Combining the winter holiday season with the Dec. 5-12 observance of Genocide Awareness Week, the Community Relations Committee of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ is working to reignite interest in aiding victims of the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan.
The CRC and its partners in New Jersey Coalition Responds to the Crisis in Darfur are determined to ensure that the region’s children receive proper schooling.
The NJ Coalition (www.njdarfur.org) is calling on religious groups, middle and high school students, and civic organizations to aid its Darfur Education Project. “We think it is really important that we help people not only in New Jersey but around the world,” said CRC associate director Melanie Gorelick in a telephone interview.
“We want to build brick buildings, provide supplies to the children, and train teachers,” Gorelick said. “We want to be sure the kids become educated and graduate and have the opportunity to gain skills for their future.”
The CRC is urging fund-raisers in workplaces, schools, and houses of worship.
During seven years of attacks by militias loyal to the Sudanese central government, some 400,000 Darfurians have been murdered and more than two million others forced to become refugees.
Among those in exile are some 27,000 residents of the Oure Cassoni refugee camp in neighboring Chad. Eighty percent are women and children, and 60 percent are under 18. Many of the youngsters attend makeshift classrooms inside tents.
Gorelick said New Jerseyans played a vital part in another lifesaving effort for Darfurian refugees in Oure Cassoni, raising $135,000 for the solar cooker project. The cookers enable women in the camps to cook food using the rays of the sun, rather than risk being raped or murdered if they venture away from their camps to gather firewood.
“Anything that keeps this issue on the front burner of the Jewish community and the general community at large is a good idea,” said CRC chair David Lentz. “We have a tendency to overlook how severe the problems are there and our responsibility to address them.”