Before the sun was up on Sunday morning, Warner Center Park already had dozens of dedicated JWW staff and volunteers unloading trucks, setting up tables, organizing registration, finding program pieces that had mysteriously grown legs and vanished from the boxes they had so carefully been packed in, working muscles that were heretofore unknown and generally pretending their fingers weren’t blue. But the thousands of walkers that came pouring in come 8AM made it all worth it. We had an amazing turnout– some 2200 walkers, together raising over $120,000 in LA alone. (Let me offer a special thank you to our chipper and industrious Walk In Registration team, who helped register over 400 people in an hour!) Top honors go to The Tolerance Club at Venice High with over 80 students attending and the 175 strong Congregation Or Ami Team, the biggest school and synagogue teams respectively. Such impressive community outreach!
Our Student Activist Organizer, Michelle Westmiller, rallied the teens with a short program before the rest of the event came to order. To establish a JWW teen community, they all decorated head and arm bands to wear as they walked together, and donned “Fight Genocide” and “Do Not Stand Idly By” eye blacks. Shifting their attention from their local community to their global community, they listened to the stories of Congolese and Darfuri teenagers. Each of our student activists chose one of these fellow teenagers to walk in honor of.
By half past eight, the park was full of people– and some very cute, though rule-breaking dogs. The Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis Valley Beth Shalom Day School drummers grabbed the crowd’s attention with their energy and excitement. JWW Executive Director Tzivia Schwartz Getzug thanked our supportive public officials who came out to the walk (Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield, City Controller Wendy Greuel, Councilmember Paul Koretz, Councilmember Paul Krekorian, and Councilmember Dennis Zine), our sponsors, and our wonderful, patient Walk Committee, without whom we wouldn’t have had such an amazing event.
She then introduced the prayer of remembrance and action written by Rabbi H. Rolando Matalon, read movingly by Congo News Channel Founder and long-time JWW friend Yombo Bakabila, Rabbi Paul Kipnes of Congregation Or Ami, Rabbi Zoe Klein of Temple Isaiah, college student activists Matt Hunter and Lily Stern of UCLA, and high school activists Sarah Dobbs of Venice High, Bradley Friedman of Milken Community High School and Maya Polon of Burbank High School– all incredible role models in their own communities and very much in ours.
Pastor Kasareka Kasamo, a lovely surprise guest of the African Christian Community Church, spoke about the situation in Congo and the importance of our action, before the final rev up by JWW Co-Founder and President Janice Kamenir-Reznik. Both Pastor Kasareka and Janice, along with other JWW staff and community members, high-tailed it to Sacramento for a hearing on CA’s Anti-Conflict Mineral Legislation on Monday and Tuesday. You’ll just have to keep reading to find out how it went.
Our three high school activists recognized in the program then jumped into a convertible, generously donated by Galpin Ford, driven by the indefatigable Diane Ballen, and led our sea of walkers….like Moses and the Israelites. Come on, it’s almost Pesach! It’s appropriate.
All in all, we could not have been more pleased. It’s such a warm feeling to have the community come out in such a strong force to cry out in a single voice we will not stand idly by. In fact, we will walk. Every year, we will walk and be heard, we will offer what tzedakah we are able, and we will educate our friends and our family about these crises. Drawing strength from the community, together with the community, we will not stand idly by.
With many thanks,
Elisabeth Braun, Walk Co-Coordinator
Marsha Rothpan, Walk Co-Coordinator
Jan Snider, Wearer of Many Hats