APR 27, 2014
Thousands walk in Los Angeles for Holocaust Remembrance Day with Walk to End Genocide
By Dana Bartholomew
Their footsteps Sunday tread softly across Los Angeles, while sounding a thundering rebuke against mass slaughter.
More than 4,000 marchers marked Holocaust Remembrance Day with an eighth annual Walk to End Genocide, held in six cities from Los Angeles to New York.
“Never again — never ever ever again!” Rabbi Harold M. Schulweiss, co-founder of Jewish World Watch, the Encino-based host of the demonstrations, told thousands of eager marchers. “Today, we remember communities who share with us a history of tragic suffering.
“You are not abandoned. You are not ignored. We walk together.”
The world’s largest march against genocide was followed by a Day of Holocaust Commemoration outside the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust at Pan Pacific Park. The event included live music, art, noshes and tribute speeches by Los Angeles civic and religious leaders.
They marched to recall the systematic slaughter of millions of Armenians, Jews and Rwandans during respective genocides perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks, by Nazi Germany and by Hutu tribes during reigns of terror that spanned the 20th Century.
They took each step to recall more recent atrocities committed in Darfur, Sudan and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, home to some of the world’s highest incidents of civilian murder and systematic rape.
Throughout a morning dotted by wispy clouds, families young and old from synagogues and civic groups across the city hoofed it around a 3-mile loop in the Fairfax District with a motto proclaiming “Fight genocide: do not stand idly by.”
Their bright blue T-shirts read, “One life at a time, one step at a time.”
“I want to help other children around the world,” said 8-year-old Jake Torgan of Studio City.
“My family and my husband’s family were killed during the Holocaust,” said Bonnie Kane of Woodland Hills, hoisting a “Never again” placard. “Man’s inhumanity to man needs to end in our time.”
Rabbi Amy Bernstein of Kehillat Israel synagogue in Pacific Palisades said the march raised awareness of atrocities committed across the globe.
“We need to end the violence and repair the damage that’s being done,” she said, among a throng of two dozen walkers from her synagogue. “It’s a prayer for building a different world.”
Jewish World Watch, now celebrating its 10th anniversary, has become a hands-on leader in the global fight against genocide, having raised $12 million for relief, education and development projects.
The nongovernmental organization, spurred by civilian slaughter in Sudan, was founded by Schulweiss of Valley Beth Shalom, an award-winning conservative rabbi renowned for his theology, interfaith dialogues and human rights activism, and Janice Kamenir-Reznik, a real estate attorney known for her drive.
Together, they recruited synagogues throughout Southern California that today has grown into a worldwide interfaith movement. Its Walk to End Genocide, which expects to raise $500,000, was holding similar events in Thousand Oaks, Orange County, San Diego, Santa Rosa and Long Island, New York.
“JWW has become the recognized leading force in the fight against genocide and many atrocities worldwide,” said Michael Jeser, its executive director. “We began as a coalition of San Fernando Valley synagogues 10 years ago, but have grown into a global interfaith coalition.”
In the past decade, Jewish World Watch has supplied more than 100,000 Darfur women refugees with solar cookers, to help reduce the potential for rape while gathering fuel. It has also helped women survivors in Chad and the Sudan. It has also helped build health centers in remote villages and to rehabilitate child soldiers.
Los Angeles leaders said it was important to raise awareness about genocide, and for young people to learn to fight for social justice.
“A lot of times, we think the world is getting better,” said state Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Redondo Beach, whose district included the Fairfax rally. “But when we look at the number of genocides … it’s very shocking.”
“The walkers here can arouse the conscience of a nation,” said Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, whose U.S. airman father, Melvin, was a Nazi prisoner of war.
Even those not involved in the Sunday walk were moved. Around the corner from the park, waitress Rocio Ramirez watched its river of blue move past the historic El Coyote Mexican Cafe.
“Together, all of us can do something,” she said, doling out plates of signature crispy tacos. “Our voices can be louder.”
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