Nearly 1,000 Attend Central Park Rally Organized By Student Groups

Students listen to a speaker during a YU sponsored rally to raise awareness for the tragedy in Darfur, Sudan.

May 9, 2005 — Yeshiva University students were bolstered by hundreds of supporters from other regional universities on Sunday when they gathered in Manhattan’s Central Park to raise awareness of the killing of thousands of innocent people in the African country of Sudan.

Yeshiva University students founded Not Now Not Ever (www.notnownotever.org), a non-profit, student-run humanitarian organization that organized the rally, which drew 1,000 participants.

The students partnered with groups at other East Coast universities, including Brandeis, Brooklyn College, Columbia, University of Connecticut, Georgetown, Harvard, NYU, Penn State, Queens College, Rutgers, Swarthmore College, Touro College, University of Pennsylvania, and Vassar.

David Weinberg, Not Now Not Ever director and YU senior, said the inspiration for the rally came from the Human Rights and Sovereignty lecture series sponsored by the Dr. Marcia Robbins-Wilf Scholar-in-Residence Program at Stern College for Women of Yeshiva University this spring that commemorated the 60th anniversary of the end of the Holocaust.

“Jews have been persecuted throughout history,” Mr. Weinberg said. “It is our responsibility as Jews to stand up and make sure that the kind of genocide our grandparents’ generation experienced doesn’t happen today.”

Richard M. Joel, president of Yeshiva University, and Ruth Messinger, executive director of American Jewish World Service and former Manhattan Borough President, spoke at the rally, which was covered by local and national print and television media.

Other speakers included Yahya M. Osman, general secretary of the Darfur Rehab Project, who lost six members of his family to violence in Kutum this summer; Rabbi Kliel Rose, rabbinic fellow at B’nai Jeshurun in Manhattan; Reverend Charles Ortman, minister of Unitarian Church in Montclair; and John Stompor, senior associate of the International Justice Program for Human Rights First.

“This is just the kind of statement against oppression and hatred we are teaching our students,” President Joel said. “People often use the excuse, ‘We’re only human.’ But for us as Jews, humanity is not an excuse, it’s an aspiration. It is our responsibility as humans to involve ourselves with others.”

“Sixty years after the Holocaust the world has not learned its lesson,” said Rebecca Stone, Not Now Not Ever director of programming. “We live in an age that has seen much evil perpetrated by man. We were raised in a century that knew more bloodshed than any other in human history. And yet, the enemy continues to destroy, and bystanders continue to shut their eyes, and allow history to repeat itself again and again and again.”

A United Nations Commission of Inquiry estimated earlier this year that at least 200,000 people have died in Darfur, as a result of ethnic strife. More than 1.6 million people have been displaced from their homes and over 200,000 have fled across the border to Chad. Many live in camps lacking adequate food, shelter, sanitation, and health care.

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