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Saving Darfur Is the Highest Form of Charity

Last week I had the chance to stop into B’nai Jeshurun on Manhattan’s Upper West Side for early Friday evening services (a little bit of cross denominational socializing and praying is always healthy), and was moved by the massive sign hanging above the congregation appealing their conscience to stop the genocide in Darfur. All the rabbis on this blog have written on a number of occasions about Darfur. Since we last wrote on the issue some positive strides have been made including the U.N. approval of resolution 1706, which ordered a large-scale peace keeping unit to be stationed in the Darfur region. Unfortunately, that peace-keeping force has been in absolute disarray and the Sudanese government has done everything in its power to undermine its success. However, it’s encouraging to see the recent news that China has finally decided to pressure the Sudanese government to stop the genocide.


Don’t fool yourself. There is nothing altruistic in China’s new found ethical impulses. China had been noticeably silent until a number of major world figures including Steven Speilberg (who himself needed to be pressured) and Mia Farrow threatened to boycott the 2009 Olympic games being hosted by the Chinese.

For the most part, however, the U.N. continues to spend more time condemning Israel than on pressuring the Sudanese government. The U.N. still has yet to even label the killing of 400,000 people genocide! The reason is simple: Why care about a million lives when there is nothing to gain by protecting them? Most governments would rather stay on good terms with the Sudanese than save a few hundred thousand people. Sudanese natural resources, its oil fields, and the position it holds in the chaotic world of Arab politics makes many governments shy away from involving themselves. Governments unfortunately seem to only do acts of righteousness and kindness when there is something in it for them.


It’s truly unfortunate, but, at this point, helping to stop the genocide is the truest sign of one’s charitable instincts. There is no tangible net benefit of saving Darfur except of course being able to say that we live in an ethical and moral world. The truest form of charity, states Maimonides, is when one does something kind and good for someone else even when the giver has nothing to gain from the act. Such is the sad state of affairs surrounding Darfur. The question for governments around the world today is do they really care about living in an ethical and moral world?

Read the Full Debate: What Should Jews Do About Darfur?

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posted May 2, 2007 at 6:59 pm

Babbling about saving Darfur is the lowest form of sanctimony. The Sudanese Government isn’t going to stop until its physically forced to stop.

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Scott R.

posted May 2, 2007 at 10:50 pm

OK, so how do we force to stop?

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david p

posted May 3, 2007 at 5:45 am

The last sentence says it all, in questioning why ‘Governments’ do not take action the writer misses the point completely that ‘Governments’ are totally persuaded, controlled, by Corporate interests who could hardly expect their bottom lines to be involved in worrying about what humanity suffers unless, of course, it swells the profit margins.

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posted May 3, 2007 at 4:58 pm

Yet, if enough folks care enough to try to aid those in need, care enough to make their voices heard, that in and of itself can institute change – especially to the big corporate interests who depend on the same folks to purchase and invest in their products. Additionally I think the part of the point of discussion was through trying to assist others, in this instance – Darfur people – and in trying to save lives – that this in and of itself is worthy, that it is the highest form of charity – because we, as individuals, as Jews and as a part of a world wide community do not recieve anything in return, save for the knowledge that we did not stand by with our hands in our pockets while others were tortured and perished.

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posted May 3, 2007 at 5:19 pm

Tell us how to help, how each of us with our own resources can make a difference. As Jews we do need to remember how so many stood by in the past. We need to become a active voice to promote stopping this carnage.

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posted May 3, 2007 at 5:36 pm

I beg your pardon? The “only tangible net benefit” of saving Darfur is–“of course”–“being able to say that we live in an ethical and moral world”??!! What about the benefit of saving hundreds of thousands of precious human lives, each one an irreplaceable individual human being??!! What about the “responsiblity to protect” that lies at the heart of GA resolution 1706??!!

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Leslie Benzion

posted May 3, 2007 at 8:32 pm

If some one would head up a fight to stop this horrible otrocity I would be more than willing to risk my life to save Darfur. Please we need to go and help the innocent children there. No child should ever be in such a horrible mess. Don’t ever forget the children that died in the holocust. This is the same evil. We must do something about it.

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