Our Summer 2017 teen interns, Gianna Barwald (15), and Noah Stark (17), listened to the powerful sermon that called for the creation of Jewish World Watch given by Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis (z”l) in 2004. (Read or listen to the sermon). Below are their thoughts.
Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis, the founder of Jewish World Watch, stated a very important Jewish value in his founding sermon: All humans are created in the image of God. This fundamental value is not only essential to the mission of Jewish World Watch, but also to many teens today. Fundamental to this value is the belief that we are all equal, and everyone should be treated equally.
Here at Jewish World Watch, we advocate for people in the world whose lives are so much worse than our own. Who are facing genocide and mass atrocities, and need our help to stop fighting, provide education and even nutrition. But JWW’s slogan “Do Not Stand Idly By” can also apply for teens today. Why, you might ask? Well, because as JWW advocates for people who cannot defend themselves in South Sudan and Syria, as well as the Darfuri refugees in Chad, and others in many other places, the lessons of JWW to see everyone as our equals must also begin at home.
We as teenagers can help stand up for other teens who may not be able to speak up for themselves. 28% of U.S, students in grades 6-12 have experienced bullying, 70.6% of students have seen bullying and just stood idly by, along with 70.4% of school staff who, again, just ignored it. According to stopbullying.gov, when a bystander intervenes, bullying stops within 10 seconds 57% of the time, that’s more than half!
While bullying may not be as dangerous as all the mass atrocities occurring in the world, if you think about it, genocide is the ultimate form of bullying. Wherever we are, we must remember: If we just stand idly by, nothing will change, and these places will continue to experience these horrors, but if we can bring attention to all that’s happening in our own world, and the larger world, and just help piece by piece, we can make a difference.
Do Not Stand Idly By.
Jewish World Watch was founded upon multiple core Jewish beliefs. Among them is the idea that ALL humans are created in the image of God, meaning that we are all equal. No one’s life is above any other, and everyone deserves equal treatment.
Rabbi Schulweis also spoke of the idea that “To be a Jew is to think big. To be a Jew is to think globally. To be a Jew is to act globally…” We live in a very interconnected world, where anyone can learn of events that occurred in another continent in seconds. Every barbaric act can be exposed for the general public to witness. According to Judaic values and Rabbi Schulweis, when faced with unspeakable acts, we must all face them head on. The slogan of JWW is “Do Not Stand Idly By,” meaning that when horrible things are going on, one cannot ignore them.
JWW’s global advocacy is rooted in the Jewish experience of the Holocaust, when many people inadvertently or purposefully turned their backs on the genocide. Rabbi Schulweis insisted that something like this should never happen again. And he felt the Jewish people, especially, have a strong responsibility to never turn their backs, because what had happened to them—and because of those who did not look away during the Holocaust, and actively saved lives.
Thirteen years since Rabbi Schulweis’ sermon, the world is still messed up, and his message is more relevant than ever. With the situations in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria and more places getting even still worse, our action is still necessary. For today’s teens, it is still as vital as ever to face up to genocides and mass atrocities as incredibly prevalent in today’s society. Future generations must be aware of the events in their world and raise their voices in protest.