Rabbi Harold Schulweis rallies help for the oppressed abroad
He has inspired thousands to take action against inhumanity in the 3-1/2 years since founding Jewish World Watch.
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"I had no idea where Darfur was in the world; it was just some far-off disconnected place," says Sheri Holt, a 17-year-old who, inspired by Schulweis's 2004 speech, became a founding member of JWW's speakers bureau. She now speaks in homes, churches, and schools to raise money. "Rabbi Schulweis's ideas connected me to a bigger picture of the world."Skip to next paragraph
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JWW's advocacy arm mobilizes students and other community activists. A demonstration held Feb. 12 at the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles was intended to pressure the Chinese to lean on its key trading partner of Sudan to allow United Nations peacekeepers inside its borders.
JWW also holds educational and fundraising campaigns regularly on campuses from Los Angeles to Cambridge, Mass. The efforts – which include dances, potlucks, and jewelry sales – raise money to buy as many $30 solar cookers and $36 backpacks as possible.
Schulweis's outreach to churches and his relentless push to stir his own and other religious groups to lift their sights beyond parochial concerns have brought accolades from civic and religious leaders.
"Rabbi Schulweis's unparalleled commitment to the values of social justice, charity, and human rights serve as an example for every political and religious leader in our city and across the nation," says Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in a statement in response to a Monitor inquiry. "He has been the spokesperson for our greatest moral causes, and he has never ceased to remind us that silence in the face of genocide is inexcusable and rhetoric without action is unacceptable."
Among Schulweis's other work is the establishment of outreach programs for the developmentally disabled and of professional counseling centers.
He has also been applauded by fellow Jewish leaders for working to unite movements within Judaism (Orthodox, Reconstructionism, Reform, Conservative) and by Roman Catholic, Armenian, and other leaders for creating ecumenical bridges where none had before existed.
A bridge-builder to other faiths
For example, in a historymaking gesture last April orchestrated by Schulweis, Jews formally acknowledged for the first time the forcible deportation and massacre of between 1 million and 1.5 million Armenians in 1915.
"His outreach to Armenians has had a deep impact on us coast to coast," says Archbishop Hovnan Derderian of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America. "There were always individual relationships between high Armenian and Jewish clergy. But his message is that this relationship has to be translated into the lives of the congregants.... That is what his outreach has meant to us. His leadership says, 'None of us can remain an island and prosper.' "
Archbishop Derderian on May 15 is set to reciprocate the good will, hosting an evening of fellowship to explore further exchange between the two groups.
"Rabbi Harold Schulweis stands vigorously for the idea that if each of us only thinks of ourselves as members of a single denomination, we are missing the boat as fellow human beings," says the Right Rev. Alexei Smith, ecumenical and interreligious officer for the archdiocese of Los Angeles. "He is driven by every opportunity to show the world that men and women of differing religious traditions can live together for the better good."