Local Hero: Janice Kamenir-Reznik

Janice Kamenir-Reznik

"I have met the 21st century's survivors of ethnic cleansing and massive rape; neither their story nor their suffering is different from our own. I can think of no more dramatic or spiritual cause than to give voice to the voiceless and to bring meaning to the ancient mandate of 'not standing idly by' while others suffer."

Fighting against genocide and mass atrocities is at the heart of Janice Kamenir-Reznik and Jewish World Watch (JWW), the nonprofit she co-founded and serves as president.

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Ms. Kamenir-Reznik has travelled to the Darfuri Refugee Camps and to the Democratic Republic of Congo on several occasions to meet partners, evaluate funded projects and bear witness to the tragedies which have befallen the people in the region. JWW provides support and relief to the Darfuri genocide survivors and to various populations in Congo-- most notably to female rape survivors and to liberated child soldiers--which have been victimized by unspeakable brutality. JWW develops and funds a variety of economic development, educational, rape prevention and health and safety programs in an effort to empower vulnerable populations and to provide relief to those whose lives have been shattered by violence. Established in 2004 with co-founder Rabbi Harold Schulweis, the Encino-based organization has raised more than $11 million to implement its mission.

Among JWW's programs is Safe Motherhood, implemented in partnership with HEAL Africa; Safe Motherhood trains Congolese survivors of rape to cultivate fields, sell produce at market, implement sustainable practices and encourage family planning. The profits from the Safe Motherhood Program are used to train traditional birth attendants, help women obtain rape recovery surgeries, and pay for pre-natal and maternity care. The Educational Assistance project enables war-affected--and often orphaned--Congolese children to receive an education. The program specifically aims to empower young girls and increase school attendance. In Darfuri camps, protecting refugee women and girls from rape while collecting firewood for cooking resulted in JWW's Solar Cooker Project, which provides a solar cooker to the refugees. The Chambucha Rape and Crisis Center was developed to serve women and girls, many of whom have been victims of rape and violence.

Locally, Ms. Kamenir-Reznik and JWW diligently work to raise awareness about JWW's mission through community events, such as its annual Walks to End Genocide held throughout California. Student activism is emphasized through programs such as the Activist Certification and Training (ACT) Program, where students become official JWW activists. Also offered is ACT 13--a Bar/Bat Mitzvah Program whereby young leaders use this special occasion to raise awareness around genocide and take action against it. Political pressure combined with JWW's strong community partnerships have led to the passage of important measures, such as conflict minerals legislation. JWW continues to raise awareness through thousands of speaking engagements at conferences, universities, churches and other community organizations.

Ms. Kamenir-Reznik currently serves as a commissioner of the Los Angeles County Citizens' Economy and Efficiency Commission. She previously practiced law as a partner of Jeffer, Mangels, Butler and Mitchell. She has served as a leader of various boards and committees, including California Women Lawyers and California Women's Law Center where she has served as board president. Ms. Kamenir-Reznik received her master's degree in social work from USC, a master's degree in Jewish Nonprofit Management from Hebrew Union College, and bachelor's and juris doctorate degrees from UCLA.

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