By Olivia Kessler, NFTY-MAR Social Action Vice President
Since then, the URJ has exceeded their original goal of raising $500,000 and has raised over $750,000, sending more than 75,000 insecticide treated bed nets to those in need in Africa. Last year, Nothing But Nets issued a formal challenge to NFTY during the 2013 NFTY convention to see which region could send the most letters to Congress asking for continued funding for the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, which help send more nets and malaria-fighting medicines to Africa.
As Jews, we recognize the importance of helping those in need, and understand that the moral test of any society is how it treats its most vulnerable. In Pirkei Avot both Rabbi Tarfon and Rabbi Hillel discuss the duty we as Jews have towards each other, our neighbors, and society. Rabbi Hillel stresses, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?” and Rabbi Tarfon goes on to say, “It is not up to you to finish the work [of repairing the world], yet you are not free to avoid it.” While speaking on malaria, Rabbi David Saperstein, the director of the Religious Action Center said, “This time we have to speak out. We can’t stand idly by while hundreds of people are dying…We can’t stand by while people in the camps are going to be dying of disease and hunger…We have to act.”
This year the Reform Movement is focusing its efforts on Camp Nyarugusu in Tanzania, which houses over 68,000 Congolese refugees. As a movement we hope to not only send another 18,000 nets to Nyarugusu this coming year, which will protect most of the residents, but we also hope to send 1,800 letters to Congress asking our leaders to remain strong in the fight against malaria.
As Jews, as neighbors, and as global citizens, we must join the fight to help eradicate malaria in Africa and around the world.