Sudan’s Hunger Crisis as a Modern-Day Plague
Every seder is a memory-making moment. Friends and family gather to read from the Haggadah, to eat matzah and drink wine. At our seders, we are a real “by the book” kind of family when retelling the story of the Israelites’ redemption from slavery and exodus from Egypt. Of course, my children will add a few words about a lesson learned in school or sing a new tune to an old song, but so many homes also add a contemporary twist to the seder text to raise awareness of a particular plight of a group of people – women’s rights, gender equality, labor issues, and the list goes on. This is something my family has never done.
So when I was presented with an invitation to attend the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Justice Seder with Secretary Tom Vilsack, I accepted. The seder was held in partnership with Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice.
Secretary Vilsack opened the evening with, “Seder means ‘order.’ To take one meaning of the word – to command – I think we can look at the ‘Golden Rule’ as an order. If I were hungry, there is nothing that would be more important to me than to have others work to make sure I could eat. We try to put that into practice through our work here at USDA.”
Throughout the rest of the evening, we read from the Hagaddah, sang traditional songs, and ate matzah and a festive meal. Then 10 representatives from a cross-section of the Jewish community – myself included – were invited to speak to a contemporary plague that we are committed to alleviating in the next year. Of course, we heard about hunger, access to healthy food, sustainable food production, and fair treatment for farm workers. When it was my turn to speak, I chose a slightly different modern-day plague, albeit one still related to hunger, food, and justice. My remarks are below:
Good evening. My name is Daphne Price of the Religious Action Center, and I am here representing the Reform Jewish Movement at this important seder. The plague I would like to talk about alleviating is the impending humanitarian crisis in the Sudan.
You may have heard of the recent arrest of actor George Clooney in front of the Sudanese Embassy. A number of Jewish leaders stood with him. Why? A quarter of a million innocents in Sudan face certain starvation as a result of the effort of the government of Sudan to intentionally cut off of food as a means of driving these Southern Sudanese out of oil rich areas on the border of Sudan and Southern Sudan.
World pressure led by the United States can push the Sudanese government to allow humanitarian aid to those quarter of a million men, women and children. Their lives hang in the balance.
This is a plague we can alleviate and prevent not just this year, but this month. Ken Yehi Ratzon – let it be so.
The Food and Justice Seder was a real “memory-making” moment for me. I even talked about it informally during our family seder, drawing awareness to the many layers of issues related to food and hunger.
What current social justice issues plague you? How will you commit to alleviating this modern-day plague?