JEWISH WORLD WATCH
LEADING THE FAITH AND SECULAR
GRASS ROOTS COMMUNITIES IN THE FIGHT AGAINST
GENOCIDE AND MASS ATROCITIES
Many social welfare and human rights groups begin in response to a tragedy. Jewish World Watch (“JWW”) traces its genesis back to an international calamity – the genocide in Darfur.
From that beginning, JWW has grown into something extraordinary. Other organizations – many of them partners of JWW – focus on poverty, social justice, and economic development. JWW is the only Jewish organization to focus on genocide and mass atrocities. It is also one of only a few that makes building a grass roots movement among interfaith groups as well as the secular world, an essential core of its work.
After its beginnings in Southern California, JWW has been able to form bonds and extend its influence internationally. Its ability to reach out to and activate its members is an integral part of its persuasive power.
THE FOUNDING VISION:
NEVER AGAIN MUST MEAN NEVER AGAIN
Harold M. Schulweis, Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, is an icon of the national Jewish and interfaith communities; he is widely considered to be one of the leading Conservative Rabbis of his generation. Newsweek Magazine has placed him on their list of the Top 50 Rabbis in America.
Schulweis has been a passionate champion of civil rights since his early days in Oakland, where as a young Rabbi, he advocated for controversial interfaith conversion programs and for the inclusion of homosexual populations in the synagogue community.
Then, Darfur erupted.
SILENCE IS COMPLICITY
Schulweis became aware of the genocide in Darfur and was outraged that the atrocities received so little press. He realized that he and his faith community had an opportunity to show that they believed in, and would act to live up to, the promise of “never again” made after the Holocaust. He implored his congregation to join with him in speaking out against the atrocities in Darfur — not only because of their own powerful connection to the Holocaust, but because they must speak out — it was their duty to speak out. Silence is tantamount to complicity. "At stake is humanity. At stake is the universe. At stake is the nature of God".
Rabbi Schulweis at Darfur Observance Day
Rabbi Schulweis called to his congregation to join him in creating a Jewish World Watch, an opportunity to monitor and speak out against the mass atrocities that take place in our lifetime. “Do not stand idly by the blood of your brother” would become the central tenant that would drive the mission, a mission , formally stated, “to become a hands-on leader in the fight against genocide and mass atrocities, in an organization that would engage individuals and communities to take local actions that produce powerful global results.”
PROMINENT ATTORNEY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE ACTIVIST
WAS SELECTED TO CO-FOUND JWW
Janice Kamenir-Reznik was Schulweis’s choice to be his co-founding partner and leader for Jewish World Watch. Indeed, his confidence was well placed. For more than thirty years, Kamenir-Reznik has been a powerhouse in the Los Angeles Jewish and legal communities and was a well known leader in city government, the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles, as a successful attorney in the firm of Reznik and Reznik which she built with her husband, Ben, as a founder and President of the California Women’s Law Center, and more.
President Janice Kamenir-Reznik kicks off the Olympic Torch Relay
But for Kamenir-Reznik, Jewish World Watch was a different sort of challenge. She took Schulweis's vision and began to implement it by engaging first, the Southern California Jewish community through their synagogues. Ultimately, from this foundation, JWW expanded it’s reach to hundreds of faith, and secular organizations which included Jewish, interfaith, universities and religious schools.
TZIVIA SCHWARTZ GETZUG JOINED THE TEAM
AS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Tzivia Schwartz Getzug, joined the JWW leadership team as Executive Director in 2005. Schwartz Getzug is uniquely suited to this job. Trained as a lawyer, she spent the early part of her career as a civil rights counsel for the Anti-Defamation League. She then took a less traditional path: she worked with Dreamworks as an expert consultant with faith communities during the making of the animated film, "The Prince of Egypt." With her later five year service as Senior Vice-President for Public Affairs at the Jewish Federation, Schwartz Getzug was a natural fit for the job as first JWW Executive Director.
In her five year tenure as JWW Executive Director, Schwartz Getzug has brought together a brilliant staff, and with Kamenir-Reznik, has assembled a dedicated Board of Directors which guides decisions on budget, organization policy, campaign target areas and relief projects.
Schwartz Getzug’s philosophy and approach are closely aligned with that of Kamenir-Reznik, and the alliance of these two leaders as colleagues and friends, underscore a working relationship that presents a dynamic and creative face of JWW to their constituencies and to the world.
In fostering relationships with faith organizations, individuals, partner organizations and government entities, the Kamenir-Reznik -Schwartz Getzug team together with staff and core volunteers, have built a fiercely dedicated community of advocates throughout southern and central California and beyond.
A THREE PRONGED STRATEGY TARGETS
TWO GEOGRAPHIC AREAS
From the beginning, the JWW strategy has been to engage the grass roots, which formed, and remains today, a central, massive core of support. The three pronged approach is dynamic and comprehensive and has been highly successful at rallying the base:
· education of the public on the issues and geography through the schools and speaking engagements,
· advocacy for relevant policy and legislation at high levels of government, and
· provision of relief and development efforts to survivors of genocide and mass atrocities.
The primary campaigns have targeted two geographic areas. The first five JWW years were concentrated on the survivors of the Darfuri genocide, now based in refugee camps in Chad.
The second campaign, begun in he last year, has been focused on the mass atrocities taking place in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
SUDAN AND DARFUR
Young Darfuri woman living in a Chadian Refugee Camp
Sudan has been embroiled in bloody ethnic and religious conflicts for all of its post-colonial existence (since 1956), but the most prominently known ethnic cleansing occurred in the last decade, as the Darfuri genocide. Millions of people died horrific deaths at the hands of Dictator and convicted war criminal, Omar al-Bashir and his proxy Janjaweed militias, whose airstrikes and Cossack-like raids on undefended villages are now legendary.
The reasons for the murderous rampage are complex and are reported to be connected to ethnic and land conflicts between the northern Darfur Arab nomad communities and the southern Darfur Black African farmers, as well as to an oil concession that is routed under the area.
Survivors of the genocide fled on foot to the twelve refugee camps in Chad where they have lived for the last eight years. Life in the camps is not conflict free – and dangers abound, particularly for women and girls, as you will read below. Whether the refugees will ever be able to return home, is anyone’s guess.
Children greeting arrival of toys
These camps are a principal location of a major JWW relief effort, the award winning Solar Cooker Project.
Another conflict in Sudan brews as I write. Sudan’s 20 year civil war ended in 2005 with a Peace Agreement that allowed Southern Sudan to vote no later than January, 2011, on whether they remain a part of unified Sudan or secede from the north to establish their own country.
The referendum took place on January 9, 2011, and when results were tallied, it was no surprise that 90% of the people voted to secede. The world now anxiously watches to see whether the north will nominally accept the secession, or attempt to prevent it with a bloody coup.
JWW is at the forefront of this watch, with a priority to ensure that the U.S. and other international leaders facilitate a peaceful transition. Violence could easily erupt as al-Bashir evaluates his strategy to maintain control over his “kingdom”.
THE SOLAR COOKER PROJECT
Solar Cooker (Cook Kit) with cooking pot enclosed in plastic. These cookers cost $30 for a pair and
and will serve one family in the Refugee camps.
The Solar Cooker Project may be JWW’s best-known relief project: it is the largest solar cooking endeavor in the world. Currently in three refugee camps in Chad – likely to become four or more over the next year – JWW provides solar cooking and economic development opportunities women and girls who are genocide survivors – women and girls who have fled with their families from villages destroyed by the janjaweed during the Darfur genocide. The survivors have lived in the camps now, for seven or eight years.
The project has been directed from its inception by Rachel Andres, who has guided it’s growth and navigated “on the ground” implementation in the camps. In 2008, Andres received the coveted Charles Bronfman Prize for her groundbreaking humanitarian work in implementing the JWW solar cooker program in Chad.
Solar Cooker Project Director, Rachel Andres accepts the Charles Bronfman Prize for Humanitarian service
The Solar Cooker Project is an ingenious concept that provides a win-win for the refugees. The cookers, called Cook Kits, are light, aluminum based units that are easy to assemble, provide clean, smoke free method for making use of the 300 plus days of 100 degree heat in the sub-Saharan camps. They also provide a livelihood for the group of women leaders in the camps who are taught to manufacture them and then teach the thousands of other women to use them.
A young woman carries firewood back to the camp
Women using solar cookers in the mid day sun of a Chadian Refugee Camp
But the most compelling reason of all for the use of these Cook Kits is that they are lifesaving: they prevent sexual violence and often death at the hands of the Janjaweed militia armies that patrol the areas and that will brutally gang rape or take as “wives”, the women and girls, who are unlucky enough to be out searching for firewood within their eyeshot. Because the cookers don’t require firewood, the women and girls make far fewer trips out of the camps. A 2007 UNHCR evaluation of the pilot project found that use of the cookers was associated with 83% fewer trips out of the camps in search of firewood.
A key element of this stunning success was the empowerment of the women in the camps. They were able to claim ownership as they “manufactured” the Cook Kits, taught others to use them, and elicited the participation and support of the women of the camp.
Eventually, JWW hopes to provide this lifesaving program to all twelve refugee camps In Chad.
OTHER RELIEF FOR GENOCIDE SURVIVORS
In addition to the Solar Cooker Project, generous donors have funded a relief effort that has allowed JWW to provide numerous essential services for the refugees that include medical clinics, water wells, and crisis counseling for traumatized refugees as well as Youth Centers that provide teens with a safe place to study and to engage in extracurricular activities.
Children receive first shipment of backpacks filled with hygiene items and school supplies
The JWW “Backpack Project”– provided children with 15,000 backpacks filled with hygiene and school supplies. In partnership with Enough Project and Stop Genocide Now, JWW has partially funded theDarfur Dream Team Sister Schools Project which has built two schools for refugee children and hopes to fund additional schools at a later time.
THE CONGO NOW! CAMPAIGN
THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (DRC)
The second area of focus for JWW is the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). A gorgeous, mineral rich country that has been described as “Hawaii on steroids”, the DRC has tragically, been the location of a bloody civil war for more than 20 years, in which rebel groups have destroyed one another as well as surrounding villages in their fight for control over land and mineral rights. The minerals, mined illegally, from the rebel owned terroritories, are sold to middlemen, who then resell them to electronics companies worldwide, which we all know and love – and from which we purchase all the electronics items we use every day – cell phones, computers, ipods, flat screen TVs and more.
Conflict minerals are a multi-bilion dollar business, bringing revenue back into the hands of the rebels, who use it for arms and ammunition with which they propagate the conflict.
To say the DRC is a dangerous and hostile place, is an understatement of exponential proportions. The warring rebel groups are a constant terrifying presence in their fight for control of the countryside; their method for control of territory is to terrorize and intimidate undefended villagers. They routinely ride into town waving machetes, proceed to murder the men and oftentimes crying children, then gang rape and mutilate the women and girls, take able bodied children as sex slaves and child soldiers, then burn the entire village and everyone in it who is left alive.
It is no wonder that the DRC is considered to be the most dangerous place in the world to be a woman or a girl. To that, this writer would add, it is mortally dangerous place to be a living being of any kind. To date, the war over conflict minerals has wrought more death and destruction than World War II.
PURCHASE ELECTRONICS ONLY FROM COMPANIES
THAT BUY SUPPLIES FROM CONFLICT FREE MINES
JWW joins Enough Project in efforts to minimize violence against civilians by asking industries around the world to purchase minerals only from legal mines. It asks electronics manufacturers to audit their supply chains and eliminate any dealings with illegal mines. If militias are deprived of their earnings from the illegal sale of minerals, their arms and other supplies used to suppress civilians may be reduced.
Last year, joint advocacy efforts resulted in the Conflict Minerals Trade Act (H.R. 4126), passed by Congress in July. This act gives authority to the U.S. Commerce Department to audit mineral mines and declare them to be conflict free (or not). It also calls upon importers to certify whether they are importing from conflict mines.
The Congo Now! campaign includes a massive outreach effort to consumers of eletronics products (i.e., everyone in the developed world) advocate that purchases are made from manufacturers who buy supplies only from legal mines.
THE FIRST AND ONLY BURN CENTER IN THE DRC
After the rebel groups burn the villages, survivors are left scarred for life both emotionally and physically, as there are no burn facilities which provide treatment in the highly skilled medical specialty required by burn victims.
JWW funded (the only) Burn Center in Kivu
JWW’s first project in the DRC was to fund the very first burn center In Eastern Congo. Now, for the first time, burn survivors can receive specialized medical treatment they need.
JWW formed a partnership with Congolese and Israeli hospitals and with American and Israeli NGOs, in which Congolese surgeons are flown to Israel for training in plastic surgery and skin grafting techniques. As a part of this project, Israeli doctors returned to Congo to help train more Congolese surgeons and to install Congo’s first skin-grafting equipment at the Bukavu Provincial General Reference Hospital.
THE WORST PLACE ON EARTH TO BE A WOMAN
Sexual violence is rampant in Congo where gang rape and mutilation with machetes, glass, rifles and other objects are routinely used as a weapon of war. Women who have been raped are typically shunned by their families and villages, and as community pariahs, have little recourse for economic sustenance. JWW programs reach out for these women.
In innovative partnerships with the highly respected NGO, Heal Africa in Goma, JWW has been seeking projects to relieve this suffering and help women rebuild lives. One project trains women who have been victims of sexual violence to become seamstresses and tailors. They produce clothing and purses that they can sell to support themselves. At the end of their training period, they are provided with a sewing machine, so they can become productive members of their own community, with a means of independent support.
OTHER PROJECTS IN THE DRC
Other projects funded include an agricultural collective that supports a cooperative insurance fund used by expectant and new mothers, to insure they have the medical care they need for safe deliveries and for their new infants.
Still another project supports a journalist training program in which women report incidents of sexual violence, which are then broadcast by radio throughout the region.
This program was founded on the tenet that the more awareness there is, the stronger the movement to stop it will become. Such publicity directly attacks the culture of impunity that dominates Congo. The hope is that if cases of rapes are documented, it leads to cultural backlash, cultural shame, and ultimately to change.
THE COST OF SAVING LIVES
In the seven years since its founding, JWW has raised more than $5 million dollars for these relief and development projects, which impact tens of thousands of people in Sudan and Congo.
Clearly, raising funds is a priority for JWW. The world of social justice groups is a crowded one. So many people have so many problems in their own communities that it is sometimes difficult to get them to engage in the bigger picture – even for such critical issues. JWW supports a “both/and” approach – to focus one’s efforts both at home and in the broader world.
JWW raises just under $2 million per year. They keep their overhead costs remarkably low, and the small staff runs a tight, efficient office.
Schwartz Getzug hopes to raise another $500,000 to $1 million per year, which would allow JWW to strengthen its base in Southern California and bring many more programs to survivors of genocide and mass atrocities in Sudan and Congo.
PASSIONATE STAFF AND VOLUNTEERS
The specter of genocide is so powerful, and the international will to oppose it is often so frail, that one of the primary resources of JWW staff and volunteers is their own passion. In a world where countries are impelled to “look the other way” when foreign atrocities occur, Kaminer-Reznik and Schwartz Getzug know that they must depend on the creativity and passionate engagement of its supporters. It would be easy to fail; it is less easy to know when one is has succeeded in making genocide unthinkable.
Schwartz Getzug prides herself on the dedication of her superlative staff and volunteers, on the strength of their convictions, and on the hard work they undertake to bring the issues to the forefront of the public view. Those associated with JWW talk about their work with great passion and conviction. The issues speak for themselves, once known – the task is to empower volunteers.
JWW’s does not seek age-specific volunteers; it values cross-generational collaborations throughout southern California and within the U.S., largely building on opportunities within communities of faith – including interfaith communities.
High schools students are regularly engaged through the Activist Certification Training (ACT ) program, an ingenious service learning experience created by Assistant Director, and resident genocide scholar, Naama Haviv, who designed it to educate and build committed activists for the JWW campaigns.
ACT Student Activists
UCLA Students join Jewish World Watch to speak out against genocide
In addition, JWW also welcomes volunteers with basic skills to help with office work and at events – as well as well as those with specific skills such as editing, photography, and public speaking.
JWW SIGNATURE FUNDRAISING CALL TO ACTION EVENTS:
THE ANNUAL WALK TO END GENOCIDE
Finally, volunteer recruitment shifts into high gear in preparation for JWW signature events: the now massive Annual Walk To End Genocide, which brings more than 3000 participants for a 1 ½ mile walk through the San Fernando Valley, is scheduled this year for April 10 , and for the Global Soul event on February 1, 2011, this year, honoring President Janice Kaminer-Reznik.
BI-ANNUAL GLOBAL SOUL FUNDRAISER
HONORING JWW CO-FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT JANICE KAMENIR-REZNIK
Says Rabbi Schulweis in his now famous sermon in which he introduced the concept of Jewish World Watch:
“I recalled the confession of Pastor Martin Miemoeller who, during the Nazi years, was silent and indifferent to the lot of Jews and socialists and workers. When, in 1937 the Nazis came for Miemoeller, he wrote these celebrated lines:
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out–because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out–because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me. “
DO NOT STAND IDLY BY
DO NOT STAND IDLY BY
Co-Founders Janice Kamenir-Reznik and Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis
and Executive Director, Tzivia Schwartz Getzug
Interview with Janice Kamenir-Reznik at the Los Angeles City Hall Declaration of February 1 as Janice Kamenir-Reznik Day
Jan Snyder, Office Manager
Student Activist Organizer
Director, Solar Cooker Project
 Reznik and Reznik is now merged with the national law firm of Jeffers, Mangle, Butler and Marmaro.