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Do not stand idly by - Becoming Neighbors

by Rabbi Lisa Goldstein |Jul 28, 2009|Comments
Marcelo Rivera was murdered because someone wanted to silence him. That's why I have to tell his story.

I met Marcelo in February. I co-led an Alternative Spring Break through AJWS for the University of Michigan Hillel. We went to San Isidro, Cabanas, El Salvador, to build latrines. Marcelo was our host. He was the founder and leader of ASIC, a non-profit that focuses on community development.

In addition to helping address basic infrastructure needs, Marcelo led opposition to the incursions of the Canadian mining company, Pacific Rim. This is a politicized campaign, fraught with violence. Marcelo fought for preserving the region's watersheds and the basic rights of the local population. He denounced the government's collusion with Pacific Rim and irregularities surrounding local elections in January.

Marcelo went missing on June 18th. His body was discovered 12 days later at the bottom of a well, and showed signs of torture.

We read in the Torah that we should not stand idly by when our neighbor bleeds. The truth is that this kind of evil happens every day around the world. We know that. But perhaps we don't really feel that these nameless poor people are our neighbors. But Marcelo was literally my neighbor for that week in El Salvador. He slept in front of my door. He provided my food. We spoke every day about how the day had gone. I am responsible for him and his destiny.

I am horrified and heart-broken at what happened to Marcelo. The people who killed him thought that by breaking him, they would destroy his ideas. I hope they are wrong. The students from University of Michigan Hillel are already planning what they will do in memory of Marcelo when they return to campus. If you too are concerned with ending poverty, protecting the environment, defending democracy, strengthening community and working for justice, I hope you, too, will tell people about Marcelo Rivera. He did not deserve his fate.


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