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Jewish Groups Play Prominent Role in Washington Rally for More U.S. Aid to Darfur

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
May - June 2006

In a rally on the Mall in Washington, D.C. on April 30, thousands of people heard politicians, religious leaders and celebrities urge the Bush administration to do more to help end the ethnic and political conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan.  
American Jewish groups played a prominent part in the Washington rally and nearly 20 events across the country sponsored by the Save Darfur Coalition, an alliance of more than 160 organizations. Washington Jewish Week (April 27, 2006) reported that, “... the American Jewish community will be disproportionately represented ... and has taken a lead role in pressing for more attention to be brought to what President George W. Bush has called a ‘genocide’ in Sudan ... In the Washington area, for example, no other religious group has a coalition like the Greater Washington Jewish Task Force on Darfur, said one organizer. The task force includes liaisons from 90 congregations — of all four denominations — in the District, the Maryland suburbs and Northern Virginia, said Julie Weiflgrad, assistant director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington and a lead organizer of the rally in the area.”  
According to The Forward (May 5, 2006), “As president and executive director of the American Jewish World Service, Ruth Messinger, more than any other single leader, is being credited with organizing the rally and thrusting the Sudanese region of Darfur to the top of the Jewish communal agenda ... Several Jewish communal leaders ... credited Messinger with spearheading a mobilization of Jews for a cause not directly related to Jewish interests or to Israel. ‘She really filled a vacuum,’ said Nancy Kaufman, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston. ‘There was no one who was really being a moral voice for vulnerable people in the world,’ and she has been a ‘moral compass.’”  
In The Forward’s view, “Messinger appears to have identified a cause that can speak to liberals alienated from influential Jewish organizations that tend to stake out more hawkish foreign policy positions, while also attracting the support of the rest of the community.”

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