The American Jewish community stands united against the genocide of the Rohingya people and the persecution of all ethnic minorities in Burma.
Inspired by the Jewish commitment to justice, the Jewish Rohingya Justice Network (JRJN)* works to promote a robust U.S. and international response to the Rohingya genocide. Convened by American Jewish World Service (AJWS), we are the coalition of 26 American Jewish organizations that together encompass the support of millions of American Jews, including all four major branches of American Judaism. Together, we are committed to ending the atrocities against the Rohingya people.
The Jewish Rohingya Justice Network recognizes that the Rohingya people are facing a genocide. “The Myanmar [Burmese] military has been slowly erasing the Rohingya for quite some time, fanning the flames of hate and dehumanization,” said Ann Strimov Durbin, director of advocacy and grantmaking at JRJN member Jewish World Watch. Burmese military forces escalated their coordinated campaign against the Rohingya people on August 25, 2017. Soldiers, along with Burmese civilians, burned Rohingya villages to the ground and indiscriminately massacred Rohingya men, women and children. More than 720,000 people were forced to flee to refugee camps in Bangladesh.
Throughout Jewish history, we have known what it is like to face genocide, expulsion, and exclusion from society. The persecution and government-sanctioned brutality against Rohingya people echoes the persecution suffered by Jews throughout history. The JRJN is acting powerfully on our promise that “never again” means no genocide ever again against any people.
The Jewish community calls upon the U.S. government to respond to the magnitude of this genocide by leading in bringing justice for the Rohingya people. We will continue be at the forefront of this fight, working together to build a unified response to the Rohingya crisis.
The Jewish Rohingya Justice Network is the powerful consortium of Jewish NGOs advocating for the rights of the persecuted Rohingya people of Burma. JRJN’s membership includes 26 organizations and all four major branches of American Judaism.
Jewish Rohingya Justice Network Members include:
Jewish Rohingya Justice Network Members include: American Jewish Committee, American Jewish World Service, The Association of Rabbis and Cantors, Anti-Defamation League, Cantors Assembly, HIAS, JACOB, Jewish Community Relations Council of Indianapolis, Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Jewish Labor Committee, Jewish World Watch, The Orthodox Union, Rabbinical Assembly, Reconstructing Judaism, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, T’ruah and The Union for Reform Judaism. Allies: Foundation for Ethic Understanding, Hebrew College, The Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committee, Never Again Coalition, The New York Board of Rabbis, The Shalom Center and Uri L’Tzedek.
About the Rohingya Genocide
The Rohingya people are an ethnic minority group from the Rakhine State of Western Burma with a unique language and culture. While they live in a predominantly Buddhist country, the majority of Rohingya people are Muslim.
Over the years, the Burmese military and government forces have unleashed many waves of violence targeting Rohingya communities, as well as other ethnic and religious minorities throughout the country. These groups are subject to violence and discrimination, denied the freedom of movement and basic human rights in the country they call home.
The Rohingya people have lived in Burma for centuries, yet they are reviled as outsiders and accused of being illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. In 1982, the Burmese began to strip Rohingya residents of their citizenship.
The latest and most horrific round of violence started on August 25, 2017, when the Burmese military drastically intensified its anti-Rohingya campaign to a point that is now widely recognized as a genocide. Soldiers burned entire Rohingya villages to the ground; indiscriminately massacred Rohingya men, women and children; and forced an estimated 740,000 people to flee on foot or by boat to refugee camps in Bangladesh. People embarked on treks of several weeks, often escaping their burned villages with only what they could carry. Those refugees joined hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people already living in limbo in Bangladesh.
This sudden influx of Rohingya people into impermanent settlements around Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, created a massive network of refugee camps, including what is today the largest single camp in the world. The survivors living in these camps face immense challenges. Shelters are constructed using only bamboo or tarpaulin. As one local AJWS partner explained, “People have to rebuild their homes every time there is a storm.”
There are few prospects for children’s education, and the severe lack of employment opportunities has led to deteriorating security as people become increasingly desperate. Despite oppressive restrictions on leaving the camps, some Rohingya people risk detainment and do leave to find work—but those hired as day laborers earn less than $4 a day.
And yet, after two years of negotiations between the governments of Burma and Bangladesh, it remains unclear whether the Rohingya people will ever be able to safely return to their homes in Rakhine State. Proposed relocation plans—like moving up to 100,000 people to a flood-prone island in the middle of the Bay of Bengal with little infrastructure—have stirred up significant anxiety among Rohingya refugees about the uncertain futures of their families and communities.
Credible reports from the UN Fact Finding Mission, the Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG), and The US Holocaust Memorial Museum, now say sufficient evidence exists that the Burmese military maintained a clear intent to destroy, in whole or in part, the Rohingya people – the legal hallmarks of the crime of genocide. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum confirmed “compelling evidence that the Burmese military committed ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, and genocide against the Rohingya.” These statements are based on irrefutable facts.
Quotes from Jewish Leaders
“Today, we stand up as Jews and Americans against the ongoing genocide of the Rohingya people by the Burmese military, as we believe deeply from our own historical experience and understand from our ethical values that we cannot remain silent when any people is on the brink of destruction simply because of race, ethnicity or religion. American Jewish World Service, which provides direct support to the Rohingya and other oppressed ethnic minorities and human rights activists in Burma, is proud to join with the millions of Jews represented by the Jewish Rohingya Justice Network to demand that the killing cease and that justice is pursued, “ said Robert Bank, President and CEO of American Jewish World Service.
“The American Jewish community is united in the belief that the atrocities being perpetrated against the Rohingya people constitute a genocide—the deliberate and intentional destruction of a community based on ethnicity and religion,” said David Bernstein, CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and a member of the Jewish Rohingya Justice Network. “Recently, JCPA’s members, which include the four denominations, unanimously voted to adopt a resolution expressing this belief and calling on the United States government and the international community to take immediate action.”
“We will not stand idly by while this calculated destruction of human beings continues apace. We are committed to calling this act of genocide by its name, and to taking action before it’s too late,” expressed Rabbi Jay Kornsgold, chair of the Rabbinical Assembly Social Justice Commission. Naomi Steinberg, Vice President for Policy and Advocacy at HIAS, said, “In the face of another genocide that aimed to rid a country of an entire ethnic and religious group, we must let our elected officials know where we stand. HIAS wants the U.S. to take a leadership role to help ensure that the rights of Rohingya refugees, and those still in Rakhine State, are respected.”
“In the Talmud, our sages teach that if we can speak out against injustice but choose not to, we become complicit in said injustices. Our history as the Jewish people has shown us the grave consequences when people fail to act in the face of genocide. Now, as we witness the genocide of the Rohingya people, we call upon the United States government to hold those responsible accountable and work toward ensuring the complete restoration of human rights for the Rohingya community,” said Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
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