As we begin to take down our temporary sukkot, we are reminded of many who dwell year-round in structures that do not protect them from their natural surroundings and leave them weakened by illness and poverty as a result. Each day around the world, 800 million people go hungry; 2.6 billion live without decent sanitation. Extreme poverty leaves individuals without basic health care, drastically impacting the societies and economies of third world nations (www.nothingbutnets.net/malaria-kills/)
Recognizing this global trend, the United Nations developed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2002, which outline a plan to reverse the devastation of extreme global poverty, hunger and disease (http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/ ). As this initiative parallels Judaism’s own commitment to tikkun olam, the Union for Reform Judaism endorsed these Millennium Development Goals in 2005 and joined the campaign to eradicate global poverty.
Adopting that resolution was an important first step, however, many were left wondering, what next? When we hear about global poverty, many of us want to take action but are left wondering what we, as individuals, can do to impact such an overwhelming crisis. While cynics may claim that one individual cannot save the world, Judaism nonetheless urges us to try, reminding us that saving a single life is the equivalent of saving the entire world. There are ways to step forward and make a significant contribution.
In fulfillment of its commitment to the MDG’s, the Union for Reform Judaism is joining the fight to eradicate malaria. This disease infects nearly 500 million people each year, kills more than one million of those who become infected and is the leading killer of children in Africa. Malaria has significantly burdened the health care system and costs approximately $12 billion a year in lost productivity throughout sub-Saharan African nations. Yet, malaria is preventable. When families use insecticide-treated bed nets, a protective barrier against mosquitoes that carry the disease is formed. One bed net can keep an entire family safe from malaria for up to four years for only $10.
In partnership with the United Nation Foundation’s Nothing But Nets campaign, all the affiliates of Reform Judaism have joined together in a commitment to provide 50,000 nets to save 50,000 families from the anguish of malaria. Linking with other efforts to aid the victims of genocide in Darfur, contributions from the Reform Movement’s campaign will be used to assist refugees who have fled Sudan and have relocated to impoverished communities and refugee camps across the border in the Central African Republic (CAR). The Union for Reform Judaism has initiated the campaign with a contribution of the first $25,000 towards the Movement’s goals.
Sukkot is a meaningful time to launch this effort. During this season, we are reminded of our own vulnerabilities and the risks faced by those without proper shelter and exposed to the elements. We are also reminded of our dependence upon the cycle of nature as we begin to add a special prayer for rain during this season. The blessing of rain brings the promise of a healthy harvest come spring. Yet for Sudanese refugees in the CAR, the rainy season brings more mosquitoes, increasing the devastation of the malaria epidemic. At this critical time, when the vicissitudes of nature wreak havoc on the already desolate lives of the vulnerable refugees, we can make a difference. We can save lives – one net at a time, one family at a time.
To find out what you can do to join this effort, visit www.urj.org/nets. Consider these possible steps:
- Make a $10 donation and provide a bed net for a family.
- Start a “Netraiser” team – raise awareness and funds through your congregation, youth group, Religious School, chavurah or through your friends and family.
- Educate yourself and others – share this message and get involved.
- Host a fundraiser such as a basketball tournament, bake sale or rummage sale.
- Encourage your congregation to join the campaign.
As we take down our sukkot for another year and begin to offer our prayers for rain, let us consider those for whom rain is no blessing, who lack proper shelter and who rely on the safety of a simple net to protect their children from preventable death.
Your involvement can make a difference. Make a donation. Share the message with friends and family. Work to eradicate global poverty and combat malaria today.
To learn more about the Union for Reform Judaism’s Nothing But Nets campaign, visit our website.
Rabbi Marla Feldman is the Director of the Commission on Social Action.
Naomi Abelson is the Manager of Congregational Relations for the Commission on Social Action.