications of our not caring are too great...they could destroy our world.


Anonymous said...

I know I've said this about a bajillion times, but I'm with you all the way here. I wanted to go, but I couldn't. However, I am incredibly impressed with the amount of passion you put in to this effort. Great job. Double props.

Oh, and the rally made the news (not unexpected). But someone did hear you, so I don't think it was pointless.

Anonymous said...

The orthodox do care. See this link.

Orthoprax said...


I went to the Darfur rally in Washington during the summer, I don't think any Orthodox rabbi spoke there either, though a Reform rabbi did.

Talmidim Against Genocide said...

Hey you commented on my blog

but now I have a blog for Darfur

where you can view some of the speeches that were given at the Jerusalem Rally. And remarks about what a kiddush hashem it was.

You don't understand what it was like to plan that rally in three days, but the fact that 200 people showed up shows that we care.

Do you know of anyone in Israel who is intrested in getting involved?
I have lots of people intrested here, but more people who want to be involved couldn't hurt!

Abacaxi Mamao said...

Hey, I was at that rally, too!