PHOTO: AJWS Global Justice Fellows, including Portland Rabbi Eve Posen (center), will be in Washington, DC, in March for an advocacy day to raise awareness and help mitigate the Rohingya genocide. In January the fellows were in Guatemala studying human rights issues in that country.
The Jewish Rohingya Justice Network – a coalition of 19 American Jewish organizations convened by American Jewish World Service that together encompass the support of millions of American Jews, including all four major branches of American Judaism – issued a new statement Feb. 26 on the Rohingya genocide. The groups are calling upon the U.S. government to respond to the magnitude of the genocide by leading in bringing justice for the Rohingya people.
For more than 15 years, AJWS has supported the human rights of ethnic minorities in Burma, including the Rohingya people. AJWS provides direct financial support to more than 30 human rights organizations in Burma that have been working to advance the rights of minority ethnic groups and to create a truly pluralistic and democratic society.
Following is the statement released by the JRJN this week:
The American Jewish community stands united against the genocide of the Rohingya people and the persecution of all ethnic minorities in Burma.
Inspired by the Jewish commitment to justice, the Jewish Rohingya Justice Network (JRJN)* works to promote a robust U.S. and international response to the Rohingya genocide. Convened by American Jewish World Service (AJWS), we are the coalition of 19 American Jewish organizations that together encompass the support of millions of American Jews, including all four major branches of American Judaism. Together, we are committed to ending the atrocities against the Rohingya people.
“Today, we stand up as Jews and Americans against the ongoing genocide of the Rohingya people by the Burmese military, as we believe deeply from our own historical experience and understand from our ethical values that we cannot remain silent when any people is on the brink of destruction simply because of race, ethnicity or religion. American Jewish World Service, which provides direct support to the Rohingya and other oppressed ethnic minorities and human rights activists in Burma, is proud to join with the millions of Jews represented by the Jewish Rohingya Justice Network to demand that the killing cease and that justice is pursued, “ said Robert Bank, President and CEO of American Jewish World Service.
“The American Jewish community is united in the belief that the atrocities being perpetrated against the Rohingya people constitute a genocide—the deliberate and intentional destruction of a community based on ethnicity and religion,” said David Bernstein, CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and a member of the Jewish Rohingya Justice Network. “Recently, JCPA’s members, which include the four denominations, unanimously voted to adopt a resolution expressing this belief and calling on the United States government and the international community to take immediate action.”
The Jewish Rohingya Justice Network recognizes that the Rohingya people are facing a genocide. “The Myanmar [Burmese] military has been slowly erasing the Rohingya for quite some time, fanning the flames of hate and dehumanization,” said Ann Strimov Durbin, director of advocacy and grantmaking at JRJN member Jewish World Watch. Burmese military forces escalated their coordinated campaign against the Rohingya people on August 25, 2017. Soldiers, along with Burmese civilians, burned Rohingya villages to the ground and indiscriminately massacred Rohingya men, women and children. More than 720,000 people were forced to flee to refugee camps in Bangladesh.
“We will not stand idly by while this calculated destruction of human beings continues apace. We are committed to calling this act of genocide by its name, and to taking action before it’s too late,” expressed Rabbi Jay Kornsgold, chair of the Rabbinical Assembly Social Justice Commission. Naomi Steinberg, Vice President for Policy and Advocacy at HIAS, said, “In the face of another genocide that aimed to rid a country of an entire ethnic and religious group, we must let our elected officials know where we stand. HIAS wants the U.S. to take a leadership role to help ensure that the rights of Rohingya refugees, and those still in Rakhine State, are respected.”
Credible reports from the UN Fact Finding Mission, the Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG), and The US Holocaust Memorial Museum, now say sufficient evidence exists that the Burmese military maintained a clear intent to destroy, in whole or in part, the Rohingya people – the legal hallmarks of the crime of genocide. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum confirmed “compelling evidence that the Burmese military committed ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, and genocide against the Rohingya.” These statements are based on irrefutable facts.
“In the Talmud, our sages teach that if we can speak out against injustice but choose not to, we become complicit in said injustices. Our history as the Jewish people has shown us the grave consequences when people fail to act in the face of genocide. Now, as we witness the genocide of the Rohingya people, we call upon the United States government to hold those responsible accountable and work toward ensuring the complete restoration of human rights for the Rohingya community,” said Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
Throughout Jewish history, we have known what it is like to face genocide, expulsion, and exclusion from society. The persecution and government-sanctioned brutality against Rohingya people echoes the persecution suffered by Jews throughout history. The JRJN is acting powerfully on our promise that “never again” means no genocide ever again against any people.
The Jewish community calls upon the U.S. government to respond to the magnitude of this genocide by leading in bringing justice for the Rohingya people. We will continue be at the forefront of this fight, working together to build a unified response to the Rohingya crisis.
The Jewish Rohingya Justice Network is the powerful consortium of Jewish NGOs advocating for the rights of the persecuted Rohingya people of Burma. JRJN’s membership includes 19 organizations and all four major branches of American Judaism.
*Members include American Jewish World Service, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, American Jewish Committee, Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, Union for Reform Judaism, HIAS, Anti-Defamation League, Jewish World Watch, JACOB, The Orthodox Union, T’ruah, Reconstructing Judaism, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association and the Rabbinical Assembly. Allies include Hebrew College, The New York Board of Rabbis, Uri L’Tzedek, Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, The Shalom Center.
Learn more at www.ajws.org.