As Over 250,000 Flee Violence, Orthodox Rabbis Urge U.S. Action Over Rohingya in Myanmar

'Our Jewish tradition teaches us to stand up for those who are in danger,' the rabbis wrote in a letter urging the U.S. government to exert diplomatic pressure in aid of the majority Muslim refugees

Rohingya refugees walk through water after crossing border by boat through the Naf River in Teknaf, Bangladesh, September 7, 2017.
MOHAMMAD PONIR HOSSAIN/REUTERS

A group of Orthodox rabbis called on the United States to protect the Rohingya, a mostly Muslim people facing violence in Myanmar.

An estimated 270,000 Rohingya refugees have fled Myanmar in the past two weeks and sought refuge in Bangladesh, where two existing refugee camps are "bursting at the seams", the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said on Friday. 

The 26 rabbis, all members of the progressive Orthodox rabbinical group Torat Chayim, called “upon the United States government to intercede on behalf of the persecuted, through the exertion of diplomatic pressure on the government of Myanmar,” in a letter published Thursday in the Forward.

The statement came as thousands of Rohingya refugees poured into Bangladesh amid increased persecution in neighboring Myanmar. Some of the Rohingya Muslims say they are being ethnically cleansed by Myanmar’s army.

Myanmar denies the Rohingya citizenship, and military crackdowns on the group date back decades.

“We have seen this before. And we know what happens when the world is silent in the face of inflicted suffering,” the rabbis wrote in the letter. “Our Jewish tradition teaches us to stand up for those who are in danger, and our own history teaches us that, as Elie Wiesel taught us, ‘Silence helps the oppressor, never the oppressed.'”

Among the signatories are Rabbi Asher Lopatin, president of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah rabbinical school, as well as Rabbis Mark Angel, Nathan Lopes Cardozo and Shmuly Yanklowitz.