LOS ANGELES – The Armenian National Committee of America Western Region mourns the passing of Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis, an ardent supporter of the Armenian-American community’s efforts to garner recognition for the Armenian Genocide and a partner and friend of the community.
“On multiple occasions Rabbi Schulweis has spoken on the importance of teaching the Armenian Genocide to our children as an important lesson to the survival of humanity,” stated ANCA-WR Chair Nora Hovsepian. “We extend our sincerest condolences to his family and thank him for his lifelong mission to raise awareness of the Armenian Genocide. We trust that his legacy will be continued both through the Jewish World Watch and other endeavors.”
Rabbi Harold Schulweis was the founder of Jewish World Watch and during his time there, he urged members of Congress to support House Resolution 252 on the Armenian Genocide. He authored a letter to members of Congress accompanied by a DVD copy of The River Ran Red, the epic documentary film on the Genocide by Dr. J. Michael Hagopian.
The Jewish World Watch has been a strong supporter of the Armenian Film Foundation’s efforts to bring the events of the Armenian Genocide to the forefront. In his letter to the members of Congress, Rabbi Schulweis wrote, “We are men and women of conscience, and together we ask our government to recognize what we know as true: that 1.5 million Armenians were systematically slaughtered in a government-sponsored campaign of genocide against them. … I urge you to watch this film, and put your vote to work, recognizing the Armenian Genocide by endorsing H.Res. 252.” DVD copies of The River Ran Red along with the same letter also were sent to President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
In 2005 Rabbi Schulweis’ concern for Genocide around the world led him to reach out to the large Armenian-American community in his San Fernando Valley neighborhood. At that time, Schulweis officiated with Archbishop Hovnan Derderian Primate of the Western Dioceses of the Armenian Church of North America at the first joint commemoration of the Jewish and Armenian Holocausts. Later that year he joined the rock band System of A Down in an educational program affirming the common responsibilities of Jewish and Armenian youth to remember their collective experiences of Genocide and Holocaust, and to take action to prevent such atrocities.
In 2004, Schulweis delivered a sermon on the Jewish high holidays calling for a Jewish response to Genocide. He challenged the congregation: “We took an oath, ‘Never again!’ Was this vow to protect only Jews from the curse of Genocide? God forbid that our children and grandchildren ask of us, ‘Where was the synagogue during Rwanda, when Genocide took place and 800,000 people were slaughtered in 100 days?’” Rabbi Schulweis always spoke to his congregation and other Jewish congregations across the United States about the consequences of denial.
As a strong voice for justice, he will be sorely missed.