Everyone can make a difference to help end this East Africa crisis

“A child lies in its mother’s arms – they are both now too weak to move.”

Across East Africa, 16 million people need immediate food assistance. Hundreds of people have already died of starvation.

Drought and poor rains have decimated harvests leaving millions of children malnourished and in need of urgent food and medical support.

There is no doubt that much of the starvation has also been caused by human beings. Bombs and bullets, terrorism and war have destroyed infrastructure and forced millions of people to flee their homes. The international community must do more to bring conflicts to an end.

It’s easy to look at crises thousands of miles away and think that it’s either not our problem or not something we can do anything about.

This week’s sedra (Torah portion) suggests otherwise.

East Africa may be far from the UK today, but it’s not far from where our ancestors became a people. The Exodus narrative – the Children of Israel escaping from slavery in Egypt – is remembered daily in our prayers and weekly each Shabbat.

The Exodus culminates with the Children of Israel receiving the Torah in the Sinai Peninsula. But events go quickly wrong in this week’s sedra:

Moses has gone up Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments from God. He seems to be away for too long.

“When the people saw that Moses was late in coming down from the mountain, the people gathered against Aaron, and they said to him: “Come on! Make us gods that will go before us, because this man Moses, who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we don’t know what has become of him.” (Exodus 32:1)

Aaron, Moses’ brother, concedes to the people’s demand and together they build the Golden Calf – an idol to worship – despite idolatry being expressly forbidden.

Although only a tiny fraction of the Jewish people were actually involved in the sin of the Golden Calf, the whole nation was held responsible: we all have a duty to act.

The Talmud goes even further and says very clearly that anyone who is able to protest against an injustice in the world but chooses not to, is held accountable with the rest of the world’s citizens for their inaction (Shabbat 54b).

And here’s the good news. Everyone can make a difference to this devastating crisis. World Jewish Relief has launched an emergency appeal to provide people with emergency food, water and livelihoods.

As always, World Jewish Relief will work with trusted partners to ensure their targeted help reaches the most vulnerable people.

Every little helps. Just as the Children of Israel were all asked to contribute a half-shekel to the building of the mishkan, the portable temple, regardless of their wealth, every person’s contribution was of equal value.

Donations can be made to World Jewish Relief’s East Africa Food Crisis appeal by going to https://www.worldjewishrelief.org/foodcrisis

About the Author
Richard Verber is Senior Vice President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and World Jewish Relief's External Affairs Director
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