President Donald Trump signs an executive order for a U.S. travel ban, at the Pentagon, January 27. Photo by Carlos Barria/REUTERS.

Zionist Organization of America welcomes Trump’s immigration order, JCPA opposes

The Zionist Organization of America welcomed President Donald Trump’s immigration order banning refugees and new visas for citizens from six Muslim-majority countries, while the umbrella body for Jewish policy groups joined an array of Jewish groups opposed to it.

The order “fulfills the president’s basic duty of protecting the nation by suspending entry by nationals from six nations (Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen) where current screening abilities are inadequate, resulting in an unacceptable risk that individuals who intend to commit, aid or support terrorist acts here will infiltrate into the U.S.,” the ZOA said in a statement on Tuesday.

The ZOA statement comes after an array of Jewish groups, including the Reform movement and the Anti-Defamation League, as well as Democratic Jewish lawmakers, condemned the order. Trump revised the order after an earlier one was stayed by the courts.

The consensus-driven Jewish Council for Public Affairs, an umbrella body for Jewish public policy groups and regional Jewish community relations councils, on Monday evening joined in opposition to the order, but in language less condemnatory.

“We continue to oppose such a travel ban because it reduces the number of refugees coming into this country and still specifically names Muslim-majority countries,” the JCPA said in a statement. “There’s no evidence that refugees from these countries represent a special threat.”

J Street hires Rabbi Steve Gutow as political advisor

J Street announced on Thursday the appointment of Rabbi Steve Gutow, former president and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) as a senior advisor for JStreetPAC, its 2016 election political arm.

Gutow served as president and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs from 2005-2015, during which he was chosen as one of the 50 most influential American rabbis three times by Newsweek. He was recently appointed to the President’s Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Before joining JCPA, Gutow help Democrats in Texas and served as founding executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC). He also served as the founding director of AIPAC’s Southwestern region.

According to a news release by J Street, Gutow will work closely with its endorsed congressional candidates to guide them in discussing J Street’s principles on Israel in outreach to the Jewish community, and help them identify with the liberal wing of the Democratic Party and those who support those policies within the Jewish community.

“We’re thrilled that Rabbi Gutow will be part of our team for this cycle,” Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street’s president said in a statement. “This will be an extremely important election cycle in determining the future direction of American foreign policy. Bringing decades of experience with progressive politics and the Jewish community, Rabbi Gutow will help JStreetPAC to demonstrate that support American diplomatic leadership isn’t just good policy- it’s also a major political asset.”

“I am pleased and fortunate. In this very important election year, when all American Jews should extend themselves to help this nation be all we wish it to be with regard to both Israel and the Middle East and in general, I feel fortunate to work with others at J Street to help candidates I believe in to succeed in their political contests,” said Rabbi Gutow.

JStreetPAC is aiming to raise at least $3 million for candidates in over 100 local races across the country. J Street’s national political director Ben Shnider told Jewish Insider 

Esther’s choice

During the holiday of Purim, celebrated this week, Jews recount the story of Esther, a secretly Jewish woman who becomes queen, and the choices she makes to save her people. Esther’s actions were aimed at gaining acceptance for a minority religion that was reviled, and preventing the murder of its members. Even today, the echoes of Esther’s story are powerful and enduring. But she might be surprised to learn how the concept of religious freedom is being used now—not to protect minority religious practice or combat religious intolerance, but to give special exceptions from laws designed to prevent intolerance or provide needed services to all people.

Indeed, this year, on the day Purim begins, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on an important case relating to reproductive health access, in particular contraceptive coverage. Zubik v. Burwell considers whether religiously affiliated organizations can successfully claim that their religious expression rights would be violated if they filled out a government form. The form in question is designed to accommodate the organizations’ objections to providing their employees with coverage for contraception, which is a requirement of the Affordable Care Act. The petitioners in the seven consolidated cases object to providing contraceptive coverage, and argue in Zubik that filling out the form is in itself unduly burdensome on their religious practices, because providing the information triggers the coverage for their employees to be provided by someone else. Their logic is like that of a conscientious objector in a war refusing to tell the government she will not serve, because if she does, that means the government will send someone in her place. Having to register the objection in some way may be a burden, but arguably only logistically, not in a moral or religious sense.

My organization, Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), long has been committed to supporting bold choices, even ones that don’t free an entire people. JCPA strongly supports a woman’s right to make her own reproductive decisions, and has opposed efforts to deny access to reproductive rights, contraception, and family planning services.  In the Zubik case, JCPA joined with the AJC, Union for Reform Judaism, and Central Conference of American Rabbis in an amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief explaining why the accommodation does not impose a substantial burden on the petitioners’ exercise of religion.  In 2014, JCPA participated in a brief on the predecessor to this case, Hobby Lobby, also with AJC. Though these briefs represent the broad consensus view in the Jewish community, some of JCPA's member agencies, including the Orthodox Union, have not taken a position on the central issue in these cases. JCPA has been involved in dozens of civil rights cases, including serving as a plaintiff in a seminal school prayer case, Engel v. Vitale. JCPA is concerned that access to medical care coverage for essential health needs could be curtailed if the Court does not rule favorably in the Zubik case.

Equally important, this case is part of an ongoing and troubling trend in which claims of religious freedom are being wielded as trump cards to allow discrimination or deny other people’s rights. For example, some states have passed laws in the name of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that go far beyond the federal law’s initial charge. Some of these laws give protections to businesses that refuse to serve certain patrons, claiming providing services to these individuals violates their religious beliefs. This is a use of religious freedom that is disingenuous at best, and venal at worst. As a religious organization, we have a special duty to speak out when religious freedom rights are used as an excuse to abridge the rights of others.

In this case, those rights are women’s rights to contraceptive coverage. Thinking how far we have come from the time of ancient Persia, it is hard to believe that in 2016 women’s choices are still being threatened. But there are bills and policies all the time in Congress and in state legislatures that seek to undo women’s access to reproductive health care. JCPA continues to believe that reproductive health decisions are best made by individuals in consultation with their families, health care professionals, and with whomever else they choose. We respect and affirm the extensive Jewish teaching and tradition on family planning, including access to contraception, and abortion—understanding that a decision to end a pregnancy is a difficult and deeply personal one, and that people do not take these decisions lightly. We trust women to make their own decisions about their reproductive lives; and for women who seek assistance in making difficult reproductive health decisions, we support full and unfettered access to confidential, affordable, and accurate health and medical guidance of whatever kind they desire, whether spiritual, religious, or secular.

Many women who have made serious reproductive health decisions, such as terminating a pregnancy, don’t discuss them, even though those decisions may have been significant in their lives. Esther also chose to keep her Jewishness secret for a while, but eventually revealed it and convinced King Ahasuerus to stop vilifying, and to spare the lives of, her people. We do need to be reminded every year: It is, unfortunately, still time to speak up for women, battle intolerance, and affirm people’s ability to make their own decisions and be treated with respect.

Hanna Liebman Dershowitz is an attorney and serves as Director of Legal Affairs and Policy Development for JCPA.

Jewish community responds to release of Alan Gross

Cuba has released American aid worker Alan Gross after five years in prison in a reported prisoner exchange with Havana that the United States said on Wednesday heralds an overhaul of U.S. policy toward Cuba. Below are reactions from the Jewish community:

Simon Wiesenthal Center

“There is no greater mitzvah(good deed) than Pidyon Shivuyim, freeing a captive. On this first day of Chanukah, the Simon Wiesenthal Center expresses its gratitude to President Obama and his administration for securing the release of Alan Gross”

– Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper, founder and dean and associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center

Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA)

“We are elated that Alan Gross has finally been released after five long difficult years in Cuba and can now return home to his family and a community that has prayed for his freedom. We are only as free as those of us who are suffering – and today, with Alan’s release, we are all a bit freer. Alan was working with the small Cuban Jewish community under this same mindset, helping this isolated group gain better access to the internet.

“We thank the U.S. government for its work to secure his release and all those who advocated on Alan’s behalf through letter campaigns, donating to his legal defense fund established by the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Washington, participating in regular vigils on his behalf and writing to Alan in prison to let him know that he was never forgotten. We are especially grateful for the leadership of the JCRC of Greater Washington and its executive director Ron Halber in all of these advocacy efforts.

“During his imprisonment, Alan’s health severely deteriorated; he lost 100 pounds, developed severe hip pain leaving him unable to walk and lost vision in his right eye. We pray now for his health and swift recovery. We share in his family’s joy of welcoming Alan home and wish them all the best moving forward.”

– Susan Turnbull and Rabbi Steve Gutow, Chair and President, respectively, of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA)

B’nai B’rith

B’nai B’rith International warmly welcomes, and is relieved by the news of, Alan Gross’ release from a Cuban prison after five years. The United States and Cuban governments announced this morning that Gross will be returned to America in exchange for three Cubans jailed in Florida.

Gross was arrested in 2009 while working to set up Internet access for the Cuban-Jewish community as a contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

B’nai B’rith is grateful for the efforts of the Administration and all those who assisted in facilitating the high-level discussions leading to Gross’ release. We are thinking of Gross, his family and his friends on the occasion of his release, especially coming during the holiday of Chanukah.

Agudath Israel of America

Chanukah is a time when we offer praise and thanks to the Almighty for His blessings and miracles.  The release and return of Alan Gross from Cuban incarceration is truly a modern day Chanukah miracle, and it fills us with deep gratitude to, in the words of the Amidah, “He Who frees captives.” Mr. Gross' expedited liberation seemed a distant dream, and now it is a dream come true.

We express our heartfelt thanks to President Obama, whose dedicated and determined efforts led to Mr. Gross' release. And we pray that Mr. Gross will adjust to his return to freedom enveloped in the love and support of his family and friends.

As Presbyterians again weigh divestment, Jewish groups lobby, warn and worry

Which way will Presbyterians go this time?

That’s a question Jewish groups and their Presbyterian allies are nervously asking as they work to head off divestment efforts within the church targeting Israel. The fear is the efforts could pass this time after a narrow defeat two years ago.

A successful divestment vote at the biennial Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly this month could precipitate a rupture between the mainline Protestant denomination and the Jewish community, they warn.

Jewish-Presbyterian relations already were strained severely following the publication by a church-affiliated group of a document, “Zionism Unsettled,” that depicted Zionism as a false theology.

“The publication of ‘Zionism Unsettled’ by the very voices backing divestment in the PC (U.S.A.) revealed an agenda that is not about church investments,” said Ethan Felson, the vice president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. “These backers of divestment want to return their church to a place of retrograde anti-Jewish theology, hostility to mainstream Jews and, of course, a blind eye to the responsibility of Hamas and Hezbollah on the Israel-Palestinian conflict and the steps Israelis are forced to take to defend themselves.”

Delegates to the General Assembly, taking place June 14-21 in Detroit, will consider at least five resolutions, or “overtures,” that would advance divestment from companies that deal with Israel’s military and one that would reconsider whether the church supports a two-state solution.

Church officials organizing the assembly declined to comment directly on the resolutions.

At the 2012 church assembly, delegates rejected a divestment initiative by the slimmest of margins, 333-331.

Such resolutions have become commonplace at mainline Protestant churches in recent years. But other mainline Protestant churches have been less receptive, defeating them by solid margins.

Jewish communal officials and their allies worry that divestment proponents could find success at this year’s Presbyterian assembly.

Since the last assembly, a contingent of conservative Presbyterians have broken away from the denomination over its recent embrace of the ordination of gay clergy. Conservatives are seen as likelier to reject anti-Israel measures.

Meanwhile, divestment proponents are pointing to the collapse of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations in their efforts to encourage church members to back divestment.

“Part of what this is about is highlighting how we’re now at the tail end of the peace process due to settlement construction,” said Rabbi Alissa Wise, director of campaigns for Jewish Voice for Peace, which is lobbying for divestment at the church’s General Assembly.

Christopher Leighton, a Presbyterian minister who is the executive director of the Institute for Jewish and Christian Studies in Baltimore, said one reason he feared divestment would pass was that typical delegates to assemblies are not necessarily steeped in each issue under consideration.

“The vast majority of Presbyterians don’t know these issues or the historical religious complexity of the region,” Leighton said. “What they’re bombarded with is ‘Palestinians are suffering terribly. If we don’t do something about it we become complicit in an injustice.’ The arguments put forth traffic in all kinds of stereotypes that require work to undo.”

Leighton was outspoken in his criticism of “Zionism Unsettled,” the study guide published in January by the church’s Israel/Palestine Mission Network. The guide targeted what it called “the theological and ethical exceptionalism of Jewish and Christian Zionism, which have been sheltered from open debate despite the intolerable human rights abuses rooted in their core beliefs.”

Rabbi Noam Marans, the American Jewish Committee’s director of interreligious relations, said the combined damage of the study guide and the passage of divestment overtures would likely have consequences for Jewish-Presbyterian ties, although he did not want to outline them until the assembly had finished.

“Depending on which resolutions pass, and they may yet evolve, we will have to make challenging decisions,” said Marans, who will attend the assembly. “It certainly is an ongoing crisis in Presbyterian-Jewish relations.”

But Wise said that linking the divestment bid to the study guide is “opportunistic.”

Each was generated by a different church body, she noted — “Zionism Unsettled” by the Israel/Palestine Mission Network and the divestment overtures by the church’s investment committee, the Mission Responsibility Through Investment. The investment committee had been considering divestment since 2004, a decade before the study guide was published.

“To bring ‘Z.U.’ into this process is disrespectful to how intentional the Presbyterian community has been,” Wise said.

“Zionism Unsettled” was praised as “smart and gutsy” by the co-chair of Jewish Voice for Peace’s rabbinical council, Rabbi Brant Rosen, in a blog post republished on the group’s website.

The Rev. Katharine Rhodes Henderson, president of the Auburn Theological Seminary, said there was considerable overlap between the Israel/Palestine Mission Network and those promoting divestment. She said they shared an agenda informed by the boycott, divestment and sanctions, or BDS, movement.

“The stakes are very high,” said Henderson, who criticized “Zionism Unsettled” and will advocate against divestment at the assembly. “In my mind, all of these things go together, you can’t pull apart motives. Divestment today may mean full-out BDS tomorrow, and that’s the decision that Presbyterians face.”

One veteran of pro-Israel outreach among Presbyterians said he was close to giving up.

“At this point, we’ve done a lot to educate the Presbyterians about what’s going on in their church,” said Dexter Van Zile, the Christian media analyst for CAMERA, a pro-Israel watchdog.

Van Zile, a veteran of such assemblies, said he will not be heading to Detroit.

“Let the General Assembly decide and the church live with the consequences,” he said. “For the G.A. to affirm the agenda of its so-called ‘peace activists’ would basically be a punch in the nose to the Jewish community.”

But pro-Israel groups are not giving up.

They plan to send several dozen young Jewish activists to the assembly to counter what they say is the mistaken impression of sentiment among young Jews created at past Presbyterian assemblies by pro-divestment groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace. A letter opposing divestment signed by more than 1,500 rabbis, cantors and seminary students of all streams of Judaism also will be circulated the assembly.

As in years past, a pillar of organized Jewish pushback will be showing that left-leaning and dovish Jews also oppose divestment.

Rachel Lerner, J Street’s senior vice president for community relations, who has made the pro-Israel case to church groups in the past, said she had decided not to attend this year’s assembly because of the time commitment. She changed her mind, however, when she read “Zionism Unsettled.”

“It portrays Zionists as pathological and racist and scarred and unable to act in any normal way,” she said. “It ran contrary to everything I think Zionism stands for. I was personally offended by it. I think it says something about the movement, where divestment is coming from and who it is coming from in the church.”

Lerner said that should divestment succeed, it would challenge friendships she had made with church officials.

“I don’t anticipate cutting them off, but it puts a strain on them,” she said.

John Wimberly, a co-convenor of Presbyterians for Middle East Peace, a group that works with mainstream Jewish groups, said “Zionism Unsettled” may prove helpful in his efforts to defeat the divestment overtures at the assembly.

“There are Presbyterians who are very upset with Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians and would like to find a way to make a statement about that treatment,” he said. “But they will not make the statement by voting for people whose intention is to destroy Israel.”

The challenge, he added, would be to “keep that clear so the other side is unable to create enough smoke to hide that agenda.”


Court upholds conviction of Irvine protesters

A California state appeals court has upheld the conviction of 10 students at the University of California, Irvine, who disrupted a 2010 speech by then-Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren.

During the speech, the protesters interrupted Oren repeatedly, calling him a “mass murderer” and a “war criminal.” The heckling caused him to pause his speech amid calls for order, and he curtailed his hourlong speech to 12 minutes.

In 2011, the students were charged and subsequently convicted of violating a state law prohibiting the disruption or breaking up of a lawful assembly. The appeals court upheld the conviction. The defendants face up to a year in prison.

General Counsel Marc Stern of the American Jewish Committee, which filed an amicus brief on behalf of the prosecution along with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the Jewish National Fund, said his group was “pleased that the appellate division concurred with our view that the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech may not be invoked to protect those who intentionally disrupt a lawful meeting.


JCPA to Congress on budget: Remember the most vulnerable

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs is calling on Congress to think about “the most vulnerable among us” as it works on creating a budget and avoiding the fiscal cliff.

“We believe that deficit reduction should be carefully calibrated to ensure that the most vulnerable among us are protected, opportunity for all is promoted, and justice is pursued,” Rabbi Steve Gutow, president and CEO of JCPA, wrote in a letter that was delivered Monday to Congress.

“At this point, as millions remain out of work and the poverty rate continues to be unacceptably high, it is critical that the institutional pathways to prosperity remain open and wide,” the two-page letter said.

The letter, which lists numerous programs, calls on Congress to “support a balanced deficit reduction plan that promotes the health of our nation’s economy while also insuring the sustainability and effectiveness of anti-poverty programs.”

JCPA is the national policy umbrella group of the American Jewish community.

Rabbis, scholars compile materials to guide civility drive

A group of leading rabbis and scholars has compiled sermons and other materials to help Jewish leaders talk about civility during the High Holidays and all year.

The civility materials, which include religious texts and study materials, were prepared by a working group composed of rabbis and scholars from across the Jewish religious spectrum under the auspices of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

They are part of the Campaign for Civility that JCPA launched in 2010 and can be found on the JCPA website.

“Increasingly, conversations are giving way to diatribe. We can do better,” said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow. “We hope that these materials will be used as a resource by synagogues, rabbis, schools, and throughout the Jewish community to help build understanding about the Jewish value of civil discourse.

“Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are times for self reflection, a time when confessional prayers and study help us to focus on issues of listening and speech. It is a perfect opportunity to evaluate just how we have used our power of speech and how we might choose our words in ways that engender greater cohesiveness and mutual respect.”

Obama adviser Jarrett discusses Jewish roots

Valerie Jarrett, President Obama’s top domestic policy adviser, told a Jewish audience that her great-grandfather was Jewish.

“The Passover seder has a unique lore in my own family,” Jarrett said Monday while addressing the annual plenum of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Jewish public policy umbrella, in Washington.

“Many, many years ago, my parents hosted a seder for a group of our Jewish friends, and it was here that my father first told me that my great-grandfather was Jewish. What a wonderful surprise for our friends, and for me!”

Jarrett, who is black, was born to James Bowman, a renowned pathologist, and Barbara Taylor Bowman, an early childhood expert. She is one of Obama’s closest advisers and oldest friends.

Her speech at the JCPA event focused on domestic issues. Jarrett called on delegates to push back efforts by the Republican-led House of Representatives to slash funds for education and infrastructure.

She also pledged the White House’s “steadfast” support for Israel during the current Middle East upheaval.

JCPA welcomes new state in southern Sudan

The U.S. Jewish policy umbrella welcomed the emergence of a new state in southern Sudan, but said the international community must be vigilant in bringing about a broader peace.

“With the release of the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission’s results today, the world will soon wake up to a new and independent country in southern Sudan,” the Jewish Council for Public Affairs said in a statement after the official results released Monday showed a decided majority favoring independence. “And if the United States and international community can maintain the level of involvement and influence that brought us to last month’s successful referendum, then peace and calm in Southern Sudan will seem possible for the first time in decades.”

Jewish groups have taken the lead on Sudan in pressing for rights for the country’s minorities.

The Reform movement’s Religious Action Center noted the referendum results and also called for maintaining the peace, but stopped short of welcoming the yet-to-be-named nation, instead “welcoming, with optimism, the results of the election.” It stressed that other areas of Sudan need attention.

“As we look with gradual optimism at these developments in the south, we must not forget about the ethnic cleansing in Darfur that continues, an estimated 2.7 million Darfuri civilians are still living in [displaced persons] camps and an additional 300,000 were displaced in 2010 alone,” it said. “There are also ongoing reports of blocked humanitarian aid and ongoing human rights abuses. We call for a continuation of the peace talks and a greater international pressure to end the atrocities that continue.”

President Obama has said he will recognize the new nation and press for a comprehensive peace.

Activists Stand Firm on Warrant for Sudan Leader

Hours after an international court issued a warrant for his arrest, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir kicked humanitarian aid groups out of his country. Nevertheless, Jewish activists who backed the indictment are standing behind their decision.

The world community cannot allow Bashir’s crimes and threats to deter the appropriate legal entities from taking action, said Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

Bashir’s reaction reaffirms “the legitimacy of the indictment” by the International Criminal Court (ICC), said Saperstein, who noted that Bashir has been obstructing the provision of humanitarian aid for years. He said that the indictment and arrest warrant should turn up the pressure on the Sudanese leader.

The warrant charges Bashir with five counts of crimes against humanity — murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and rape — in the Darfur region of Sudan. It also includes two counts of war crimes — intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population and pillaging.

After a nearly six-year campaign of systematic rape, expulsion and murder against the citizens of Darfur by the government-backed Janjaweed militia, hundreds of thousands have died and more than 2.5 million have fled their homes and live in refugee camps in the region or in the neighboring countries of Chad and the Central African Republic.

Following the arrest warrant, the Sudanese government revoked the licenses of 13 international humanitarian organizations and evicted them from Sudan on March 4. The government also closed down three domestic relief agencies.

According to the Save Darfur Coalition, the expelled organizations account for at least half of the humanitarian operations in Darfur, and without them, some 1.1 million people will be without food aid, 1.5 million will not have medical care and more than a million will be left without safe drinking water.

“I’m sad” about the situation, but “if criminal law is going to mean anything, we have to call it what it is,” said Rabbi Steve Gutow, executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), which earlier this month passed a resolution supporting the possible use of military force in Darfur.

Gutow said supporters of the indictment anticipated the consequences, but the hope is that the ICC action will have an impact “not today but tomorrow.” He said the arrest warrant increased the likelihood that others in the Sudanese leadership, upset by the international opprobrium, would push out Bashir and set up a more conciliatory government.

Another Jewish group active on the Darfur issue, the American Jewish World Service (AJWS), refused to connect the two recent events. AJWS spokesman Joshua Berkman said his organization “does not believe there is any legitimate link” between the arrest warrant and the ejection of aid groups.

“The ICC is an independent court and has nothing to do with humanitarian relief work,” he said.

Berkman said AJWS believes the international community is correct in rejecting the idea that humanitarian aid for 4 million people could be used as a “bargaining chip” in any way, and added that it was time for the United States to take the lead in pushing to resolve the conflict.

Saperstein agreed, saying that his group was pushing for the White House to name a special envoy to work on the issue.

After a meeting with President Obama last month, actor George Clooney said he was told there would be an envoy appointed, but the White House has not announced it.

In a letter last week signed by AJWS, the Religious Action Center and the JCPA, more than 50 members of the Save Darfur Coalition urged Obama to condemn publicly Bashir’s actions and “insist that he restore access to life-saving humanitarian aid.”

While the effects of the expulsion of aid groups on Darfurians is not yet known, Jewish leaders said that Bashir’s actions immediately caught the attention of the wider American Jewish community, which has been at the forefront of efforts to bring the world’s focus to the Darfur genocide.

The Reform movement sent out an action alert last week to its congregations urging members to call their members of Congress about Darfur, and “judging from the response, people are re-engaged on this issue,” Saperstein said.

He said the indictment and expulsion of aid groups “has galvanized people again.”