Human rights activists delivered a letter to the Ugandan embassy in Washington signed by more than 400 rabbis protesting that country’s anti-homosexuality policy.
The Feb. 10 protest in the District coincided with similar events in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and was organized in part by American Jewish World Service.
The letter urged Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to veto an anti-homosexuality bill that was passed recently in his country’s parliament; under the legislation, those arrested for same-sex sexual behavior can be sentenced to life in prison.
The bill also criminalizes the promotion of homosexuality, which includes funding organizations that provide health care and other services to LGBT people.
“We are called upon to be a voice for the voiceless and not to stand idly by,” said Rabbi Rachel Gartner of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association.
Gartner was one of four Washington-area rabbis at the protest who knocked on the embassy door for several minutes but received no response. However, a little later a Secret Service agent negotiated with embassy officials, who then agreed to receive the letter from Rabbi Esther Lederman of Temple Micah in Washington, according to a spokesperson with AJWS.
Gartner and Lederman were joined by Rabbis Ita Paskind of Congregation Olam Tikvah in Fairfax and Rachel Ackerman of Temple Shalom in Chevy Chase.
AJWS President Ruth Messinger attended the New York City protest.
“LGBT Ugandans are ostracized and assaulted on a daily basis just for living their lives, and for recent generations of Jews, the threats facing LGBT people in Uganda are all too hauntingly familiar,” she said. “We cannot remain silent. We cannot simply stand by.”