Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Spielberg and the Olympics

Rabbi Or RoseNext Monday evening I am bringing my colleague Rabbi Or N. Rose (left) to Detroit to speak to Conservative Jewish teens about the important subjects of Tikkun Olam (social action) and Tzedek (justice). Rabbi Rose is the co-editor of "Righteous Indignation: A Jewish Call for Justice," which was recently published by Jewish Lights. He is also the associate dean of the Hebrew College rabbinical school.

Rabbi Or Rose's article published today at JTA.org about Steven Spielberg's resignation as the artistic director of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games brings to light the necessity of persuading Summer Olympics host China to reconsider its support of Sudan.

Steven Spielberg JewishSpielberg wrote: "I find that my conscience will not allow me to continue with business as usual... At this point, my time and energy must be spent not on Olympic ceremonies, but on doing all I can to help bring an end to the unspeakable crimes against humanity that continue to be committed in Darfur. Sudan's government bears the bulk of the responsibility for these ongoing crimes but the international community, particularly China, should be doing more to end the continuing human suffering there."

In his essay, Rabbi Rose opines:

Ironically, the theme for the Summer Games is "One World, One Dream." Does this dream include the nightmares of the people of western Sudan? As an American citizen, I would like to see President Bush demonstrate some of the courage and resolve exemplified by the celebrity activists, using his power to try to persuade China to change its behavior. If China does not cooperate, the president should reconsider his plans to attend the Olympics.

In so doing, Bush could rededicate himself to the cause. His record on Darfur is inconsistent at best, and he has done nothing constructive since pledging, ever so briefly, to tackle the issue in his January State of the Union address. What better way for a president to spend his last months in office than to help bring an end to the first genocide of the 21st century? In a culture where celebrities often gain attention for their poor judgment and bad behavior, Spielberg, [Mia] Farrow and the other high-profile activists – they include Don Cheadle and George Clooney -- should be applauded for their justice efforts. Now we must join them in the struggle to save Darfur and to create a permanent anti-genocide movement.

Kudos to Steven Spielberg for doing the right thing by resigning this post. Hopefully his public act will put added pressure on the White House to persuade the Olympic hosts to change their tune on Darfur. And thanks to Or Rose for bringing this issue to a larger audience. With his essay, he certainly does demand a Jewish call for justice.

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