L.A. Community Walks to End Genocide

April 25, 2018
From left: Rohingya Muslims Mohammed Asahab Dean and Koko Naing participate in Jewish World Watch’s Walk to End Genocide on April 22 at Pan Pacific Park in Los Angeles. Photo byRyan Torok.

Twelve-year-old Sidney Stern donates all of the proceeds from her handcrafted jewelry company, Jewels 4 Justice, to Jewish World Watch (JWW), an Encino-based organization that fights genocide worldwide.

Stern, together with her mother Tammy Ross-Stern, and her grandmother Betty Ross, were among the more than 900 people who took part in JWW’s 12th Annual Los Angeles Walk to End Genocide at Pan Pacific Park on April 22.

Walkers traveled a two-mile course, heading south through Pan Pacific Park, east on Third Street, north on La Brea Avenue and west on Beverly Boulevard before returning to the park.

Stern was among those chanting, “No more violence, no more war.” Tammy trailed behind, videoing her daughter.

“It was fun leading the chants,” Stern told the Journal after the walk. “I just love what [JWW] does. I feel like it is really important.”

That sentiment was echoed not only in the number of people who  turned out, but in the more than $90,000 raised for JWW programs and advocacy efforts. The walk highlighted the fact that, at a time when mass atrocities are occurring in Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, Myanmar and Iraq, members of the Los Angeles Jewish community refuse to stand idly by.

JWW was created in 2004 after a groundbreaking sermon delivered by the late Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) Rabbi Harold Schulweis, who said that the mandate of “Never again,” developed after the Holocaust, obligated the Jewish community to stand up for all communities facing genocide.

Schulweis co-founded the organization with community leader Janice Kamenir-Reznik, who was among the speakers on April 22, along with L.A. City Controller Ron Galperin and VBS Rabbi Noah Farkas.

Farkas led attendees in reciting the Shehecheyanu prayer, which he said was a “call to action”

Also attending the event was Koko Naing, 32, a Rohingya Muslim, whose current home in Culver City is a long way from his native home of Myanmar. His family managed to flee Myanmar when he was 3 years old, and went to Singapore.

In 2005, Naing came to the United States. He was granted political asylum, and in 2010 became a U.S. citizen.

Naing, who took part in the walk with several other Rohingya Muslims, told the Journal he feels a responsibility to advocate for his fellow Rohingya.

“The same thing happened to the Jews in Europe,” he said. “They [the government militias and the Buddhist majority] want to erase our identity.”

The fact that it wasn’t just the Jewish community that turned out for the walk “is part of what’s great about it,” JWW Executive Director Susan Freudenheim told the Journal. “It’s a mix of people. To see people come, it warms your heart. They feel like they want to do something and this gives them a chance to speak out.”

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