20 Jewish Organizations Urge Under Secretary of Treasury to Impose Targeted Sanctions against Burmese Military

AJWS and the Jewish Rohingya Justice Network* call for swift action by the Department of Treasury to hold Burmese military accountable

20 Jewish organizational leaders, representing the Jewish Rohingya Justice Network, called on Under Secretary of the Treasury Sigal Mandelker to pursue justice and accountability for the Rohingya people and all ethnic minorities in Burma. Rori Kramer, Director of Government Affairs for American Jewish World Service (AJWS), the leading global Jewish human rights organization, issued the following statement:

“On August 25, the world will mark two years since the Burmese military escalated a genocidal campaign against the Rohingya people. Because of this state-sanctioned violence, more than 700,000 Rohingya people have fled their homes and live in impoverished conditions in refugee camps in Bangladesh. The military is also the key perpetrator of human rights violations against other ethnic and religious minority groups in Burma (also known as Myanmar).

“The Jewish community has come together to urge Under Secretary Mandelker, as the lead for international sanctions, to designate the most senior Burmese military officials, who were the key architects of the gross violations of human rights against the Rohingya people. It is also crucial to impose financial sanctions on military-owned enterprises since the income generated from these businesses enables the military to continue its brutal acts of gross human rights violations in Burma.

“As Jews, we cannot stay silent in face of genocide, and we are grateful that Under Secretary Mandelker shares our commitment to pursuing justice. We know the cost of silence and we will continue to advocate on behalf of the Rohingya and ethnic minorities in Burma until the military ceases its operations of violence and persecution.”

The text of the letter delivered to the U.S. Treasury Under Secretary on behalf of 20 Jewish organizational leaders follows below.

*About the Jewish Rohingya Justice Network

The Jewish Rohingya Justice Network is the powerful consortium of Jewish NGOs advocating for the rights of the persecuted Rohingya people of Burma. JRJN’s membership includes 24 organizations and all four major branches of American Judaism.

Jewish Rohingya Justice Network Members include: American Jewish Committee, American Jewish World Service, The Association of Rabbis and Cantors, Anti-Defamation League, Cantors Assembly, HIAS, JACOB, Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Jewish Labor Committee, Jewish World Watch, The Orthodox Union, Rabbinical Assembly, Reconstructing Judaism, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, T’ruah and The Union for Reform Judaism. Allies: Foundation for Ethic Understanding, Hebrew College, The Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committee, The New York Board of Rabbis, The Shalom Center and Uri L’Tzedek.

About American Jewish World Service’s Work in Burma

For more than 17 years, AJWS has supported the human rights of ethnic minorities in Burma, including the Rohingya people. AJWS provides direct financial support to more than 30 human rights organizations in Burma that have been working to advance the rights of minority ethnic groups and to create a truly pluralistic and democratic society. Please read more about our work in Burma here.

Under Secretary Sigal P. Mandelker
Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence
U.S. Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20220

Dear Under Secretary Mandelker,

We, the undersigned 20 organizational leaders, are the leaders of Jewish organizations and supporters of the Jewish Rohingya Justice Network (JRJN), a consortium of Jewish organizations who have come together to advocate for the rights of the Rohingya people. Together, we collectively represent tens of thousands of American Jews across the country in advocating for a swift U.S. response to the Rohingya crisis.

As we mark the second-year anniversary of the continued campaign of genocide against the Rohingya people of Burma this August 25th, we are reminded of the State Department’s report released in September 2018 that documented the atrocities in Northern Rakhine State. This report attests that the violence against the Rohingya people was “extreme, large-scaled, widespread” and “well-planned.”[1] Additionally, the UN’s Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar recommended that “top military leaders” be investigated and prosecuted for “genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.”[2]

As Jews—a people who have long faced religious and ethnic persecution ourselves—the suffering, mass murder, and forced displacement of the predominantly Muslim Rohingya community speaks deeply to us and compels us to act.

Our fight to stop the ongoing persecution of the Rohingya people reminds us of your own words at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Days of Remembrance Ceremony this April, in which you highlighted the human rights violations that occurred during the Holocaust and the importance of the U.S. decision to freeze the assets of those who were committing these heinous acts.[3]

We strongly agree with you that “whether in the 1940s or today, it is imperative that we continue to come together as a community to participate, to be seekers, to have courage” and to “use the full force of our diplomatic might” against despots and dictators.

We saw this courage in action when the U.S. government, through your leadership, sanctioned five Burmese military officials and two military divisions thus far under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. In part due to this pressure from the United States, the Burmese military has quietly retired several military leaders, including Maung Maung Soe and Aung Kyaw Zaw, who had been sanctioned. However, reports indicate that the atrocities committed against the Rohingya people are ongoing, and the main architects of this violence have not been designated under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act by the United States.

We were heartened to see the State Department’s recent public designations that made these architects (the most senior-level Burmese military officials) and their immediate family members ineligible for entry into the United States under the authority granted by Section 7031(c) of the FY 2019 Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Act. While we welcomed this as an important step toward justice and accountability, this alone is not sufficient.

Only through continued pressure can we address the crimes of the Burmese military.

With that in mind, we encourage you, as the Department of Treasury’s lead for international sanctions, to continue to direct your staff to prioritize the pursuit of full justice and accountability for the Rohingya people and all ethnic and religious minorities in Burma.

We urge you to advise the Secretary of Treasury to designate the most senior Burmese military leaders who have knowingly played a direct and significant role in the commission of gross violations of human rights against the Rohingya people, pursuant to available authorities, including the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (Public Law No: 114-328 and E.O 13818). Several senior Burmese military officials have yet to have their assets frozen by the United States, despite extensive documentation of their key roles in the atrocities. These individuals include those publicly designated by the State Department—Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Vice-Senior General Soe Win, Brigadier-General Aung Aung, and Brigadier-General Than Oo—and others who have played a direct role in the atrocities, such as Chief of the General Staff Mya Tun Oo. In addition, Burma’s military-owned enterprises, including the Myanmar Economic Corporation and Union of Myanmar Economic Holding, should also be sanctioned under relevant statutory authorities.

These actions would limit the financial resources relied upon by the Burmese military to consolidate power and continue their heinous genocidal operations against civilians. This will be an effective next step toward justice for the Rohingya people and other ethnic minorities in Burma.

The United States must display moral courage and leadership and use its power to secure justice and accountability for the Rohingya people. We encourage you to send a strong message to those who are responsible for international crimes and continued persecution of ethnic and religious minorities.

The world needs American leadership now, more than ever, and we are grateful to you for using your leadership to stop this genocide.


20 Jewish Organizational leaders


David Harris
American Jewish Committee


Robert Bank
President and CEO
American Jewish World Service


Sharon Nazarian
Senior Vice President, International Affairs
Anti-Defamation League


Rabbi Enid C. Lader
Association of Rabbis and Cantors


Cantor Stephen J. Stein
Executive Vice President
Cantors Assembly


Rabbi Marc Schneier
Foundation for Ethnic Understanding


Rabbi Simkha Y. Weintraub
Founder and Coordinator
Jewish Alliance of Concern Over Burma


David Bernstein
President and CEO
Jewish Council for Public Affairs


Arieh Lebowitz
Executive Director
Jewish Labor Committee


Susan Freudenheim
Executive Director
Jewish World Watch


Moishe Bane
Orthodox Union


Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal
Rabbinical Assembly


Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D.
Reconstructing Judaism


Rabbi Elyse Wechterman
Executive Director
Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association


Rabbi Jonah Pesner
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism


Rabbi Jill Jacobs
Executive Director
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights


Rabbi Joseph Potasnik
Executive Vice President
The New York Board of Rabbis


Rabbi Arthur Waskow
Executive Director
The Shalom Center


Rabbi Rick Jacobs
Union for Reform Judaism


Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz
Uri L’Tzedek: Orthodox Social Justice


[1] Documentation of Atrocities in Northern Rakhine State, September 2018 report: https://www.state.gov/reports-bureau-of-democracy-human-rights-and-labor/documentation-of-atrocities-in-northern-rakhine-state/

[2] Myanmar: UN Fact-Finding Mission Releases its Full Account of the Massive Violations by Military in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states, September 2018: https://www.OHCHR.org/EN/HRbodies/HRC/pages/newsdetail.aspx?NewsID=23575&LangID=E

[3] Remarks of Sigal P. Mandelker, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence at the 2019 Days of Remembrance Ceremony: https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm671

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