Posts Tagged ‘DARFUR’

FEATURED ORGANIZATION: THE JEWISH WORLD WATCH SOLAR COOKER PROJECT

Thursday, April 14th, 2011


 


  

 

HOW A $40.00 CARDBOARD CONTRAPTION COVERED IN FOIL

IS SAVING THOUSANDS OF DARFURI REFUGEES

FROM A LIFE OF TERROR

 

 

"Our mission is to protect the women and girls who are refugees – people would think they are safe now that they are in the refugee camps but we learned otherwise"


 

MAKE A DONATION TO THE JEWISH WORLD WATCH SOLAR COOKER PROJECT HERE

$40.00 BUYS TWO COOKERS AND PROTECTS A FAMILY OF WOMEN AND GIRLS

 

By Jonathan Arkin

 

When Imani, a young African woman and refugee from Darfur, leaves her camp in Chad to collect wood for cooking, she first needs to find trees – or any vegetation for that matter – to cut and carry.

Then she needs to get back to the camp – alive.

The genocide in Darfur, the result of a long-running government-militia alliance fighting a loose confederation of Darfuri rebels, has affected millions of western Sudanese in the wake of the fighting, first, by the decimation of villages and families, and then by starvation, and mass displacement.   

Unbelievably, however, the horror of the genocide is only the first trauma the Darfuris must endure.  If they are “lucky” enough to have miraculously survived the wholesale destruction of their villages and the murder of their families, they must make the days-long trek on foot to one of the refugee camps on the Chadian border, where they can find a modicum of food and shelter.   Once settled in the camps, it is the responsibility of the women and girls to find firewood, a precious commodity used for for meal preparation.  If this last part sounds easy compared to the ordeal of surviving a genocide, think again.

For thousands of women in the Chadian refugee camps, both the natural and man-made erosion that has limited the availability of trees for firewood is only part of the life-endangering problem of collecting. A far more sinister issue lurks in the savannah, and it has little to do with animal predators and the unforgiving weather.

Bandits, militia and other outlaws, known as Janjaweed  (roughly translated as “devil on horseback) have long been aware of the parade of women gatherers who leave refugee camps, sometimes alone, to collect necessary wood for burning.  Oftentimes, this very act of cutting down trees is illegal, but it is not the danger of arrest that troubles these women.  Rape, kidnapping and murder are daily traps that the women – some as young as 10 or 11 years of age – must learn to avoid in order to survive.

 

 “We saw young girls with huge piles of wood on their shoulders and we had never seen that at all in the other camps…it was so telling, and pulled at my heartstrings.”

 

When Rachel Andres, Director of the Jewish World Watch  Solar Cooker Project – an interfaith effort celebrating its five-year anniversary this May 16, saw what was going on, she quickly identified the best way to reach out to the women of Darfur.  Luckily, there was already a model in place for assisting the women whose daily routine consisted of walking for miles at a time just to reach usable firewood. 

Andres, heard about the work of Dr. Derk Riiks, a Dutch scientist who first saw the need for solar cookers at the Iridimi camp in Chad, –cookers that could use energy from the ever-present 100 + degree sub-Saharan African temperatures.  The idea of solar cooking has been around for nearly 200 years.  The project in the refugee camp was still in a pilot stage when  Andres and Jewish World Watch gave the program an extra push by publicizing and supporting it. 

When Jewish World Watch made their first trip to the camps they saw the progress of their efforts.  After completing an evaluation in the first camp where the project started she went with her team to the 2nd camp where JWW had built a manufacturing plant but solar cooking had not yet begun.  “We went to the new camp to meet with the people who would be running the project on the ground,” Andres said of her first trip. “As we were driving on the dirt road, led by a security convoy, we saw young girls with huge piles of wood on their shoulders.  We had not seen that at all in the camp where we had set up the solar cookers.   

 


A refugee girl gathering firewood in Chad.      

Copyright Barbara Grover

 

It was so telling and pulled at my heartstrings because we hadn’t seen that yet, and we knew that we were getting up and running, but we weren’t quite there yet. These girls were still not safe. It was upsetting on one hand and exciting on the other that we knew they would shortly have cookers.”

The women and girls, who are historically mandated by their local culture to serve as the traditional gatherers of the firewood, had been leaving the camps several times a week, thereby increasing the chances of getting attacked.

 

A  SIMPLE AND SUSTAINABLE ENERGY CONCEPT

 


The Solar Cooker:  2 cookers costs $40.00

 

It is, as some describe it, a deceptively simple concept: a foil-covered sheet of cardboard, one plastic bag and a pot for heating.  Two “Cook Kits,” as they are called, are provided for each family; and the problem of heating foods that need a substantial amount of cooking time, such as beans, meat, and the sauces that accompany them, is partially solved and time becomes a new luxury for these women.

 “The solar cooker cooks food using only the energy of the sun,” said a JWW spokeswoman in a recent informational video. “With solar cooking, the women no longer risk rape and attack from having to leave the refugee camp to search for firewood.   Instead, they are able to cook their food using the solar cooker without producing any smoke or harm to themselves or to the environment.”

 


Women in the Iridimi camp, in Chad, use the cookers during the heat of midday.

Copyright Barbara Grover

 

“I now have time to look after my husband,” said one woman who had rediscovered her family hours, in an evaluation report recently released by JWW.   The study also listed the reactions of other residents of the camps who found that since the competition for firewood had largely disappeared, their relations with neighbors had improved – as had their bronchial and respiratory health.

 

“We take the risk…because we have no choice.” 

 

Yet another challenge, keeping young girls in school, was an issue that arose when the volunteers discovered some of the younger women whose days were defined by four-hour walks to and from the wood-rich areas, plus an extra two hours for the gathering – left little to no time for school.   Dropout rates, even among the elementary school-aged children, was alarming.

“We take the risk because we need the firewood to cook for our families,” said another female refugee at the Iridimi camp. “I know it’s dangerous to send my little sister, but sometimes, we have no choice.”

Andres says they now do have that choice – and many of the women are venturing out less.

Our mission is to protect the women and girls who are refugees – people would think they are safe now that they are in the refugee camps but we learned otherwise.  We started the project with the aim of helping the women recover from the trauma they endured, the rapes, seeing family members killed,” said Andres of the steps from concept to reality. “We heard about this pilot project and we thought what a great way to keep the women (safe) within the confines of the camps, and to keep people from cutting down so many trees.   And, health-wise, there are lung diseases and eye diseases associated with the burning of wood.   People felt so connected to the project when they heard about it and they began to donate money, and to tell their friends about it.  We are now in three camps of over 70,000 people.”

 

“According to a recent evaluation, 53% of refugees say that they never leave the camp anymore to search for firewood since they have received their solar cookers, and  overall (firewood gathering) trips (out of the camp) have been cut by 86%…”

 

Studies have shown that the plan works.  According to a recent evaluation,  53% of refugees say that they never have to leave the camp to search for firewood since they have received their solar cookers, and overall trips out of the camps have been cut by 86%. 

 

EMPOWERING THE WOMEN IN THE REFUGEE CAMP

The Solar Cooker Project approach is one used by many philanthropic field operations: they go straight to the community leaders and present their product. Following the model established by Rijks, the team goes into each new camp and meets with the president of the women and men’s refugee groups and the humanitarian workers on the ground, and shows them how the cooker works and inquiries if they think it will be successful there.

 


Women assembling the solar cookers in the manufacturing plant.

Copyright Barbara Grover

 

If everyone approves the project (“which generally happens”, says Andres), “we’ll set the wheels into motion and get a manufacturing plant built and see who’s interested in the work.  We end up hiring the hard workers – a mix of full time and part time.  We also hire trainers, people who have the personality and who want to do it.”

What makes the JWW’s project unique, according to Andres and the JWW staff, is that theirs is the only solar cooker project for refugees that operates on such a large scale.  In fact, it is the largest of its kind in the world.

Another important component of the project, say its organizers, is the empowerment of the women – not only to acquire the skills to make the cookers function properly – but also to train others to use them and to train the trainers as well. The rarity of holding a job in a refugee camp, Andres said, is a crucial element of economic development.

“They are ambassadors of the project,” she said of the women who are trained to lead the project onward.   “It’s a real win-win for everyone.”

 

THE COVETED BRONFMAN PRIZE FOR HUMANITARIAN WORK

As Director of the project, Andres shared a synopsis of her own duties.

“I don’t have a usual day.  I work in a variety of areas, helping the NGO on the ground determine priorities,” she said. “I also work here in the U.S. to help educate people about the genocide in Darfur and to educate people on how they can help.  We work with all different kinds of organizations and individuals, synagogues, churches, girls’ organizations, High School groups, college students, you name it, they have supported the project!”

 


Solar Cooker Project Director Rachel Andres and Charles Bronfman,

after accepting the coveted Bronfman Prize for her humanitarian work

 

Indeed, Andres’s description of her work is modest.  In 2008, she was awarded the much coveted Bronfman Prize for her groundbreaking work in guiding the growth and implementation of the Solar Cooker Project.

 

CONTINUING DANGERS, CONTINUING CHALLENGES

With the situation in Darfur continuing – albeit well under the radar these days – with tens of thousands of new refugees becoming displaced recently and having to face the dangers of attacks from the Janjahweed militia and others, the need for concerted efforts in Chad is greater then ever.   Some refugees walk 300 miles just to reach the safety of the Chadian border, as documented in this short film by photojournalist Barbara Grover.

“When we went there to do the evaluation of the project we had some nervous moments,” Andres said. “Now the U.S. government has put out a travel advisory for Americans not to travel there.”

But with the project in full swing and expanding, the SCP faces the usual challenge in such cases: creating and maintaining an effective campaign to deliver help.

 

EXPANSION DELAYED ONLY BY A LACK OF FUNDS

The Solar Cooker Project’s goal of expanding the project into more camps will happen when there is enough money to ensure the ability to not only start up in these camps but continue the work for the follow-up years.   The next step is to get the solar cookers into the eight additional refugee camps – large outfits that house a quarter of a million people.

“It’s complicated,” Andres said of working in the refugee camps.  “It’s a huge venture to outfit all 12 camps.  We can only do it if we raise more money.   Our goal is to be in all 12 refugee camps in Chad sooner rather than later. I know we can do it.  ”

 

“People have heard about the genocide, and they have found that they can actually make a difference. They know that they have helped girls stay safe.” 

 

The success of the project, Andres explained, is definitely its own reward.

“What’s been exhilarating about this project is that such a simple solution works to help so many people, that it’s so basic,” she said. “You don’t have to understand the intricacies of the crisis in Darfur – you can just know that you are helping a genocide survivor stay safe now.  It’s easy for  people to understand and love the project. People have heard about the genocide, and they have found that they can actually make a difference by supporting this project.   They know that they have helped girls and women stay safe.   Going to refugee camps in Chad – seeing the women use the solar cookers, talking with them, seeing how much time they have to do other things, it’s gratifying beyond belief.”

 

GET INVOLVED WITH THE JWW SOLAR COOKER PROJECT

 

 

Tea time

copyright Barbara Grover

 

Getting involved is simpler that one might think.  Two lifesaving cookers are $40.00, and typically will serve one family for about nine-twelve months before replacement is necessary. 

 “We want everyone to be involved,” said Andres when asked about the segments of the public that JWW is particularly trying to reach. “We know that people want to do something that’s tangible, where they can see the results of their donations. What I see is that people want to get involved as donors and they then stay involved. It’s a way for them to get more involved in helping those affected by the genocide in Darfur.  It’s important for people to help and to educate others about what’s happening around the world.”

 

“We want everyone to be involved!” 

 

Other examples of the helping hand abound.  At one recent birthday party here in the U.S., a donor asked her guests to forego presents and instead to donate to the project.  One teenager painted rocks and sold them to raise money.   A church group made and sells Mother’s Day cards (this year’s Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 8).  A 14-year-old boy turned his family’s hiking trip to the top of Mt. Washington into a fundraiser.

We’ve been fortunate that so many people have found many creative ways to help these women and girls,” added Andres. “Like the girl who painted the rocks, she found something to do that she was good at – that is a part of what has been really special about this – people have found a way to own this project for themselves. People find their passion and use it to help these women and girls.

In addition to donating, some suggestions include hosting events where they can educate people about the project, the genocide, JWW in general; there have been gatherings called “Potholder Projects” (groups decorate pot holders that the JWW then sends to the women there so that they do not burn themselves when they open their solar cooked food) to show the refugees that someone halfway around the world cares.

 

UPCOMING 5-YEAR ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION

In the five years since its inception, Andres and the solar cooker project have raised a total of more than 2 million dollars and have just expanded into the 4th camp in Chad with 21,448 refugees.  That’s four camps with tens of thousands of lives saved – and eight camps to go. 

 

Training to use the Cookits in the 4th and newest camp in Chad

 

To celebrate this hugely successful run, Andres and her Solar Cooker Advisory Board are planning an anniversary celebration and fundraiser, scheduled for May 16, 2011, at which Los Angeles celebrity chefs are getting involved — “women cooking here for women cooking there,” as it has been called, and there is much more planned for the day. 

 


 

 


 

Jonathan Arkin is a graduate of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, and is currently a  writer living in southern California.


CONTACT:

Rachel Andres, Director

Jewish World Watch Solar Cooker Project

Rachel@jewishworldwatch.com

 

www.solarcookerproject.org

 

FACEBOOK

 

Other links:

LA LIST

Action Now+Network feature on Jewish World Watch

 

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FEATURED ORGANIZATION: JEWISH WORLD WATCH

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

 

 


 


 

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. 

 In the course of his studies and his sixty-plus year career, he has spoken and taught about the history of the Holocaust.  Over time, he became concerned that people of faith had a tepid response to modern counterparts of the Holocaust.  The ethnic genocide in Rwanda, for example, resulted in 800,000 deaths in a period of 100 days, and in a chilling déjà vu that recalled World War II, the world was silent as the slaughter occurred.   Rabbi Schulweis imagined what might have been had people of faith responded strongly to the massacres in Rwanda. 

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

 JANICE KAMENIR-REZNIK

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,[1]  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.

 

LIFESAVING RELIEF

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

 The Global Soul event, which will raise funds to support core programs, is scheduled for February 1, and will honor JWW’s co-founder, Janice Kamenir Reznik for her leadership and her compassion in building Jewish World Watch into a leading force in the fight against genocide. 

 

 

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

 

 

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 

 


CONTACT:

Jan Snyder, Office Manager

818-501-1836

Email:  jan@jewishworldwatch.org

 

 JWW Facebook

 www.jewishworldwatch.org


Michele Westmiller

Student Activist Organizer

Email: michelle@jewishworldwatch.org

 

Rachel Andres

Director, Solar Cooker Project

Email:  rachel@jewishworldwatch.org

Facebook


[1] Reznik and Reznik is now merged with the national law firm of Jeffers, Mangle,  Butler and Marmaro.



 
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Featured Organization: Jewish World Watch

Friday, January 21st, 2011




 

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. 

 In the course of his studies and his sixty-plus year career, he has spoken and taught about the history of the Holocaust.  Over time, he became concerned that people of faith had a tepid response to modern counterparts of the Holocaust.  The ethnic genocide in Rwanda, for example, resulted in 800,000 deaths in a period of 100 days, and in a chilling déjà vu that recalled World War II, the world was silent as the slaughter occurred.   Rabbi Schulweis imagined what might have been had people of faith responded strongly to the massacres in Rwanda. 

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

 JANICE KAMENIR-REZNIK

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,[1]  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 the Darfur 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.

 

LIFESAVING RELIEF

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

 The Global Soul event, which will raise funds to support core programs, is scheduled for February 1, and will honor JWW’s co-founder, Janice Kamenir Reznik for her leadership and her compassion in building Jewish World Watch into a leading force in the fight against genocide. 

 

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

 

 

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 

 


CONTACT:

Jan Snyder, Office Manager

818-501-1836

Email:  jan@jewishworldwatch.org

 

 JWW Facebook

 www.jewishworldwatch.org


Michele Westmiller

Student Activist Organizer

Email: michelle@jewishworldwatch.org

 

Rachel Andres

Director, Solar Cooker Project

Email:  rachel@jewishworldwatch.org

Facebook


[1] Reznik and Reznik is now merged with the national law firm of Jeffers, Mangle,  Butler and Marmaro.



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FEATURED ORGANIZATION: i-ACT BY STOP GENOCIDE NOW

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

 

 

 

 

i-ACT BY STOP GENOCIDE NOW

 

FULFILLING THE PROMISE OF “NEVER AGAIN”:

REAL TIME VIDEO BRINGS THE

DARFURI GENOCIDE SURVIVORS INTO YOUR HEART

 

 

Video in partnership with Darfur Sister Schools Dream Team

 

“When someone can see a face and hear a voice, it’s much more than seeing a black and white photo. 

It shows us, we’re human here. We are more than the news.”

 

 By Diana Marcketta 

 

 

If you’ve seen video images of Darfuri women and children that have trekked for days across the desert to reach refuge in the Chadian refugee camps, it is likely that those images were captured by the team from Stop Genocide Now  and i-ACT .

 

REAL TIME VIDEOS PROVIDE A WINDOW TO THE WORLD OF GENOCIDE

 

 

 

 

 Stop Genocide Now  (SGN) is an all volunteer grassroots online community that has come together to document in real time video, the plight of the Darfui refugees – survivors of genocide now living in the refugee camps in Chad .   The mission is to educate the public about genocide through an interactive experience that will bring them face to face with the people living through the daily traumas – and to  motivate them to take action in some way, to become a part of the solution. 

 

The group, led by southern California native, Gabriel Stauring, is comprised of technically-minded, media-savvy individuals from across the U.S.  The emotional videos — shot directly in the middle of Sudan refugee camps on the border of Chad where victims of the massacres in Darfur now live — are broadcast around the world via You Tube and on the Stop Genocide Now website. 

 

Stop Genocide Now works in tandem with sister organization i-ACT, a U.S. based not-for-profit organization (501c3) that functions as the fundraising umbrella for the multi-media work of the two organizations.

 

 i-ACT (an elongated acronym for “interactive activism”), in fact, gives new meaning to the concept of  the “reality video”.  The short videos capture the daily life of the camps; they present same day web casts through daily reports and streaming activity logs of life in the camps, the stories of the people, and their hope for peace in the Darfur region of Sudan.  As visitors to the site are virtually connected with the survivors in the course of their daily lives, they form emotional bonds with individuals they meet and follow through the camps. 

 

Together, Stop Genocide Now and I-Act provide an experience that is unique and emotional, while driving home the ever-present underlying message that we can never again allow these atrocities to occur.

 

 

 

 

STOP GENOCIDE NOW:  THE BEGINNING 

Flash back to Orange County, California, 2004:  Gabriel Stauring, a newly minted family counselor specializing in child abuse, was driving to his next in-home appointment while listening to a National Public Radio account of  the of the Rwandan massacre that had taken place ten years earlier…a sweeping genocide that resulted in the murder of more than 800,000 people within a three-month period.

 

“I felt disbelief,” said Stauring, co-founder and director of both Stop Genocide Now  and i-ACT . “I remember going through a lot of emotions…How could the world let this happen?” 

 

THE DARFUR GENOCIDE

Though the Rwandan genocide had ended a decade earlier, Stauring knew that similar  atrocities were occurring  in the Darfur region of the Sudan in Africa, where hundreds of thousands of civilian children, men and women were driven from their homes under by the Sudanese Janjaweed militia groups.   In Arabic, Janaweed means “devil on horseback, and in this context, they were actually Darfuris of Arab descent funded by the Sudanese government to destroy the Darfuris of Black African descent in a massive ethnic cleansing campaign.  Imagine murderous armies stampeding on horseback into undefended villages, brandishing AK47s, burning mud huts to the ground, torturing and summarily executing civilians, poisoning water wells, gang raping and brutalizing terrified women and children. 

 

Survivors of fled to the border of Chad, where refugee camps provided primitive shelter, and continues to house them by the tens of thousands.  Even today, survivors cannot return to their homes despite a ceasefire agreement  signed in February,  2010. 

 

STAURING WAS INSPIRED TO TAKE ACTION 

Stauring, a behavioral science graduate of California State University at Dominguez Hills, had no idea how to start a non-profit organization, nor was he sure that he had a full grasp of what was happening in Darfur at the time.

 

“It was the end of 2004, and I became aware of Darfur,” says Stauring, who has since visited the region eight times. “I began doing research over the internet, and talking with people. I began connecting with people who were concerned. Ultimately, it came down to, “What can we do?’”

 

As he questioned people about the ongoing horrors in Darfur, many felt overwhelmed and helpless to stop the unfolding tragedy.

 

“It felt too intimidating and too huge for anyone to feel they could make a difference,” says Stauring.   Although  the U.S. and other governments had pledged their allegiance to the fight against the atrocities occurring in  Darfur’s, the political complexities of the situation  were not readily resolved. The United Nations also has long held a presence there in support of the refugees.

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CREATING THE EMOTIONAL BRIDGE TO CONNECT ACTIVISTS WITH VOLUNTEERS AND ORGANIZATIONS TO THE PUBLIC 

Stauring felt  that the limited media coverage available failed to provide an emotional connection to the atrocities in Darfur.  Darfur seemed far removed, and the situation was so severe,  that it was nearly impossible to relate on a personal level.  But Stauring was moved by sadness in the refugee children’s faces.

 

So he began to think about how to create a connection between people here in the U.S. and the children and families living in refugee camps in Chad. He wanted to create a tool to connect activists to volunteers and organizations to the public.

 

Stop Genocide Now began as a month-long trip to Chad in 2005. Stauring and a friend — equipped with still cameras, lightweight DVD cameras, a laptop computer, and a satellite modem embarked on a venture to connect people over the internet with what was happening live in the refugee camps.

 

 

“We didn’t know what we were doing,” says Stauring. “Especially me. I was the most technologically challenged…I was very fortunate in that the people I was with knew what they were doing, and back in the U.S., we had a wonderful technical person handling things on this end…I’ve gotten a lot better since then technically.”

 

DODGING SKIRMISHES AND FILMING BY DAY, UPLOADING VIDEO TO THE WEBSITE BY NIGHT 

 

 

During the day, they would film in the refugee camps, talking with mothers, fathers and children about what they were experiencing. Then the group would quickly edit and upload the media files to be transferred over the net to the Stop Genocide Now website with very little lag time between the final cut and the internet feed on the website.

 

Each day of filming and shooting on their tiny budget would prove to be a challenge.  In a area with almost no infrastructure, Stauring and his friend travelled up and down the border through mostly deserted lands with no roads.

 

Batteries died quickly, and finding an electrical outlet was often nearly impossible. Random violence occurred around them along the border as they traveled from camp to camp. Often they engaged with other humanitarian aid organizations already there working to help the Sudanese people.

 

At first, the aid groups were reluctant to assist Stauring and his friends. But soon they began to earn the trust of both aid workers and refugees alike. 

 

As they traveled, they interviewed and listened to the horrifying tales of escape and torture. Most had lost homes. Women had been raped. Most had lost family members. There was often little hope and understandably much anger among the refugees.

 

BEARING WITNESS AND FILMING STORIES THAT HAD TO BE TOLD

 

 

Stauring and his crew were compelled to continue, feeling strongly that the stories must be shared.

 

“When someone can see a face and hear a voice, it’s much more than seeing a black and white photo,” Stauring said. “It shows us, we’re human here. We are more than the news.”

 

“Some of the kids (in the camps), knew no life but the refugee camp,” says Stauring. He felt it was important for students and families living in the U.S. to experience the impact of what was happening in Darfur by seeing footage as close to real time as possible.

 

Stauring also felt, based on his travels, that there were already a number of effective organizations helping refugees in Chad, but none were able to completely communicate just how extensive the genocide was nor how damaging its affects were on those who survived and escaped to the border camps.

 

BRINGING THE REALITY OF GENOICDE TO OUR LIVING ROOMS MOTIVATES ACTION FOR POSITIVE CHANGE 

Ultimately, Stop Genocide Now galvanized a global internet community; it brought the reality of the genocide and the refugee camps into the living rooms of concerned citizens who could then become part of the conversation — and ultimately become part of the solution. 

 

 

“We wanted to give access to refugee camps from anywhere in the world, so they could see what was happening,” says Stauring. “For instance, a student can wake up, take a look at the videos, go to class and on the same day ask questions of his instructor about what’s happening there. “

 

The same goes for politicians, says Stauring, whom he said he hopes will be motivated by the footage and photographs they see on the website to make positive change in support of the refugees.

  

For instance, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is featured in one video, which uses clips from Biden’s public speeches on C-Span and other media outlets, demanding that action to end Darfur’s genocide begin now.   Footage of rebel arms, including tables stacked high with machine guns, and film of children living in refugee camps is also featured in the same clip.

 

NEXT STEP: BRINGING THE CRISIS UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL:  LA CLIPPERS STAR BARON DAIVS WILL ACT AS A CONDUIT BETWEEN  U.S. STUDENTS AND CHILDREN IN THE REFUGEE CAMPS

This December, 2010, Stauring and volunteers from i-ACT will return to the border refugee camps to resume filming for 12 days. It will be Stauring’s ninth voyage there.

 

What he hopes to begin next is to establish relationships through technology for the Darfur Dream Team Sister Schools Program, a unique collaboration with other NGOs and Los Angeles Clippers star Baron Davis that enables students in the U.S. video-blog,  to share pictures and comments, and even talk live with children living in refugee camps.  Stauring says he feels the ability to interact over the internet takes the Darfur situation a step further.  “Personalizing a crisis is the best way to reach people,” he says.

  

 i-ACT and the Darfur Dream Team will soon launch a Facebook-like page which will link schools in the U.S. with schools in the refugee camps to connect.

 

COLLABORATIONS STRENGTHEN THE MESSAGE

Stop Genocide Now and i-ACT regularly work in collaboration with other active advocacy and aid organizations, such as Jewish World Watch, the Enough Project, led by human rights activist and author John Prendergast, and Save Darfur. Sudan Now is another visible campaign, supported by actor-activist George Clooney, which has been very effective in its fight for peace in Sudan, says Stauring.  

 

Stauring and his team also make frequent presentations at universities, using their footage to motivate and inform students. Because of their savvy with cameras and computers, the group has earned a go-to status as the multi-media organization for the Darfur issue.   This, Stauring says, is the  best way to influence political policy and public awareness

 

SMALL ACTIONS MAKE A HUGE DIFFERENCE 

Stauring points out that it isn’t essential, by any means, to personally brave the dangers of Sudan in order t have an impact in Darfur.  Small steps make a big difference as well.

 

“My very first act of activism was an email to friends and family,” says Stauring “It was something I knew they would look at differently if I sent it to them.”

 

 

 

Contacting local leaders, sending letters to government officials in Washington D.C. and  sharing information with friends about what is happening in Darfur is also effective, or volunteering talents to the organization is beneficial. 

 

Donations also help. i-ACT was established in order to raise money for the group to continue its multi-dimensional media work.

 

“We found that Americans are generous — they like to give, and they feel giving money is an important way to help,” says Stauring. 

 

THE EMOTIONAL CONNECTION IS KEY 

But what Stauring feels is most important is that people connect to the Darfur crisis on a very emotional level. His hope is that i-Act removes walls between victims and activists and the politically influential.

 

“Most people are afraid to take that first step,” says Stauring. “You have to allow it to connect with you on a personal level. Then you’ll be personally moved to take it the next step, to contact leaders or whatever you feel is right for you.”

 

FOLLOW i-ACT DAILY

While Stauring and the i-ACT team are filming in Darfur in Dec. 9-20, daily feeds will be available for viewing and interacting at  the Stop Genocide Now and the i-Act websites.

 

Despite what is sometimes a dangerous venture for Stauring and other volunteers, the mission to share the experiences of those affected by genocide overrides any fears or doubts to continue the work.

 

“It’s great to wake up and know that you’re doing what you need to be doing,” Stauring says.

 


CONTACT:

For more information about i-ACT or Stop Genocide Now, go to www.stopgenocidenow.org or www.iactivism.org

 

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FEATURED ORGANIZATION: JEWISH WORLD WATCH

Friday, April 16th, 2010


 

 

NEVER AGAIN WILL WE REMAIN SILENT 

 

IN THE FACE OF GENOCIDE

 

 

 

 

Jewish World Watch was founded in 2004 by the legendary Encino, California, based Rabbi Harold Schulweis and former environmental law attorney turned community activist, Janice Kamenir-Reznik.  With a mission to honor the promise made following the Holocaust, that "Never Again" would we stand silent in the face of genocide, President Janice Kamenir-Reznik and Executive Director Tzivia Schwartz-Getzug, have positioned Jewish World Watch as a major anti-genocide presence, both on the west coast and nationally.

DARFUR: The genocide in Darfur has been the first order of business, and the guiding Biblical mandate, "Do not stand idly by" has defined the culture and life of the organization.  With a three-pronged approach of education, advocacy and refugee relief, Kamenir-Reznik, Schwartz-Getzug and a dedicated five person staff have built a national reputation for quality and results.  With more than sixty synagogues as a base of support, Jewish World Watch staff works with hundreds of organizations throughout the country to implement their programs, which include:  

o curricula development in the middle and high schools,

o community mobilization through a three-county Walk to End Genocide and a multitude of other activities,

o extensive speaking engagements through an active Speakers Bureau,

o advocacy at high levels of government, and

o funding of acclaimed relief programs for the survivors of genocide and other egregious human rights abuses.

In the last six years, Jewish World Watch has sponsored a major California divestment campaign,and mobilized communities across the country to raise millions of dollars for their nationally acclaimed refugee programs that include:

o The Solar Cooker Project, which protects and empowers the women and girls of the refugee camps by  reducing the number of trips taken out of the camps in search of firewood;

o water reclamation vegetable gardens;

o the Backpack project, which brought school and hygenic supplies to the children of the camps; and more recently,

o the  Dream Team Sister Schools project, sponsored by LA Clippers star, Baron Davis.

 

 

 

 


The Democractic Republic of Congo (DRC): A second campaign focus, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was launched in May, 2010.   The DRC is known as the worst place on earth to be a woman or a child.   Through advocacy at high levels of government and through survivor relief programs,  Jewish World Watch programs will protect and empower the women and girls who are constantly at high risk for brutal attack, as well as locate and reclaim the children who have been kidnapped and enslaved by rebel groups caught in the grip of a deadly war over conflict minerals.

Jewish World Watch has recently funded the very first Burn Center in Eastern Congo, which serves the survivors of deadly rebel attacks in which whole villages are burned as a method of intimidation and extermination.  As part of this program Israeli physicians are flown to Congo to train the Congolese physicians in the latest techniques in burn medicine.



On the Ground in Congo Trailer from Jewish World Watch on Vimeo.

 

 

Help Jewish World Watch in their fight against genocide

and egregious human rights abuses.

 

For more information on the Jewish Jewish Watch Solar Cooker Project

contact Rachel Andres, at rachel@jewishworldwatch.org.


For  information on all  the Jewish World Watch Relief Campaigns,

visit http://www.jewishworldwatch.org/refugeerelief/


STUDENTS AND TEACHERS: Be sure you ask about our Activist Certification Training (ACT) Program, in which you can work with your school to help Jewish World Watch combat genocide in Darfur and Congo.


 

See also:  JEWISH WORLD WATCH:   LEADING THE FAITH AND SECULAR GRASS ROOTS COMMUNITIES IN THE FIGHT AGAINST GENOCIDE AND MASS ATROCITIES


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