TRAGEDIES TEST FAITH, HUMANITY
By Rabbi Garry Loeb
For the Times Herald-Record

Times Herald-Record, NY
April 2 2006

Do not stand idle while your neighbor bleeds.

- Leviticus 19:16

As spring comes to Orange County, the days warm and lengthen,
birds sing, flowers and trees bloom. It is a sweet time. Two great
religious festivals mark this season. Christians celebrate rebirth at
Easter and Jews celebrate freedom at Passover. Yet for many of us,
our hearts and minds are turned to a faraway place, halfway around
the world to Darfur, in Sudan.

The genocide there mars our springtime. Hundreds of thousands are
dead. Millions have been driven from their homes into refugee camps.

The world has looked on, at first indifferently, then with grudging,
ineffective gestures. Slowly, we are beginning to respond with
real help.

Throughout the past month, members of the Monroe-Woodbury Clergy
Association have attempted to educate their faith communities about
Darfur. We represent a tapestry of religious traditions, but we are
united in our belief that the injunction from the book of Leviticus,
above, has real meaning.

Our clergy members have seen many world horrors in their lifetime:
the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, the Killing Fields of Cambodia,
the slaughters in Bosnia and Kosovo, the mass murder in Rwanda.

In each of these cases people said, "We didn't know! There was nothing
we could do." People weep at memorials, shake their heads and wonder
how people could let such things happen.

What if, instead of mourning a new tragedy, we could prevent one?

Darfur has been called the first genocide of the 21st century. We see
it as a test of our faith and our humanity. At a time when religion
is often seen as the root of much misery and strife, we know that
religion can also bring people together and call to the best in us.

Our traditions give us the moral center and ethical strength to speak
out and teach. Darfur is an opportunity to make real the declaration
"Never Again!"

All across the country, Americans are raising their voices about
Darfur. On April 30, many of us will go to the nation's capital to
march and urge our leaders to take strong, effective and urgent action.

In the Monroe-Woodbury area, congregants from our different
faith communities have written to our officials and government
representatives. We have worn pins, green bracelets and ribbons,
displayed banners and signs with the message "Save Darfur!" The work
continues and calls to all of us. We challenge all of you: What are
you doing about Darfur?

It is spring, a time of hope and new beginnings. Let's give hope and
a new beginning to the people of Darfur.

Rabbi Garry Loeb, of Monroe Temple Beth-El, coordinates the Darfur
Project of the Monroe-Woodbury Clergy Association.