Rise Up Together: A Tisha b’Av Prayer for the Rohingya People

By Rabbi Tamara Cohen
candles in the dark

This year, as many of us link Tisha B’Av to the current humanitarian crisis at our border and in our country, we also commemorate the second anniversary of the Rohingya massacre and remember the refugee crisis that links our domestic crisis to the global one.

This prayer may be used as part of a Tisha b’Av service where it is traditional to sit on the floor with dim lighting. You might consider lighting one candle, commemorating the events we are mourning from Jewish history, reading the first section, then lighting a second candle to acknowledge the plight of the Rohingya people, and others suffering, today. After reading the second section, you might chant or read the book of Eicha (Lamentations) or sit in quiet meditation. You might close by reading the final lines of section 2, or by reading or chanting the words of Hashiveinu, at the end of section 1.

To learn more about the Rohingya crisis and how you can help, see the American Jewish World Service (AJWS).


Rise Up Together: A Tisha b’Av Prayer for the Rohingya People

1.

Dear God, as we sit on the floors of our sanctuaries stirred by the liturgy of our ancestors, who in the night of nights could sometimes see no pain but their own pain, let us rise up together with the courage to declare that we who are of a different time, we who have been blessed in this moment of history with sanctuary and freedom to gather and pray and live safely among our neighbors, we commit to open hearts and eyes and doors. We feel the rage and grief not only of injustice committed against our own people but of injustice at the borders of our own country and across the world. We refuse the callous and willed amnesia of our time. We are not too pained to hear in the words of our own people’s mourning the mourning of others.

Oh Rohingya people, in your exile we won’t forget you, lest our tongues stick to the roofs of our mouths. You sit at the rivers of makeshift homes in Bangaladesh and cry out for your land in the Rakhine State of Burma. As we cry for Zion, let us also cry for Rakhine. As you sit with the nightmares of August 2017, we sit with you today. To our remembering we add your remembering: how you were sent from your homes, how your villages were burned, how your children and adults were massacred, how you were persecuted for difference in religion and ethnicity.

השיבנו ה ונשובה
חדש ימינו כקדם

May the Burmese military and government be held accountable, may the camps you live in be safe for the most vulnerable among you, may the time come when you can return safely to your homes, may safety and peace and the rule of justice be restored. May we rise from grief into action.

2.

Quiet the noise.
Look up from your ritualized mourning. Broaden your gaze beyond your particular people’s suffering.
See how the ancient forced exile spirals forward like a ravenous fire.
See villages burned to the ground.
See the massacred children, their bodies limp and abandoned, the bodies of their adult protectors slain beside them.
See the ones who made it out alive, 720,000 on foot or boat, still living in makeshift camps.
See how this night, the 9th of Av, container of countless Jewish tragedy, now holds the cries of the stateless Rohingya people just as it holds the tears of Jerusalem’s ruin, of our forced exiles, expulsion, mass killing.
Let us bear witness to the cruelness of shared experience
כי יש מכאב כמכאובי
Because their is pain our pain
Because we cry out with memory and commitment to a better future, not just for ourselves but for the Rohingya people, and for all peoples seeking safety, shelter, justice, home.

אלוהים אל דמי לך, אל תחרש ואל תשקט אל
Dear God do not hold yourself silent; be not deaf or still dear God.
Be not deaf or still, dear heart.

Prayer

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