My friend, the lovely Joan, lost her father last year. Mourning the loss of a parent in Judaism can be rather involved. She has been going to temple everyday to say kaddish. Not that I'm well-versed on those customs but apparently mourning in this way goes on for 11 months and one day. She had asked me repeatedly to go with her to see the temple but I never acutally made it there until recently.
What drew me to the temple was not so much the temple itself but to hear the guest speaker they had that evening - Ruth Messinger.
You might have heard the name, she's the CEO of the AJWS (American Jewish World Service). Or, if you're a New Yorker, you probably remember that she ran and lost against Giuliani in the late 90's race for the mayor's office.
Messinger is a fantastic speaker; not only can she immediately strike a personal and approachable tone with her audience, she also delivers content that is well-thought and salient. Her topic that night was Darfur. She didn't spend much time discussing what is already known. Rather, having been to the region several times, she started with a photo essay - in other words, just see it for yourself. Fascinating. Brutal. But noone turned away.
This was my favorite photo. It was taken by Ruth Messinger, its Mia Farrow in the picture with a Darfur refugee.Courtesy of MiaFarrow.Org
What I liked about the rest of her time on stage was that she didn't spend it throwing blame, she only illuminated courses of action that each person could take if they wanted to help bring an end to Sudan's state-sponsored genocide.
What I didn't know was that China buys a huge amount of oil from Sudan, which is the government's major cash cow, which subsequently funds the continuing drama. China's oil indistry, PertoChina in particular, has tried hard to spin doctor their way out of accountability but its in black and white print (she provided her sources, which checked out).
She had a lot of interesting ideas about how each person could act to stop what is happening in Darfur. You can read up on them on the AJWS
web site. She specifically listed mutual funds that invest in PetroChina. I checked, I had one - had. I've also been trying to not buy things made in China. But I didnt realize just how much is made there. Its amazing, even my underwear was made in China. (I'm not sure how I feel about that yet, lol)
I think the best part of evening was during the Q&A session. A man from Darfur, who escaped to Dallas 6 years ago, thanked Ruth through his thick accent for her efforts in bringing global attention to the ongoing atrocities in Sudan. He went on and on. Although we barely understood every third word he said, when he was done we all gave him a standing ovation anyway.
And I thought. Here we are in a predominantly Christian country, listening to a black Muslim man thank a Jewish woman (in a temple no less) for work she's doing on a continent most of us have never and will never visit in situation that is as convoluted as it is tragic.
No matter. I think we know what's wrong is wrong and that understanding melts out any other factors involved.
Labels: Darfur, Ruth Messinger