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What Social Justice means to me, by Joyce Jacobs

by Joyce Jacobs, December 20, 2005

I commend all of you, who work tirelessly to promote a compassionate society. All of you who work towards a world in which all peoples are accorded respect and dignity. And all of you who are here today to be of service to the community.

Yesterday's House passage of the Deficit Reduction Reconciliation Act is deeply troubling. By cutting programs that benefit low-income Americans—programs like Medicaid, student loans, child support enforcement, and disability assistance— we are being steered toward a culture of greater inequality. The budget is a moral document; it ought to reflect the values of a compassionate society. We urge Congress and the President to take seriously the scandal of American poverty. The number of Americans living below the poverty line has grown over each of the last five years, and the population of those in need has been swelled by the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina.

As we speak of Social Justice, I want to tell you that I have been deeply pained by the indiscriminate attacks, including killing of civilians, torture, enforced disappearances, destruction of villages, rape and other forms of sexual violence, pillaging and forced displacement, throughout Darfur in the Sudan. These acts were conducted on a widespread and systematic basis."

The U.S. Congress declared that the killings in Darfur are a "genocide" of African tribes, while urging president bush to call the situation in Sudan "by its rightful name." For the first time in its history, the committee on conscience of the Holocaust Memorial Museum has declared a "genocide emergency" in the Sudan, indicating that genocide is imminent or is actually happening in the Darfur region.

But we still hear so little about Darfur. Where is the outrage over the Sudan? Just two days after that UN report on Darfur was released, we marked the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. For more than a generation, Jews around the world have repeated the phrase, "Never Again."

Sixty years later we are reminded by the ceremony at Auschwitz that the fate of the world and its people is in our hands. It is up to us to love peace and pursue it.

How can we make a difference in Sudan? First by continuing to bring it to the national conscience. Write to congress and to the president and tell them you are watching and looking for their commitment and press for their intervention. We can make a difference with our actions, and only if we take action to stop the slaughter, can we give meaning to the destruction of our people in the past, and be able to say with a clear conscience, "Never Again."

Here in the United States we also have an opportunity to effect change, and improve the lives of our brothers and sisters. We can create Health Action Initiatives to help improve access to health care for those who lack health insurance. We can work in neighborhoods doing clean-up and building projects.

We can become Mentors → helping students improve their reading and critical thinking skills, which are needed to pass state-required proficiency tests.

We can provide housing, food, education and support services designed to promote self-sufficiency, self-reliance, and a stable environment for families and individuals who cannot provide for themselves.

We can provide relief and support to a nearby migrant farm worker community, collecting school supplies, distributing baby formula and diapers, picking produce for a food pantry, and serving as "Reading Buddies" for elementary school students.

We can contribute food and fresh produce each year for a soup kitchen.

We are our brother's keeper, we are our neighbor's friend, we are peoples of faith and compassion.

As guardians of the world for future generations, as feeders of those in need, healers of the sick and protectors of the helpless, whoever they may be, may our commitment to and acts of social action in the next days be a wellspring for renewed commitment for the year to come.

Let us work together to repair the world, which we refer to as Tikkun Olam.

Joyce Jacobs, December 20, 2005

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