Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis and Jewish World Watch were honored on Saturday, June 23rd at KindredSPIRITS at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Below are Rabbi Schulweis’ remarks upon his acceptance of the KindredSPIRITS Humanitarian Award for 2012.
I accept, with humility and pride, this significant recognition by a community of conscience. I accept it on behalf of my co-founder, Janice Kamenir-Reznik; and the executive director of Jewish World Watch, Fred Kramer; our devoted staff; and the 70 synagogues and temples throughout Los Angeles, comprised of every Jewish denomination; and on behalf of the tens of hundreds of men, women, and children volunteers who give testimony to the vitality and altruism of the Jewish spirit.
Our global civilization is being tested. The British philosopher Bertrand Russell defined a civilized person as someone who can add up a column of numbers – and cry. “And cry” is important. To know is not enough. Doing the math is not enough. To add up figures is not enough. Statistics is not enough.
To know that in our time there are thousands of innocent human beings who are daily ground into the dust under the heel of barbaric tyrants; to know that there are children – young innocent children – who scrounge the earth for germs and insects, for bugs and garbage to eat, and search for whatever it is that can keep them alive and avoid excruciating starvation. To know that there are women in this day and age, in this hour, who are raped and ravaged, left hemorrhaged, humiliated… and unarmed men broken, emasculated, amputated, futureless… is not enough.
It is not enough to know, and it is not enough to cry. For we are mandated as Jews to do, to act, to respond, to raise our voices of conscience on behalf of those voices that are strangled by predators. We are to enter the lives of slaughtered innocence in Darfur, Sudan, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo; to live out our liturgy – raise up the fallen, heal the sick, clothe the naked, loosen the fetters of the hostages of the killers of the dream.
Jewish World Watch is action oriented. The contribution of our synagogues, along with the added help of many churches of many denominations, have enabled us build burn centers and hospitals, and provided solar cookers in Chad, Darfur, the Congo. We have reason to be proud that the solar cookers of Jewish World Watch is the largest distribution of solar cookers in the world. They are used in four refugee camps in Chad. These have saved the lives of hundreds of women who were tormented and tortured while gathering kindle wood for their families.
Through the energy of the Jewish World Watch the traumatized victims of repression are counseled, and submerged communities uplifted. They know that they are not orphaned, not abandoned, not left alone. It remains incumbent on us to respond to their soundless screams and silent terror, because Godliness is found not in the depth of the question, but in the way we answer tragedy. We dare not sink into moral fatigue, nor find alibis for moral paralysis.
Dear friends. In Biblical Hebrew “to know” means “to love.” And to love means to see in depth beneath and beyond pigmentation, ethnicity, race, or religion. To love is to see in each other a pulsating human being, the reflection of God. The world needs us now, here, today, together, in kinship allied with kindred souls.
What greater mitzvah than to pluck innocence from burning fires.
Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis