Fighting the good fight. Has it left the Jewish Community?

“Diaspora Jews. I have a sense we just don’t care anymore!”

by Alan Simons

Why is it, I wonder, Diaspora Jews are willing to show as a group how philanthropic and ardent they are towards raising funds and giving their time and support towards non-Jewish distresses, such as the Rwandan Tutsi, the people of South Sudan, the ethnic rights of minorities in Burma, Canada’s First Nations, and currently Syrian refugees? Yet, as individuals, why do we continue to be uncomfortable to willingly expose ourselves, to open our arms favourably, towards Christian, Muslim and other individuals? Why do many in the Diaspora treat non-Jews with utmost suspicion?

Yes, our long standard tradition of tikkun olam (repairing the world), tzedek (righteousness) and gemilut chassadim (acts of lovingkindness) are renown and respected by non-Jews. But more and more these days we repetitively remain on the sidelines in showing support to those who fight the good fight.

JIN RCMP dThis past Sunday I had the honour of being invited to the inaugural 2017 Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)/IDI GTA Intercultural Ramadan Friendship Dinner. Organised by the Intercultural Dialogue Institute GTA., the event was held at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto.

To put the importance of this Canadian event into perspective, the RCMPs media advisory reported:

“This occasion demonstrated a gesture of mutual respect and partnership between community and law enforcement.

In attendance were the Chiefs of Police and dignitaries from Government offices. This occasion also included Canada’s 150 year celebration.

The IDI has been working closely with the RCMP and policing partners in the Greater Toronto Area to promote social cohesion, personal interaction, respect and mutual understanding among people through dialogue and partnership. The RCMP Integrated National Security Enforcement Team – Public Engagement Unit has been very active in developing trusting relationships in the community to improve engagement and implement community programs.

‘What an incredible opportunity for us to interact with so many from the diverse communities we support,’ said Superintendent Lise Crouch, Assistant Criminal Operations Officer for National Security. ‘It is events such as this one that continues to remove barriers for our police officers. The police are members of so many communities and contribute both on and off duty. This friendship dinner highlights the strength in collaboration and respect.’ ”

JIN RCMP cOut of the countless hundreds attending from many faiths and cultures, I would hazard a guess there were no more than four Jews present, and certainly, no rabbi found the time to join the clergy from other faiths.

To my mind, I regard in the eyes of the Diaspora, this to be one further example of how the Jewish community has become more entrenched in its attitude of “us” and “them” and less willing as individuals to show where they stand on issues relating to interfaith/cultural (call it what you will) dialogue at the grass roots level.

What a missed opportunity to support those who are attempting to fight the good fight. As Elie Wiesel once said, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

Diaspora Jews, take heed! Mutual respect and partnership are an integral part of our very being. I have a sense we just don’t care anymore!

(Photo credit: RCMP)

Alan Simons can be reached at alan@alansimons.info

COMMENTS

“I could not agree more, Alan Simons. Well said. Same issues here in Winnipeg. Proud of our Muslim Jewish Interfaith dialogue group, but we are not representative of the attitude of the “institutional Jewish community.” It’s more than just caring, Alan, it is massive ignorance about each other. We might be willing to donate a little money to make ourselves feel better but most Jews know nothing about Islam or Christianity and frankly harbour some horribly incorrect notions, yet purport to “know the truth.” However, other cities are doing better – Calgary for instance because of the example of true leadership by strong clergy in the Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities. The recent recognition by King Abdullah of Jordan reflects their exemplary achievement.”

-Belle Jarniewski, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

-HELLO BURMA. GOODBYE DARFUR.

SPECIAL REPORT

By Alan Simons

 

MAY 12, 2008 – “Sudan eases restrictions on aid. Increased amounts of aid have started to reach Darfur amid signs the government is easing restrictions on foreign access.

 

The World Food Programme distributed 38 tonnes of previously held-up aid, but warned much more had to get through. Aid agencies, however, estimate that 250,000 have died and warn that this figure could rise without provision of clean water and sanitation. Survivors gather in makeshift camps around the edges of the disaster zone. The UN, which has launched a $187m (£96m) appeal for aid, says survivors in the worst-affected areas urgently need food, shelter and medical aid. Aid has been flown in from Sudan’s neighbours and from China and the first US relief flight is expected to arrive on Monday.”

 

Positive signs

The UN estimates that only a quarter of survivors have received any aid so far. UK Foreign Minister David Miliband said the Sudanese military government had made the tragedy worse. “A natural disaster is turning into a humanitarian catastrophe of genuinely epic proportions in significant part because of what I would describe as the malign neglect of the regime,” he told the BBC. His comments came as fresh video footage emerged of the extent of the suffering with the corpses of children shown lined up in a makeshift morgue.

 

Of course, most of the content of this news story from the BBC is about Burma and not about Darfur. Darfur, where 2.5 million people have been forced from their homes and 250,000 have died. Where women have been raped and abducted as sex slaves. Where no major power has been willing to try to put an end to the genocide. Where two-thirds of the region’s population is dependent on the world’s largest aid operation. Where, as reported by the BBC, toddlers have been ‘burnt alive in villages as men on horseback razed their houses to the ground.’ Where humanitarian agencies have documented cases of ‘armed groups shooting, mutilating and torturing children, abducting and gang-raping girls, and recruiting and using youngsters as combatants.’

 

Today is about Burma, with the US offering an extra $13m in aid and with a US plane arriving carrying 12,700kg of supplies including mosquito nets, blankets and water.

Today is about the medical relief agencies Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and Medecins du Monde (MDM) arriving loaded with a total of 56 tonnes of aid.

Today is about China, of the 8,500 people killed by an earthquake in south-western China.

Today most of the world is happy. It can breathe a sigh of relief and smile. Today it can close its eyes to the genocide taking place in black Africa. For today doesn’t have to be all about Darfur.