Hillel of Rochester Helps Organize Community-Wide Rally for Darfur
January 30, 2007Comments (1)
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University of Rochester students at rally for Darfur.
by Stacy Gittleman
Taking the lessons of “Never again” from the Holocaust, Hillel of Rochester Area Colleges was instrumental in organizing a community-wide interfaith rally to demonstrate against the genocide in Darfur, Sudan on Sunday, January 21. The rally was just one program in a series of events Hillel has designed to raise the consciousness of all students about the genocide.
The event, organized by the Rochester Interfaith Coalition for Darfur, was widely publicized at the University of Rochester starting in early January, as Hillel students supplied the campus with green ribbons to wear as a show of solidarity with the people of Darfur.
The solidarity campaign heightened enough awareness to prompt 100 UR students to board buses, head off campus and join over 500 Rochesterians in a local church to gather, listen, pray for peace – and act.
The rally included a silent march lit by green glowing sticks from the Church to the lawn of the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film a few blocks away. There, in the cold Rochester winter evening, attendees listened to haunting Sudanese music and viewed photographs of the atrocities on a large projection screen. Afterwards, the public was invited for a free viewing of the multi-media photography exhibition DARFUR/DARFUR, which premiered in conjunction with the evening’s protest.
Sudan native and former NBA basketball star, Manute Bol, offered an unrehearsed, passionate plea for U.S. citizens to take action on behalf of the welfare of his country. Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, who took the stage after Bol, called the Darfur genocide a “tragedy of gigantic proportions.”
“The U.S. government is doing all it can to call for action,” said Slaughter, adding that she is optimistic about the efforts of new U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. "I'd like to see the U.N. do its job.”
Tzedek-minded students like Molly Glenn, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering, in-part organized the rally.
“The people here at this rally want to make a difference,” said Glenn. “Seeing people of all faith groups gather together to speak out against atrocities that are happening in a place so far away has had a profound affect on me. It’s good to see the good in people. After viewing the images coming from Darfur, you need a reminder of that.”
To make that difference, rally participants signed letters to federal and state representatives encouraging peacekeeper intervention and for U.S. companies to divest from Sudan. Program materials, provided by the Coaltion, included other suggestions on how to take action, as well as a nondenominational prayer that included statements on Darfur from the world’s religious leaders.
In addition to the rally, Hillel of Rochester Area Colleges has twice hosted speakers from Sudan on campus and enabled campus students to attend larger rallies in the community including the SAVE DARFUR: Voices to End Genocide Rally in New York City last September. Hillel’s “Dimes for Darfur” campaign raised hundreds of dollars that were donated to charitable organizations active in the region. Its “Tzedek – Social Justice Shabbat” held last semester educated students from a Jewish textual standpoint on why the plight of Darfur implores Jewish involvement.
“The hope is for this program to continue, to encourage the students to gain a better understanding of the situation in Darfur and to spread this awareness to the entire Rochester community,” said Joel Kleinberg, UR program director, Hillel of Rochester Area Colleges. “Awareness will lead to action on behalf of the innocent lives that are endangered.”
Stacy Gittleman is the director of communications for Hillel of Rochester Area Colleges.