Human Rights Shabbat – ‘How can Jewish experience and principles inform the prevention of genocide today?’

More information on this website at: www.renecassin.org/human-rights-shabbat

To sign up and receive further information, simply email  moses.seitler@renecassin.org to register your interest. The only other thing you need to do is appoint a primary point of contact within your community by Friday 16 October 2020.  We’ll be in touch after then with resources, ideas and sessions from which you can deliver a session or mark the occasion in a way that suits you.

Communities that sign up will be offered:

  • Connections to leading speakers for a virtual event during the week leading up to Human Rights Shabbat
  • Jewish textual sources for sermon ideas and discussion topics
  • Links to speeches, essays and videos on the issue of genocide today
  • Plans and resources for educational activities and study sessions
  • Links on how to get further involved and take action on genocide
  • Posters and materials to promote the day
  • Bespoke support to take a more in-depth look at specific issues around genocide
  • Recognition for taking part in the day

Human Rights Shabbat 5781 (2020)

‘How can Jewish experience and principles inform the prevention of genocide today?’ 

Over the past few months, the Jewish community and the world have been moved and troubled by issues of social justice.  Now is a chance to consolidate, formalise and act on our collective desire for change within our schools, synagogues, youth movements and communities.

René Cassin has been running the cross-communal ‘Human Rights Shabbat’ Programme for over ten years. Human Rights Shabbat marks the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights drafted on the 10th December 1948, by our namesake Monsieur René Cassin. You can have a look at previous Human Rights Shabbat resources, which are designed to help you deliver sessions or events for all ages in your community, on our website.

Human Rights Shabbat 5781 will be held on December 12th 2020, Shabbat Chanukah. We will be focusing on the theme of Genocide and asking the question ‘How can Jewish experience and principles inform the prevention of genocide today?’ 

With genocides taking place today in living memory of the Shoah, such as the persecution of the Muslim Uyghurs in China, and this year’s Human Rights Shabbat falling on the 2nd and 3rd nights of Chanukah, the theme hopes to explore the moral authority and moral responsibility we have as Jews as ‘speakers by experience’ to take action to ensure it is indeed ‘never again’. 

 Over the course of Shabbat, Jewish communities and movements will be running study sessions, sharing resources and hosting events to mark Human Rights Shabbat 5781. Most of these activities have been designed to take place online.

 To sign up and receive further information, simply reply to  moses.seitler@renecassin.org to register your interest. The only other thing you need to do is appoint a primary point of contact within your community by Friday 16 October 2020.  We’ll be in touch after then with resources, ideas and sessions from which you can deliver a session or mark the occasion in a way that suits you.

Communities that sign up will be offered: 

  • Connections to leading speakers for a virtual event during the week leading up to Human Rights Shabbat
  • Jewish textual sources for sermon ideas and discussion topics
  • Links to speeches, essays and videos on the issue of genocide today
  • Plans and resources for educational activities and study sessions
  • Links on how to get further involved and take action on genocide
  • Posters and materials to promote the day
  • Bespoke support to take a more in-depth look at specific issues around genocide
  • Recognition for taking part in the day

We are also running events throughout the week on the theme of celebrating human rights, so let us know if you or any of your members are interested in getting involved there.

For a sense of what this resource will look like, check out last year’s Human Rights Shabbat resource by clicking here.

Register your community, youth movement, J-SOC, or school for Human Rights Shabbat 5781 today!

Human Rights Shabbat 5780 (2019)

Welcome to the Human Rights Shabbat Resource Pack for 5780 (2019). Human Rights Shabbat is always the closest Shabbat to December 10th, International Human Rights Day, when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed in 1948.

Our namesake, Monsieur René Cassin, co-drafted the Declaration and was one of many Jews involved in establishing a post-war framework that ensured the horror of the Jewish experience of the Holocaust would never again be repeated as ‘everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms… without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status(Article 2, Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

However, across Britain today, we are experiencing increasing hostility towards minority groups, with 2018-19 seeing over 100,000 incidents. Reported rises in hate crime add to the notion that our communities are becoming less cohesive.  

The Jewish community has benefited from the protection of rights, producing a proud practising community deeply rooted in the wider society. However, we carry in our heritage, values and teachings, warning of the dangers of hate and intolerance, and the importance of standing in solidarity with others

Human Rights Shabbat is an annual event facilitated by René Cassin and as such we decided to dedicate it to raise awareness and work together to promote tolerance and respect for all minority groups.

For this year’s Human Rights Shabbat, we have developed ‘’A Jewish Response to Hate Crime’ , a unique resource designed to explore the different of hate crimes, case studies and and reference to Jewish meditations related to hate crime.

To produce this resource, we worked with partners from across the Jewish community and beyond, with a special thank you to student Rabbi Gabriel Webber, Alice Akca and Sam Alston, and we hope it equips your community to better work to challenge Hate Crime affecting not just Jews but everyone in our society. 

Sign up for Human Rights Shabbat 5780!

 This year’s Human Rights Shabbat is on the 7th and 8th of December, events can happen over that Shabbat and in the week leading up to it. Human Rights Shabbat is held every year on the anniversary of the ratification of the universal declaration of human rights and is a time for Jewish communities around the country to consider how the interconnection of Judaism and Human Rights.

Last year was our biggest ever Human Rights Shabbat and this year we are aiming to reach even more Jewish communities.

This year Human Rights Shabbat is around a particularly pertinent theme of tackling hate crime.  Hate crime is rising across our society, including anti-Semitic incidents which are at an all-time high. Providing human rights framing to this issue will be widely welcomed in Jewish communities.

You can sign your community, youth movement, J-SOC, or school up to Human Rights Shabbat 5778 today!

If you signs up, you will be offered:

•             Connections to leading speakers for a speaking event during the week leading up to Human Rights Shabbat

•             Jewish text sources for sermon ideas and study sessions

•             Information and talking points on the issue of Hate Crime in the UK

•             Ideas and resources for children’s activities

•             Links on how to get further involved with the issue

•             Posters and materials to promote the day

•             Bespoke support to take a more in-depth look at specific issues around Hate Crime

•             Recognition for taking part in the day

To sign up and receive further information, simply send an email to sam.alston@renecassin.org and register your interest and appoint a primary point of contact within your community.

You can check out last year’s Human Rights Shabbat materials here. https://www.renecassin.org/sign-up-for-human-rights-shabbat-5778/

Human Rights Shabbat 5779 (2018)

Welcome to the Human Rights Shabbat Resource Pack for 5779 (2018). Whether you are a synagogue, youth movement, University J-SOC, cheder teacher or just an interested individual we hope that you find these resources informative and instructive.

Human Rights Shabbat is always the closest Shabbat to the 10th December, World Human Rights Day, and this year it celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, co-drafted by our namesake, Monsieur René Cassin, known as the father of the Universal Declaration for the role he played in drafting that seminal document.

“Thank you for circulating the brilliant René Cassin resources – and everything you and your colleagues are doing to raise consciousness about human rights in the Jewish community”

-Rabbi Elli, Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue

It is this legacy that has inspired us, René Cassin the organisation, to ‘make the Jewish case for human rights in the UK’, raising awareness on some of the most pressing human rights issues in the UK today, and making sure that the Jewish community, driven by experience and values, is a strong voice in the promotion and protection of human rights in the UK.

As René Cassin himself said: “human rights are an integral part of the faith and tradition of Judaism. The beliefs that man (and woman) were created in the divine image, that the human family is one, and that every person is obliged to deal justly with every other person are basic sources of the Jewish commitment to human rights”.

For this year’s Human Rights Shabbat, we have developed ‘Making the Jewish Case for Human Rights’, a unique resource designed to explore the linked stories of Jewish values, Jewish experience and Jewish human rights heroes, illustrating the profound impact they have had in shaping and forming the modern human rights framework, and the importance of human rights to Jewish people today.

Beyond this Human Rights Shabbat we will continue to mark and celebrate 70 years of legacy to ensure the sustainability and future of this legacy by empowering and inspiring tomorrow’s human rights activists in our community.

Other Resources:

  • Hannukah and Human Rights  – during Hannukah this year we are outlining eight actions that you can take to protect and promote human rights.
  • Art Competition -To mark the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, René Cassin invites you to submit a create a piece of art representing this important human rights legacy.

Human Rights Shabbat 5778 Resources

Below you can find all the resources for this year’s Human Rights Shabbat (2017). The resource aims to help you celebrate World Human Rights Day and shine a light onto modern day slavery.

You can find the entire resource through this link here.

Download our 2018 anti-slavery supporter calendar to see what actions you can take each month.

The pack contains fact sheets, text studies, case studies, infographics, sermon notes, educational sessions, posters, suggestions on ways to take action and much much more.

Let us know what you think of the resources and get in touch by emailing info@renecassin.org

You can use the hashtag #HumanRightsShabbat and tag us on twitter @Rene_Cassin to let us know what you get up to.

If you are writing a sermon we would love to see it and put it up on our website to share with others and push it out through our social media. Please email it to info@renecassin.org

*With thanks to Rabbi Lea Muhlstein, Elliot Steinberg, Hannah Gaventa and our entire modern slavery campaign team for their support for making various resources for thisw years Human Rights Shabbat.

Sign up for Human Rights Shabbat 5778!

untitled-2This year’s Human Rights Shabbat is on the 8th and 9th of December, events can happen over that Shabbat and in the week leading up to it.

Last year was our biggest ever Human Rights Shabbat and this year we are aiming to reach even more Jewish communities.

René Cassin has been running the Human Rights Shabbat Programme for the past nine years. You can have a look at previous resources on our website.

This year we are building on our theme from last year of modern day slavery.

You can sign your community, youth movement, J-SOC or school up to Human Rights Shabbat 5778 today!

If your community signs up, they will be offered:

  • The opportunity to arrange a speaking event with a leading slavery charity during the week leading up to Human Rights Shabbat
  • Updated Jewish text sources for sermon ideas and study sessions
  • Updated information and talking points on the issue of modern day slavery in the UK
  • Updated ideas and resources for children’s activities
  • Links on how to get further involved with the issue and support survivors of modern slavery
  • Posters and materials to promote the day
  • Bespoke support to take a more in-depth look at specific issues within modern day slavery
  • Recognition for taking part in the day

To sign up and receive further information, simply send an email to sam.grant@renecassin.org and register your interest and appoint a primary point of contact within your community.

You can check out last year’s Human Rights Shabbat materials here.

Our Biggest Human Rights Shabbat to Date!

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Saturday 10 December 2016 saw over 40 Jewish communities – including one in Barcelona – mark and celebrate Human Rights Shabbat. This was a record amount of communities coming together to talk about the Jewish connection to human rights and learn more about modern day slavery.

If you didn’t get a chance to see our resources of factsheets, posters, Jewish text studies and education sessions for different age groups have a look here.

Our resource pack was endorsed by the UK’s Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland OBE. See what he said below:

“The Human Rights Shabbat Resource Pack by René Cassin is both informative and insightful. It teaches its readers the facts of modern slavery – through case studies, factsheets and educational programmes – while also inspiring individuals to get involved and make a difference.

Modern slavery is an evil encroaching on modern society. It impacts millions around the world and thousands in the UK, and I am pleased to see faith groups taking admirable action against this gross injustice.

With direct links to the community and a vast following, René Cassin is in a unique position to bring change where change is needed most. For this reason I look forward to working with René Cassin and extending awareness and knowledge to their communities.”

Kevin Hyland OBE, UK Anti-Slavery Commissioner.

Have a read of the Jewish News coverage here.

We’ll add more sermons as and when we receive them:

You can read Rabbi Aaron Goldstein’s sermon here and listen to him talking about human rights Shabbat on the radio for the last four minutes of this show here.

You can read Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz’s sermon here.

You can read Danny Friedman QC’s sermon here.

You can have a look at Rabbi Mark Goldsmith’s text study here.

You can read our director’s, Mia Hasenson-Gross’s thoughts in this blog for Masorti Judaism here.

Thank you to everyone who marked the Shabbat. We are working on modern day slavery all year round and would love you to get involved with our work. Don’t hesitate to get in touch or read more here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Human Rights Shabbat 5777 Resource Pack

untitledBelow you can find all the resources for this year’s Human Rights Shabbat (2016). We hope the resource pack helps you celebrate World Human Rights day and shines a spotlight onto modern day slavery. Hard copies are on their way to all the record breaking amount of communities who have signed up this year.

So what are the basics you need to know about modern day slavery? Click the background paper and the factsheet below to get to grips with the topic:

What is Modern Day Slavery

General Modern Day Slavery Factsheet

Are you talking to your congregation about this issue? Have a look at the handy sermon notes compiled by Rabbi Lea Muhlstein:untitled-2

Sermon Links (Parasha Vayetzei) to Modern Day Slavery

Provoke some questions with the case studies and this text study looking at how Judaism engages with the topic of modern day slavery:

Text Study – Not All Are Free

Case Studies, quotes and discussion topics

Learn more and go in-depth on a particular campaign issue:

Check out our beautiful factsheets and infographics:

If you are running education, check out these drama workshops you can run for different age groups:

Want to find out more about our wider work and how you can get involved? Take a look here.

Let us know what you think of the resources and get in touch by emailing info@renecassin.org.

You can use the hashtag #HumanRightsShabbat and tag us on twitter @Rene_Cassin to let us know what you get up to.

If you are writing a sermon we would love to see it and put it up on our site to share with others and push it out through our social media. Please send those into info@renecassin.org

*With thanks to Rabbi Lea Muhlstein, Sarah Quarmby, Hannah Swirsky, Samantha Espada and Susanna Kester (Rosenberg) with support for making various resources for this years Human Rights Shabbat.

How will your community mark Human Rights Shabbat on 10th December?

René Cassin have run the ‘Human Rights Shabbat’ programme for the past eight years. Human Rights Shabbat falls on the nearest Shabbat to World Human Rights Day. This year that is on the 10th December.

It’s an opportunity for every Jewish community in the UK to engage with the issue of human rights.

You can have a look at previous resources here.

This year we are focusing on the theme of modern day slavery and asking the question what does a Jewish campaign to end modern day slavery look like? ‘

This is an area we get asked time and time again to educate and work on and one that can engage members of the community both young and old.

If your community is interested in taking part you can sign your community up to Human Rights Shabbat 5777 today by emailing info@renecassin.org and registering interest.

If communities sign up, they will be offered:

  • Connections to leading slavery charity speakers
  • Jewish text sources for sermon ideas and study sessions
  • Information and talking points on the issue of modern day slavery in the UK
  • Ideas and resources for children’s activities
  • Directions and support on how to campaign on this issue
  • Posters and materials to promote the day
  • Bespoke support to take a more in-depth look at specific issues within modern day slavery
  • Recognition for taking part in the day

René Cassin Human Rights Ambassador Programme

*** Leadership skills *** Communication skills *** Effective activism

APPLY NOW: https://forms.gle/q2ZRVLPfsiYD7r6aA

Applications close Wednesday 2 September 2020


We are delighted to launch our inaugural René Cassin Human Rights Ambassador Programme.

The Ambassador Programme is an enriching, leadership-orientated initiative to empower young Jewish human rights activists. The programme will equip university students and sixth-former with the knowledge and skills to advocate in support of marginalised communities and to campaign for change in specific human rights areas which resonate with Jewish values and experience. The programme will help to refine and amplify the voices of young Jewish activists in the UK.

The programme will combine two bespoke capacity-building events with guided support for each Ambassador’s chosen project, in which participants will present at an event or produce a piece of creative work on an important human rights issue. The first session will be an introduction to René Cassin and a workshop on what makes an effective human rights activist, and the second will be an introduction to human rights areas which resonate with Jewish experience and principles. The programme will operate remotely. 

In addition to these sessions, ambassadors will receive René Cassin resources and support from our Education and Community Engagement Officer to facilitate their chosen initiative. Ambassadors will be encouraged to either facilitate an event, produce a written research report, record video footage, audio recording or creative or artistic work to raise awareness, share knowledge and take action on human rights abuses. They will have a chance to showcase their work during the week leading up to Human Rights Shabbat on 12 December 2020. 

Develop your leadership skills

Over the course of the year, Ambassadors will develop key leadership-orientated and transferrable skills which will sit well on personal statements and CV’s. We are keen to encourage young people to advocate on behalf of others, to co-ordinate with different stakeholders and speak publicly about what matters to them. The experiences at the heart of the programme should help young Jews explore their understanding of the Jew in relation to others, develop the skills needed to lead the Jewish community in the secular world, and the confidence to face the challenges of our day head on.

René Cassin alumni

When Ambassadors complete the programme, they will join a growing alumni network of engaged, outward-facing Jews who are dedicated to bringing about a change in the world. The network will be a virtual space in which human rights news and events can be shared, new initiatives can thrive, and advice can be shared about advocating for human rights in your communities, on campus and as they into the workplace.

Capacity-building sessions to be held virtually on Monday 7 September 2020 and Monday 2 November. 

To apply, complete this application form by 2 September 2020

Any questions? Get in touch with our Moses Seitler to discuss via moses.seitler@renecassin.org

Making the Jewish Case for Human Rights – Jewish Texts

Human Rights at the heart of Judaism’s most important texts

“There shall be one law for the citizen and for the stranger who dwells among you.”

Exodus 12:49

“All mankind is created in the divine image.” – The Torah

Torah’s genius is to combine two roles: a story of origins (of the world, of the tribes of Israel) and a code of law. As a result, our Jewish religio-cultural identity is intertwined with our behaviour to others in the world.

In particular, the twin commandments of ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ (Leviticus 19:18) and ‘love the stranger as yourself’ (Leviticus 19:34) are historical firsts – placing all of Israel, and all those aliens who have come to live among Israel, under one law. For Israel and stranger alike, one law applies – regardless of nation, tribe, wealth or power.

Torah also insists on protections for the socially vulnerable. The refrain to protect the ‘stranger’ is mentioned over fifty times in the Five Books of Moses – along with the commandment to care for the ‘orphan and widow’.

Why this care for those who are not like us? Torah blends two answers: one derived from Adam and Eve, the other from the very roots of the formation of the Jewish people.

Twice in Genesis, Torah tells us that God created mankind in his own image. The first, Genesis 1:27, states that Adam, the first man, was formed in God’s image. Shortly thereafter, in Genesis 5:1, we read that Adam and ‘Adam’s line’ share God’s ‘likeness’. All of humanity, in all our wonderful diversity – contain within us an equal share of the divine.

Torah’s other rationale for justice involves and revolves around the theme of Israel as minority – as ‘strangers in a strange land’. God tells Abraham that his children will be strangers in Egypt. Israel’s enslavement there is presented as an abuse of Israel-as-minority by

Pharaoh. Even as Moses writes the final chapters of Deuteronomy, it is clear that Torah requires of us to care for the vulnerable, the strangers-within-us; and that one law, Torah’s law, applies to all parts of society.

“Learn to do good. Devote yourselves to justice. Aid the wronged.” – social justice in the Prophets

Justice was a preoccupation of the prophets of Israel, from Samuel (c.1050 BCE) to Malachi (c.430 BCE). Famously, we find God, in Isaiah 1:11-17, rejecting an Israel that is ritually pure, but which lacks social justice. Instead of ‘sacrifices, oblations, incense and observance of new moons and sabbaths’, God cries out His demand:

“Learn to do good. Devote yourselves to justice; Aid the wronged. Uphold the rights of the orphan; Defend the cause of the widow.”

The prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zachariah and Malachi all return to this theme of Justice – for the vulnerable, the stranger, the widow and the orphan – in their prophetic writings.

The Rabbis and Talmudists: “He who saves one life is as if he has saved the whole world.”

The Judaism of the Rabbis is predicated on the sanctity and dignity of all human life. The Rabbis of the first millennium CE expounded and elucidated the principles of Torah into lessons on how individuals, groups and states should interact, and the obligations of society to the vulnerable.

Two of the most famous Rabbis of all time – Hillel and Akiva – are closely associated with Judaism’s requirement to care for others. Rabbi Hillel is famous for his explication of the Golden Rule – “That which is hateful to you do not do to another; that is the entire Torah, and the rest is its interpretation. Go study.” (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31A).

Another of Hillel’s axioms begins, famously, with a call for looking after our own selves – “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”. But the verse then challenges us to think and act for other people as well as ourselves “When I am for myself (alone), what am I?” (Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) 1:14)

Rabbi Akiva held the reputation of being compassionate towards the sick, the needy, and the poor. The Midrashic text, Genesis Rabbah, records a debate between Akiva and his contemporary, Ben Azzai, as to what is the ‘central principle of Torah’. Akiva argues for ‘Love Thy Neighbour As Thyself’ (Leviticus 19:18); Ben Azzai argues for Genesis 5:1 (‘This is the record of Adam’s line’- discussed above). What emerges from the debate, in a summary provided by Rabbi Tanhuma, is that any action which shames an individual is also an insult to God.

Other texts also leverage the insight that mankind   was created in the likeness of God to describe the duty of each individual to other people. The Mishnah argues for the importance of each individual life, for each person is a world in him or herself and “He who destroys one life, it is as if he has destroyed the whole world; and he who saves one life, it is as if he has saved the whole world” (Mishna Sanhedrin 4:5)

Maimonides: live a life full of loving- kindness, judgement and righteousness

In Guide for the Perplexed, Maimonides, the great twelfth century Rabbinic authority, teaches that mankind’s duty is to emulate ‘God’s ways’ on Earth (imitatio dei). But how can we know what ‘God’s ways’ are?

Maimonides finds the answer in Jeremiah 9:23 – “I am the Lord which exercise hesed, mishpat and tzedakah (loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness) in the earth. For in these things I delight.” Maimonides devotes the final pages of the Guide to explaining the meaning of these three Hebrew terms which together describe the gold standard for moral behaviour.

Judaism – a wellspring for Human Rights

The classic Jewish texts of the first 2500 years call us again and again – first as Israel, then as Jews – to accept our responsibilities as individuals and as a nation to care for other people, and act to justice, compassion and loving-kindness to those people we find in pain, or those who are vulnerable in society.

These are the foundations for ethical behaviour between individuals, between peoples, and between nations. Generations of Jews have been educated to hold these foundations in the highest esteem. In the past five hundred years, as the world began its slow crawl into modernity, it was these values which shaped the encounters between the world’s Jewish communities and the peoples and monarchs with whom they lived. From these encounters would emerge the legal principles which, over time, would be known as human rights.

The Ten Commandments, Israel’s law code

Read or download Making the Jewish Case for Human Rights in the UK as a PDF

Making the Jewish Case for Human Rights – Modern Day Slavery

As survivors of slavery in Egypt and in Nazi Europe, the Jewish community has a powerful voice in raising awareness of modern day slavery, and in helping those affected.

Someone is in slavery if:

  • They are forced to work – through mental or physical threat
  • They are owned or controlled by an ‘employer’, usually through mental or physical abuse or the threat of abuse
  • They are dehumanised, treated as a commodity or bought and sold as ‘property’
  • They are physically constrained or have restrictions placed on their freedom of movement.

In 2015 the UK passed the Modern Slavery Act (MSA). Provisions within the Act include an increase in maximum sentences for trafficking offenders, assured protection for victims and the establishment of the UK’s first Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner.

“This is the great human rights issue of our time”

Prime Minister Theresa May

Modern slavery exists in many forms – including forced labour, forced marriage and human trafficking. There are over 40 million people in modern day slavery around the world. In the United Kingdom, the Home Office estimates that 13,000 people are victims of slavery or trafficking (however the number estimated by civil society organisations is close to 100,000).

René Cassin campaigns for the implementation of a long-term and holistic support system for survivors of modern day slavery and human trafficking. We call for a smarter, more humane treatment for those victims who come forward and, where necessary, for them to be given greater rights.

However, there is wider sector agreement that the Act needs ‘to put victims at the heart of everything we do’ and ensure a longer support system for victims of modern day slavery.

René Cassin – a voice in Parliament

We and our partners have argued that the provisions of the MSA, though welcome, do not go far enough, and urge government to extend the specialist support provided for victims from 45 days to 12 months. 45 days is far too short a time for victims to recover from the brutalising and dehumanising conditions that most have experienced.

René Cassin has made several submissions to Parliament, presenting evidence that the MSA is not working as it should. We have shown that immigration regulations often take priority over the victims’ rights to support from the MSA. This was the focus of our case in our submission to the Home Affairs Select Committee consultation on slavery as well as the Parliamentary consultation initiated by Frank Field MP in 2018.

Awareness in the Jewish community

National campaigns by our partners are creating awareness across the UK. We have been working hard to support these efforts by tailoring national messages to the Jewish community. We have talked to pupils at Jewish schools and to communities in synagogues. We dedicated our Human Rights Shabbat in both 2016 and 2017 to the issue of modern day slavery and published a resource pack for Rabbis and community leaders to reference in their sermons and newsletters. We regularly mobilise our supporters and members of the Jewish community to raise awareness of modern day slavery with their MPs, especially in advance of Parliamentary debates.

“Together with René Cassin, we fundraised for the Snowdrop Project, a charity based in Sheffield, which provides long-term, community support to empower survivors of human trafficking. RSY-Netzer is so proud of the £350 raised to support survivors of human trafficking. Crucial to our movement’s ideology is the importance of Tikkun Olam – repairing the world. Improving the lives of victims of human trafficking in the UK allows us to start locally and extend ourselves beyond.”

Lara Glantz, Movement worker for RSY-Netzer

With our guide for small and medium business designed to ensure compliance with anti-slavery best practice in supply chains, we encourage businesses to commit to tackling modern day slavery.

Inspiring our youth in the fight against slavery

The issue of slavery is one which motivates our community’s youth. We received many excellent, thoughtful and moving responses to our 2017 essay competition, judged by legal journalist Joshua Rozenberg, which was devoted to the issue of modern day slavery. Two of the winners became volunteer activists dedicated to addressing the issue of slavery.

René Cassin and the Chief Rabbi

In 2017, we introduced Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis to Kevin Hyland, the UK’s first Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner. Together with the Chief Rabbi, we communicated the Jewish community’s horror at the re-emergence of slavery in our times. In an article he later published, the Chief Rabbi issued a call to arms to the UK Jewish community, arguing that ‘slavery demands our urgent attention’.

“The foundations of Jewish belief stand on the principle that all people are created in the image of God and every single person, deserves to be treated with respect. Speaking out against the flagrant violations of human dignity implicit in this crime, should be in our DNA.”

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

Read or download Making the Jewish Case for Human Rights in the UK as a PDF

Making the Jewish Case for Human Rights – Safeguarding the Future

Modern human rights laws are the direct result of the civilised world’s response to the horrors of the Holocaust. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the European Convention on Human Rights were both drawn up to say, ‘Never Again!’ and to protect people from oppressive governments.

Defending this legacy requires more than just campaigning on individual human rights issues. For without an understanding of the values that underpin the human rights framework, the victories of the past seven decades will constantly be at risk.

René Cassin is committed to remaking the case for human rights and values with all the people, leaders, communities and national institutions whom we meet. The human rights legacy bequeathed to us by the generation who survived the Second World War and Holocaust needs constant reinvigoration within the Jewish community and within the broader public sphere. This is a mission we proudly undertake.

Reinvigorating Human Rights through our partnerships

René Cassin has worked across the institutions of the Jewish community to create support for human rights. We have seen human rights become part of the official language of the Board of Deputies, leading Jewish newspapers, Rabbis and communities.

We have also ensured that the voice of the Jewish community has been heard in the national and international institutions charged with interpreting, defending and legislating for human rights. We have presented the Jewish case for human rights to the UK Government and, notably, to the United Nations 2017 Periodic Review of Human Rights in the UK.

We are also members of UK’s most important human rights advocacy group – the Human Rights Alliance – and ensure that its lobbying and advocacy of Government on this issue is always informed by our community’s experiences and values.

“The European Convention on Human Rights, on which the Human Rights Act is based, was Europe’s response to the horror of the Holocaust. As leaders and members within the Jewish community, we would oppose any attempt to water down a document that gives practical expression to the idea that all people deserve to be treated with dignity and receive equal access to justice.”

Letter signed by 50 Rabbis to the Justice Secretary

Mobilising the Jewish community to defend Human Rights

How the Human Rights Act helps ordinary people – Premiere of the film Sunrise, Not Sunset

Our efforts to date have shown that the UK’s Jewish community retains a huge interest in and passion for the post-war framework of universal human rights. We regularly ask lay leaders and Rabbis to join in support of our campaign, reminding the government about the need to put this country at the forefront of protecting and promoting human rights, through keeping the UK’s Human Rights Act and our continued commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights

To bring the threat to our post-War human rights legacy to a wider audience, we have run a series of public lectures, panel discussions and discussion forums. Very often, we have had to move our event to a larger venue to cope with sell-out crowds. These events have seen some of the UK’s most distinguished supporters of human rights articulating both the threat to universal human rights, and the importance of preserving them.

René Cassin Parashot Project – Human Rights Thought for the Week

Our annual Human Rights Shabbat helps us raise awareness of human rights and contemporary human rights issues in synagogues, youth groups and other community organisations around the country. Human Rights Shabbat takes place on the closest Shabbat to International Human Rights Day on 10th December. We provide programming, speakers and resources so that at least one day each year, Jewish communities celebrate human rights.

Read or download Making the Jewish Case for Human Rights in the UK as a PDF

Making the Jewish Case for Human Rights – René Cassin and the Future of Human Rights

Growing the next generation of Jewish Human Rights Activists in the UK

One of our core objectives is to develop the next generation of Jewish human rights activists. We do this by providing our young and passionate supporters with the inspiration, knowledge, and skills that empower them to defend and evolve universal human rights in the future.

Partly, this is about informing and raising awareness in schools, youth groups, and communities via our annual Human Rights Shabbat. It is also about making ourselves open to young people (Jewish and non-Jewish) at every stage – from bnei mitzvah to secondary school students experiencing work for the first time, to university students and graduates who intern with us. Everyone involved does real work on real issues – not ‘just the photocopying’ and tea runs.

A Fellowship Programme session

The centrepiece of our activity is our Fellowship Programme (supported by the AJA), which brings together a cohort of exceptional professionals to explore human rights issues through a unique Jewish lens.

The programme is designed to broaden the understanding of human rights principles and Jewish visions of a just society through the study of Jewish experience and values and of contemporary international human rights issues.

This is then harnessed to create a movement of Jewish social activists, who will be equipped with the knowledge and skills to promote social justice and human rights in the UK

“The Fellowship Programme opened my eyes to a whole variety of human rights issues. Throughout this process I have been continually challenged to think about these in a Jewish context and consider the multitude of ways that solidarity is a Jewish value.”

Sophie Shall, 2017 Fellow

The legacy we leave to the next generation

Today’s modern human rights framework is the legacy of the vision and contribution of our namesake Monsieur René Cassin and other Jewish human rights heroes. To preserve this legacy, we invest in the next generation, ensuring that we too leave a legacy – a cohort of empowered activist, committed to human rights.

“A pivotal moment in my life… from the moment I stepped into the office I was made part of the René Cassin team. I was given work that I felt was valuable and allowed me to simultaneously help the cause, but also to absorb knowledge and open my eyes to the reality of the world around me.”

Hilary Trimarchi, Work Experience 2018

Read or download Making the Jewish Case for Human Rights in the UK as a PDF

A Human Rights milestone – newsletter 7 March 2018


Dear Supporter

This year is a human rights milestone – the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration was the civilised world’s response to the horrors of the Holocaust. Noting that “disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind” the UDHR said “Never Again!” and declared that human rights for all individuals, everywhere are “ … the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”.

Our namesake, the French-Jewish lawyer Monsieur René Cassin has been called “the Father of the UDHR”. So this year we are celebrating the vision, and remembering the origins of this first great human rights treaty with a series of events and activities. Follow us on Twitter or Instagram to make sure you get all the latest updates on our UDHR anniversary programme.

And here are the first of our events to mark the 70th anniversary of the UDHR … we hope to see you at one or both.

 ‘Liberty, Justice, Dignity’ – I will be joined by journalist Jonathan Freedland, author Dr. Susannah Heschel,  human rights lawyer Adam Wagner and Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, for a lively debate on the UDHR’s achievements and shortcomings – Monday 12 March, 8.30pm – at New North London Synagogue, London N3 2SY

 ‘Wine, Cheese and Human Rights’ – get an introduction to the unique Jewish contribution to the modern human rights framework and a tour of Bevis Marks synagogue, accompanied by excellent Kosher wines and cheese – with the Bevis Marks Sephardi Community – Tuesday 20 March, 7pm – at Bevis Marks Synagogue, London EC3A 7LH

On the subject of celebrating … earlier this week René Cassin helped organise ‘Together in Tune’ – with music and dance from Jewish and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, As I told the audience “Only when we stand together in solidarity can we achieve real change”

And on remembering the UDHR … our annual ‘Human Writes’ essay competition asks “Towering Monument or Crumbling Relic? – At 70, is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights still fit for purpose?” – entries will be judged by leading legal commentator, Joshua Rozenberg. Winner will receive £100 and shortlisted entries will be published on our website. Fire up your laptop and get your essay to us by Monday 16 April.

In our last newsletter we reported that we organised a meeting between the Chief Rabbi and the UK’s Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland.

The Chief Rabbi followed this meeting up with a hard-hitting piece in the Jewish Chronicle in which he noted Slavery is all around us … it is likely that every one of us has unwittingly encountered and perhaps even benefited from modern-day slavery”.

The Chief Rabbi’s intervention coincided with our Human Rights Shabbat that shone a light into the dark corners of modern slavery and human trafficking.

Our website features regular reports from our campaign teams – recent highlights include:

Hannah Swirksy joined the René Cassin team as an intern in late 2016. For the past 14 months, she has been Parliamentary Researcher for Barry Sheerman, MP for Huddersfield. Her move back to René Cassin sees the gamekeeper turn poacher – her experience at the heart of Parliamentary politics will be an invaluable asset in our campaigning work.

Hannah is currently studying for a Masters in Human Rights at the London School of Economics, having graduated from Bristol University with First Class Honours in Politics and International Relations.

Hannah will be joining us as Campaigns Officer at the end of March, so expect to hear from her shortly thereafter.

As a human rights charity, we respect your privacy and want to make sure we only send you emails you want to read – please take a moment to update your preferences here

And let us know if you have any comments or questions about any aspect of René Cassin’s work please email me via mia.hasenson-gross@renecassin.org

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was an enlightened response to the populist nationalism and intolerance of the 1930s and 40s. Today, these same problems are again on the rise. And, once again, human rights must be our retort. As the UDHR turns 70, please help René Cassin’s work to promote the Declaration’s vision of a world of freedom, justice and peace.

We rely on the generosity of our supporters for the funds to continue our vital work. You can make a one-off or regular donation to René Cassin via our website at www.renecassin.org/donate/

Thank you

MHG signtaure
Mia Hasenson-Gross
Director

Will the Government keep its Brexit promise on human rights? – newsletter 29 November 2017


Dear Supporter

Will the EU Withdrawal Bill affect your rights?

The Government has suggested that the Bill is just a technical ‘copy and paste’ of EU law into UK law – and that all current rights would be preserved at this stage. Not so. René Cassin has joined 30 other organisations to express our serious concern that, if it is not amended, the Bill will diminish our rights and allow Ministers to make further sweeping changes without Parliament’s approval. As I write, it appears the Government has listened – and promised changes that will retain all our rights. But we must ensure the Government honours that promise. This episode reminds us of two important things – 1) constant vigilance is essential; and 2) we can all make a difference in shaping a post-Brexit UK.

On the issue of Brexit and human rights, Keir Starmer is one of the leading experts – as a former human rights lawyer now turned Shadow Brexit Secretary. At a René Cassin meeting last month he was (in his words) ‘put through his paces’ by a packed and lively audience. He made a passionate plea for internationalism and reminded us that modern human rights came about in response to the horrors of the Second World War. You can view a full recording of the event, and read press reports via our website.

Building support in our campaign against modern slavery – last year, the UK’s Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland, said ‘René Cassin is in a unique position to bring change where change is needed most’. And at the end of September, we organised a meeting between Kevin and the Chief Rabbi to discuss the ‘shocking reality of modern slavery happening in plain sight’ and agree to work together on the issue in 2018.

‘I cried from joy’ – René Cassin helps bring practical support for survivors of human trafficking – this Autumn, along with the youth movement RSY-Netzer, we supported Sheffield’s Snowdrop Project – which helps survivors’ recovery by refurbishing the flats they are placed in.

Success! Home Office agrees to expand support for victims – René Cassin has long argued that Government policy put too much emphasis on prosecuting offenders, and too little on helping victims of slavery. So, we are delighted that the HO has announced considerable improvements in the support services it provides.

Solidarity on hate crime in Leeds – In March we brought together the Board of Deputies and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller organisations in a landmark meeting to agree mutual support on the issues of hate crime and discrimination. To put that agreement into practice, we organised a series of events in Leeds in October and have a further visit to Brighton planned for 2018.

Remembering Monsieur René Cassin – ‘the father of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ – 5 October marked the 130th anniversary of our illustrious namesake – read more about the man who, when told he had won the Nobel Peace Prize, said ‘I would be happier if there were a little more justice in the world.’

Commemorating Kristallnacht – “What have Human Rights got to do with us?”, asks Debora Singer in her moving piece – “Why do we have the Human Rights Act? Why does it say what it does?  The answer lies in the experience of our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.”

Human rights thought for the week – earlier this month we launched our Parashot Project. This connects each weekly portion of the Torah to a distinct human rights theme presented by leading Jewish thinkers, Rabbis and educators from across the UK.

Because we were slaves – sign up for our Human Rights Shabbat on 8 and 9 December – including a comprehensive resource pack and ideas for activities, sermons and study sessions.

As you can see, we’re busy! But there is a great deal still to do – and we need your help. We rely on the generosity of our supporters for the funds to continue our vital work. You can make a one-off or regular donation to René Cassin via our website at www.renecassin.org/donate/

Thank you

MHG signtaure
Mia Hasenson-Gross
Director

Intern-al Reflections

Alice Akca begun her internship with René Cassin at the Beginning of November 2019. She is currently studying a Master’s of Science in Bioethics at Kings College, London. Though from a background of science, Alice’s Kurdish-Turkish ethnicity has spurred her interest in human rights. She hopes to utilise what she has learnt at René Cassin in future policy and advocacy work.

My internship at René Cassin is coming to an end, as is 2019. The new year is a time when we reflect on back on our successes and failures over the last year and envision our hopes for the future. Interning at René Cassin has given me an invaluable insight into the interconnectedness of Jewish values, experiences and universal human rights, such as the need for solidarity and the importance of community engagement. As Eleanor Roosevelt expressed in 1958 “Where, after all, do human rights begin? In small places, close to home.”

What I have taken from my time here

I started this internship with a passion for human rights, but not much experience. I also started this internship knowing little about the Jewish experience in the UK, though not obvious to me at the time. The Jewish values of compassion, community and courage are something I will take with me as I continue to advocate for human rights. René Cassin has taught me the importance of minorities standing together in a time where it seems the world is pulling us apart, thus we must protect the cherished values and experiences many of us share. Interning for René Cassin during the 2019 General Election campaign, I learnt to prioritise the need for action over words, positivity over negativity and appreciation over dismay. What happens now is most important, as 2020 is set to see a change to human rights in the UK. Over the last seven weeks I have observed the success of René Cassin’s CutItOut campaign, the annual Human Rights Shabbat and Modern Slavery Workshops. I have also witnessed the moral and timely response the organisation has had to the ongoing Uyghur crisis.  Finally, I have had the pleasure of learning what it means to engage and empower the British Jewish community in the fight for universal justice.  

What I hope to see for René Cassin

In 2020, I hope René Cassin continues to flourish with the support of their interns, volunteers, and continue in their endeavour to contribute to human rights education with even more interactive and inspiring events. It will be a significant year for the Human Rights Act, and I hope to see René Cassin at the forefront to make sure the human rights we cherish are protected. I hope to see continued collaboration with amazing partner organisations, whom together enable our small organisations to have a big voice in the fight for human rights.  I hope to see more workshops that engage with younger members of the community, as values of kindness and tolerance are a part of our human nature and should be nurtured by future generations. I hope to see more blogs like this one, expressing real lived experiences of people from marginalised communities, in an effort to listen to each other more. I hope for more synagogues to join in on next year’s Human Rights Shabbat, a perfect time for reflection and raising awareness of the issues that affect us all in the UK. As 2020 marks the 70th Anniversary of the signing of the European Convention on Human Rights, I also hope that, as the UK changes its relationship with the European Union, our conversations centre on what’s most important: how we treat each other, and champion human rights.

‘Why We Must All Fight Slavery’ – Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

‘It is likely that every one of us has unwittingly encountered and perhaps even benefited from modern-day slavery.’ – Chief Rabbi Mirvis

On the 10th December 1948, 69 years ago, our namesake Monsieur René Cassin helped write the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Every year we mark the closest Shabbat to that day with Human Rights Shabbat. This year nearly 40 communities celebrated Human Rights Shabbat 5778. Learning about and discussing the issue of modern slavery and human trafficking in the UK.

If you have not had time to look at the resources you can find them through this link here.

You can think about how to approach the issue for the next 12 months through our 2018 anti-slavery supporter calendar.

In the lead up to Human Rights Shabbat Chief Rabbi Mirvis wrote a moving piece in the Jewish Chronicle arguing that ‘the time to speak out and act is now.’ Read his full piece here.

Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah wrote this prayer for those enslaved for her community to use on the day.

If you are thinking about how your community can get involved in 2018 on this issue then do not hesistate to get in touch with us at info@renecassin.org and we will work with you and your community.

 

It’s not all gloom and doom – newsletter 22 December 2016

Dear Supporter

How will history judge 2016? Momentus? Unsettling? The end of an era?

Since their genesis in the atrocities of the Second World War, human rights have increasingly been acknowledged as an essential ingredient of a modern, civilised society. But is all that about to change? Human rights are, by definition, universal – open to all, regardless of gender, race, creed … or any of the distinctions that make each of us unique. Can they survive in the new mood of narrow nationalism that seems to threaten domestic and international politics?

At René Cassin we say ‘Yes, they can!’. There are many reasons to be cautiously optimistic – and many ways you can help us keep the flame of human rights alight.


Earlier this month, René Cassin’s Human Rights Shabbat campaign attracted:

  • a record response from synagogues, including one in Barcelona
  • praise from Kevin Hyland, the UK’s Anti-Slavery Commissioner: “I am pleased to see faith groups taking admirable action against this gross injustice. Rene Cassin is in a unique position to bring change where change is needed most”
  • the attention of the Jewish News

You can download our comprehensive resource pack on modern slavery here

And enter our ‘Human Writes’ essay competition on Modern Slavery

  • Our Asylum Workshops, run in November with the NGO Right to Remain were our way of saying ‘It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness’. Two of our delegates tweeted:
    • Thanks for excellent workshop on hostile & madly complex asylum process…how does anyone have a chance?
    • Thank you for a hugely informative (and heartbreaking) workshop. Feeling motivated!
  • And great news at the end of November – when the Government reversed its 500% hike in fees for Immigration Tribunals. René Cassin was active in the campaign against this punitive increase which denied asylum-seekers access to justice.

  • What does Brexit mean for human rights? With the issue set to dominate UK politics in 2017, we’re delighted that Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer has accepted our invitation to discuss this and other issues – at JW3 on 11 May 2017. We’ll circulate booking details as soon as they’re finalised
  • Board of Deputies support for human rights – the board published its manifesto on 7 December. It’s good to see it support the Human Rights Act, condemn modern slavery and human trafficking, and call for urgent action on anti-Roma discrimination

  • Are you a graduate in human rights, law or related subjects with strong writing and research skills? We urgently need an intern to help our campaigning and educational work – more details here
  • We are looking for volunteers to get involved in our Campaign Groups on:
    • Indefinite detention of asylum seekers
    • Discrimination against Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities
    • Modern Day Slavery
    • Repeal of the Human Rights ActInterested? Please email sam.grant@renecassin.org
  • Hummus & Human Rights – the first session in this series of events (‘Politics and Human Rights’, with Professor Francesca Klug OBE), was a great success. We’re planning a further five sessions in 2017. The series is open to all alumni and ‘Friends of René Cassin’. You can find out more about becoming a Friend here.

On being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1968, our namesake Monsieur René Cassin famously said “I would be happier if there were a little more justice in the world”.

Here at René Cassin we are committed to keeping his legacy alive. But we need your help. We rely on the generosity of our supporters for the funds to continue our vital work. You can make a one-off or regular donation to René Cassin via our website at www.renecassin.org/donate/

As always, if you have any comments or questions about René Cassin and our work, I would love to hear from you – please email me at mia.hasenson-gross@renecassin.org.

Hanukkah Sameach and Happy Christmas to all. And together let’s make 2017 a human rights year to remember.

MHG signtaure
Mia Hasenson-Gross
Director


René Cassin is a registered charity, number 1117472

Today (18th October) is UK Anti-Slavery Day

‘No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms’. – 1948, Article Four, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Slavery isn’t just something that happens in faraway sweatshops and on fishing boats, modern slavery is a present problem in the UK and exists in many forms – including forced labour, sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

The Home Office have estimated that today there are as many as 13,000 people in the UK living in modern slavery and the Prime Minister, Theresa May, recently described modern slavery as “the great human rights issue of our time”.

Slavery is illegal everywhere yet there are more people in slavery now than at any other point in human history. That, at last count, was around 45.8m men, women and children. 26% of those enslaved are under the age of 18.

In 2015, the Modern Slavery Act was passed. The Act included assured protection for victims and the establishment of the UK’s first ever Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner. As a result of the Act, the number of identified victims has risen by 40% and there have been more prosecutions for slavery offences. However, there exists ongoing gaps in legislation and service provision.

The Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner Kevin Hyland in his annual report stated that there are “too many gaps in the system for victims to fall through” and victim identification and care is currently his first priority.

The Human Trafficking Foundation have also published a new report, Day 46, which highlights the lack of long-term support given to victims of modern slavery and trafficking.

Continued efforts to end modern slavery are vital and we must work to increase awareness of these issues. You can find out more about what’s going on this week by following the hashtag #AntiSlaveryDay

Get Involved!

On 10th December, René Cassin is running Human Rights Shabbat. This year we are focusing on the theme of modern day slavery. So far over 30 different communities, schools, youth movements and synagogues are getting involved.

If your community is interested in taking part, you can find more information here and you can sign up to Human Rights Shabbat 5777 today by emailing info@renecassin.org and registering interest.

abolition_of_slavery_the_glorious_1st_of_august_1838

Latest news from René Cassin – newsletter 29 September 2016

Dear Supporter,

Since our last newsletter, the prospects for human rights protections and the treatment of vulnerable minorities in the UK have taken a worrying turn. Now more than ever it is important that René Cassin continues to work with you to protect human rights in the UK. We have highlighted some of our work over the last few months and some exciting upcoming ways for you to engage with us.

Asylum and Immigration Detention 

Sign Up for our Asylum Workshops – Want to help people who are going through the asylum process, but don’t know how the system works? Due to popular demand we are repeating our asylum workshops on 8 & 15 November. Read more and sign up.

Discrimination against Gypsies, Roma and Travellers 

  • Speaking up against hate crime – as a Jewish organisation, we are concerned about the recent rise in hate crime. We know that many such crimes go unreported, leaving victims feeling isolated and ignored. This is particularly true of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers where, although 98% experience hate crimes, only 27% seek some form of redress. We are determined to help stamp out this ‘last bastion of acceptable racism’. We have given evidence to the Home Office’s recent hate crime inquiry and are fully supporting the Traveller Movement’s #OperationReportHate – which includes a number of ways you can get involved in the campaign.
  • Remembering Roma victims of genocide – on 2 August we attended the annual memorial to Roma murdered by the Nazis. It was heartening to see a large Jewish contingent showing solidarity at the event.

Slavery and human trafficking 

  • Building on the Modern Slavery Act 2016 – the Act is a welcome development, but slavery and human trafficking remain endemic in the UK. We are determined to keep up the positive political momentum, and recently organised a roundtable event to discuss options for greater Jewish community involvement in these crucial issues.

Human rights education

  • Hands-on human rights – this summer our first-ever work experience students helped us in a wide variety of tasks. Read why one of them was moved to report ‘Most of all I learnt why human rights are important, especially as Jews.’

Human Rights Shabbat

  • René Cassin have run ‘Human Rights Shabbat’ for the past eight years. Human Rights Shabbat falls on the nearest Shabbat to World Human Rights Day. This year that is on the 10th December. It’s an opportunity for every Jewish community in the UK to engage with the issue of human rights. This year we are focusing on the theme of modern day slavery and asking the question ‘what does a Jewish campaign to end modern day slavery look like?’ If your community is interested in taking part you can sign up to Human Rights Shabbat 5777 today by emailing info@renecassin.org.

Please support our work
We rely heavily on the kindness of our supporters for the funds to continue this vital work. As we approach the Jewish New Year, please help us protect and promote the rights of some of our most marginalised and vulnerable neighbours.

One of our summer work experience students told us: ‘There are so many groups whose human rights are being exploited. René Cassin helps these people and that’s why I’m proud to have worked here.’

You can make a one-off or regular donation to René Cassin via our website at www.renecassin.org/donate/

As always, if you have any comments or questions about René Cassin and our work, I would love to hear from you – please email me at mia.hasenson-gross@renecassin.org.

Wishing you Shana Tovah – a happy and sweet Jewish New Year to all.

MHG signtaure
Mia Hasenson-Gross
Director

Our History

René  Cassin 2000 – 2014

‘There will never be peace on this planet as long as human rights are being violated in any part of the world’

René Cassin was a French-Jewish jurist, law professor and judge. He co-drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1968.

He helped found the Consultative Council of Jewish Organisations – dedicated to providing encouragement from a Jewish perspective to the newly founded UN human rights system.

René Cassin was born on 5 October 1887  in Bayonne, France. Having served in the First World War, he founded The French Federation of Disabled War Veterans, a charity for men permanently injured in the war. He remained its President or Honorary President until 1940.

Cassin became a Professor of Law at the University of Aix-en-Provence and then the University of Paris. He was a French delegate to the League of Nations from 1924 to 1938. Here he pressed for progress on disarmament and developing institutions to aid the resolution of international conflicts.

He worked tirelessly on the development of international human rights protection, urging the creation of an international court to punish war crimes in 1942. He was a delegate to the UN Commission on Inquiry into War Crimes (1943-1945) and frequently served as a delegate for the French Government to the UN General Assembly and UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). Cassin was president of the Hague Court of Arbitration from 1950-1960.

René Cassin died in 1976.

2000Consultative Council of Jewish Organisations (CCJO) takes a group of young professionals to the UN Commission on Human Rights (since reformed as the Human Rights Council) in Geneva. Dismayed by the absence of a Jewish voice on universal human rights, they are inspired to set up René Cassin to raise awareness of human rights and encourage activism within the Jewish community.

2003 – René Cassin hosts a series of public events featuring high-profile speakers such as Dame Ruth Deech, Dr Indarjit Singh and Peter Tatchell.

2005 – We launch an education programme for UK secondary schools on genocide, immigration and childrens’ rights reaching 3, 000 Jewish secondary school children.  As part of a campaign for restitution for victims of genocide, René Cassin representatives negotiate the first-ever reference to group rights in a UN instrument (the Basic Principles on Rights to Victims).

2007 – We launch the Jewish Human Rights Network with the support of the Chief Rabbi and the Attorney General of the United Kingdom.

2010 – We increasingly use advocacy work to complement our educational offerings. We begin highlighting discrimination against Gypsies, Travellers and Roma.

2011 – We develop a Modern Slavery Haggadah Companion and Human Rights Shabbat Resource for the Jewish community.

2012René Cassin Fellowship Programme on Judaism and human rights established.

Make a donation today to … Stop Uyghur Genocide

www.gofundme.com/f/stop-uyghur-genocide

Help Rahima and her fellow Uyghurs

Since introducing her to the Jewish community at a public meeting in May 2019, René Cassin has been working with Rahima Mahmut, UK Project Director of the World Uyghur Congress to publicise the terrible plight of her people in China’s Xinjiang Province.

Rahima has launched an appeal to raise £100,000 to fund a campaign to end the persecution of Uyghurs and hold the perpetrators to account. Please support Rahima and her fellow Uyghurs by making a donation today.

A human rights crisis is unfolding in China

The Chinese government is systematically destroying the culture and identity of at one million Uyghur Muslims and other minorities.

There is overwhelming evidence that Uyghurs and other minorities are being rounded up and interned in ‘re-education’ camps where they face starvation, torture, slave labour, rape, forced abortion, sterilisation and organ harvesting. Their hair is forcibly cut off and used to make wigs sold around the world. They are also forced to act against their Muslim faith – made to drink alcohol and eat port.

Uyghur persecution is not restricted to the camps. Outside the camps, Uyghurs are used as forced labour; girls are made to marry Han Chinese men; children are sent to boarding schools that forbid the Uyghur language and religion; and thousands of mosques and burial grounds are destroyed.

Your donation will support a multi-community cross-party campaign fighting for Uyghur rights and demanding urgent change, including:

  1. An independent UN investigation into atrocities in the Uyghur region
  2. An independent tribunal into crimes against humanity and genocide against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities
  3. Magnitsky-style sanctions against individual perpetrators
  4. Government action to hold the Chinese government accountable, including possibile coordinated sanctions with allies
  5. Proscription of companies and institutions facilitating the persecution of Uyghurs
  6. Boycott of products produced by Uyghur slave labour or companies facilitating Uyghur persecution

The campaign will not end until the Chinese government closes the camps; releases all prisoners; ends forced labour, sterilisation and organ harvesting; restores the Uyghur people’s religious and cultural freedoms; and allows Uyghurs to contact family abroad.

Please show your support. Make a donation to end the persecution of Uyghurs in China today.

www.gofundme.com/f/stop-uyghur-genocide

2020 Fellowship Programme

*** deadline for applications extended to noon, Monday 18 November ***


Are you interested in looking at human rights through a Jewish lens? If so, the René Cassin Fellowship Programme, supported by the Anglo-Jewish Association, might be just what you are looking for.

The René Cassin Fellowship Programme (RCFP) explores Jewish visions for a just society and provides individuals with the knowledge, skills and contacts needed to enhance their activism in the areas of social justice and human rights. The RCFP brings together a cohort of exceptional professionals to explore human rights issues from a uniquely Jewish perspective.

About the programme

The ten-month Fellowship Programme has three main components. The first is a series of knowledge based sessions concentrating on current issues such as slavery, human rights protections and asylum. This process will be facilitated by leading human rights activists and communal leaders.

As an RCFP Fellow, you will:

  • Learn from leading campaigners, lawyers and academics on current human rights issues
  • Take part in a study trip exploring human rights challenges and meeting activists
  • Get ‘skilled up’ on how to campaign for change
  • Conceive, design and run your own human rights project using the knowledge, skills and contacts you have gained during the programme

Note new deadline: Apply by noon, Monday 18 November to be one of our 2020 Fellows

Download the application form here.

Are you eligible?

The RCFP has no fixed age limit and the cohort benefits from a real mixture of age and experience. If you are interested in increasing your knowledge of human rights and Jewish visions of a just society, the RCFP is right for you. You will emerge equipped with the skills, knowledge, passion and contacts to become a leader with René Cassin in the human rights and social justice arena.

The ideal candidate

To be a René Cassin Fellow, you must be able to get to London for the nine monthly sessions and attend the five-day study trip in May, show a passion for social issues and be interested and open to explore those issues through the lens of Jewish values.  You must also be able to undertake a social justice project in the months following the end of the programme. Provisional dates are below:

  • Session One – 28th January
  • Session Two – 25th February
  • Session Three – 24th March
  • Session Four – 28th April
  • Session Five – 12th May
  • Study trip: 21st -24th May (Over Bank Holiday weekend)
  • Session Six – 23rd June
  • Session Seven – 14th July
  • Session Eight – 22nd September
  • Session Nine – 20th October
  • Graduation – 24th November

Click here to read our 2018 Fellows’ blogs about this year’s Session One, Session Two, Session Three and Session Four.

Costs

Fellows are expected to pay a £350 programme fee and an equivalent deposit. The deposit will be returned to you upon full completion of the ProgrammeThe programme fee covers flights and accommodation for the Budapest trip as well as the monthly sessions.

If you are unable to bear these costs, please let us know when you return the application form and we can discuss monthly instalment plans or other arrangements.

Religious observance

René Cassin is a pluralist organisation, and we welcome applicants from all levels of religious observance. If you observe Shabbat or any level of kashrut, please let us know and we will be delighted to accommodate this.

Application process

Please complete the application form and return it to info@renecassin.org by noon on Monday 18 November 2020.

Click here to download an application form.

Click here to return to our main Fellowship Programme page, where you can read about our previous cohorts and their thoughts on the Programme.

Jewish life and social action in Hungary – Saturday 25 May 2019

by Mo Makin

Despite Shabbat being ‘the day of rest’, the third day of our trip to Budapest matched the intensity of the others – high.

Like many Jews do, we started the Jewish day in a synagogue which was ‘great’ (if you pardon the pun). The Great Synagogue is a survivor of the Nazi occupation therefore, a monument of large historical significance, given that few synagogues remained standing after that period. However, the way in which history is presented in Hungary entails much controversy.

Dohány Street Great Synagogue, Budapest

We found this out on our visit to Budapest’s monument to “all the victims” of Hungary’s Nazi occupation. The monument, erected by the state, shows a vicious eagle (the Nazis) attacking the angel Gabriel (Hungary). This has been very controversial as many see the monument presenting Hungary as a total victim of the Nazis. However, many of the Hungarians were active collaborators to the Nazis. The controversy is evident to see because as you approach the monument you will find a couple dozen homemade banners and signs left by the local Jewish population and international visitors protesting the monument’s symbolism, as they state it to be an “historical revision”.

Aniko Felix, Central European University

Nevertheless, on this day, I was left more optimistic about Hungary’s future, given we saw the good work of the Haver Foundation for informal Jewish education. What I found impressive about this organisation was its ability to engage students, of all backgrounds, on who is a Jew and dispel the anti-Semitic myths and tropes that they might otherwise hear in today’s Hungary.

We ended the day by having a group discussion about our own personal choice of Jewish texts that we found relevant to human rights. The conclusion that I gauged from the rich variety of books, articles, prayers and songs that we each brought was: as Jews it is our purpose to call out to the world when we see something wrong. This trip has given me an even greater motivation to do so.

The Promise of the UDHR 70 Years on

By Rebecca Hilsenrath, Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission

My father-in-law was 28 when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted; living in New York City with his family, four thousand miles from home, survivors of the devastation of European Jewry.  He still has an Austrian accent, still hasn’t been back to Vienna and still doesn’t like policemen.  The bitter pill for him to swallow, after all these years, must be Pittsburgh, and all it stands for – that 70 years after that declaration on a December day in Paris, hatred still leads a man to walk into a baby blessing in a Shabbat morning service and murder people for being Jewish.  So what was the purpose of the UDHR and what was it all about?

There has been fabulous work done to record the testimony of my father-in-law’s generation – from the creation of the film “Shoah” to the work of the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation; organisations and individuals who foresaw that the loss of eye-witnesses would be an immense blow to the need to remember.

I think the current threat to the UDHR is an international malaise – 70 years of peace in Europe have lulled us into a sense of complacency.  We have forgotten what happens when we lose the framework of fundamental rights; we don’t see the raw truth of what man may do to man without them; we don’t understand that there are no guarantees of safety – that if we chip away at this right, or at that right, the entire structure comes down on our heads.

In biblical terms, 70 years (three score years and ten) is a man’s lifetime.  The childhood of the UDHR was post-war austerity and the Cold War, its adolescence the sixties, and it came of age when Britain joined the EU.  As the years sped by, it seems to me that the UDHR oversaw two things: a growth in inherent liberalism on the one hand and, on the other, the challenges of austerity and terror.

The architects of the UK Human Rights Act (1998) couldn’t have known that less than a year after it came into force, two planes would fly into the World Trade Centre and change the dialogue about human rights in the UK for the entire infancy of the Act.  It never had a chance to become the language, as Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, of “small places, close to home—so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world…the world of the individual person; the neighbourhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works.”   Rather less famously, Eleanor Roosevelt in her speech to the UN Assembly compared the UDHR to Magna Carta, to the Bill of Rights and to the French Declaration of the Rights of Citizens in 1789 – all big places associated with blood and violence.

In 2008, after the shocking demise of Lehman Brothers, austerity came to the country and brought its own pressure to bear.  Along with the association of human rights with Abu Qatada, the UDHR watched on while successive spending reforms disproportionately affected the most disadvantaged, and while divisions increased – as Bertrand Russell wrote “Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.”

And yet, at the same time as we have seen these threats to human rights, in its last decade, the UDHR has seen the continued growth in liberal legislation – the Gender Recognition Act, the Equality Act (encompassing nine protected characteristics, the gold standard for equality), the Same Sex Marriage Act.

Completing the cycle from WW2, through the European Accession Act and now Brexit, we are contemplating a world without the safety net EU law provides in the infrastructure of rights.  Perhaps, as the UDHR watches on from its grandfather position, we will remember the promise it offered, which we have yet fully to realise, of the relationship between a state and its citizens, within the international framework of accountability which lends force to the idea of rights.  Now is the time to do so, in the new Britain of Brexit, before we all forget too much.

 

 

Our namesake, Monsieur René Cassin has been called ‘the father of  the Universal Declaration’ – and we are marking the anniversary of the UDHR with a series of events and activities. More information here.

Please also follow us on twitter @Rene_Cassin and join the conversation using #MyUDHRLegacy

Fellowship Programme

 

 

The René Cassin – AJA Fellowship Programme (RCFP) brings together a cohort of exceptional professionals to explore human rights issues through a unique Jewish lens.

What does the RCFP entail?

Five knowledge based evening sessions looking at current human rights issues.
A trip to European city.
Four skills based evening sessions looking at the tools needed to make positive change.
A project using all of the above knowledge and skills to create change…

Who is the RCFP for?

The programme has no fixed age limit – the cohort benefits from a real mixture of age and experience. If you are interested in increasing your knowledge of human rights and Jewish visions of a just society, the RCFP is right for you.

What are the programme’s objectives?

  1. To deepen and broaden participants’ knowledge and understanding of human rights principles and Jewish visions of a just society – through the study of Jewish experience and values and contemporary international human rights issues
  2. To galvanise a movement of Jewish social activists who will be equipped with the knowledge and skills to promote social justice and human rights in the UK
  3. To create a group of deeply committed human rights advocates who are actively involved in René Cassin’s campaigning and mobilisation work

Religious observance

René Cassin is a pluralist organisation, and we welcome applicants from all levels of religious observance. If you observe Shabbat or any level of kashrut, please let us know and we will be delighted to accommodate this.

2020 Cohort

Meet the 2020 Cohort and read their motivations for taking part in the Fellowship Programme

 

2019 Cohort

Meet our new 2019 Cohort and read their motivations for applying for the Fellowship Programme.

 

2018 Cohort

Meet our 2018 Cohort of exceptional Fellows, read their reflections on the programme’s educational sessions and learn all about our 2018 study trip to Budapest.

 

2017 Cohort

Meet our 2017 Fellows and read about their trip to Budapest, where refugees, Roma and sexual minorities are under attack from Hungary’s nationalist government.

 

2015 Cohort

Read the biographies of our 2015 Fellows from the UK, USA and Israel, and learn about our first Fellowship trip to Budapest. 

 

2014 Cohort

Meet our first ever cohort of René Cassin-AJA Fellows.

2015 Budapest Study Tour

Our eight-day tour to Budapest provided René Cassin Fellows with an unparalleled opportunity to look at a country of poignant contradictions.

Located in the heart of what was once Nazi-occupied Europe, Budapest now boasts an exciting renaissance of Jewish life. In addition, Hungary is a country that, from 1947 to 1989, was ruled by a Communist dictatorship under the influence of the Soviet Union. Yet in 1956 Hungarians rose up in a democratic revolution that caught the imagination of the world. Since 1989 Hungary has been a democratic republic, but recent political trends have raised serious concerns about a move back towards repressive and anti-democratic policies.

We looked at Hungary as a case study in the challenges of contemporary human rights. We met a full range of people and institutions – public officials, political activists, NGOs, religious leaders and Jewish activists – to explore the challenges facing a country where civil liberties and human rights are at serious risk.

The Budapest Study tour is the only time that all of the RCFP Fellows – from the US, UK and Israel – are together in real time. Given the very different political and social realities of the three regions, Fellows learned as much from one another as from the array of speakers. We gave considerable time to building the bonds and deepening the relationships between members of the group. These relationships will continue through the on-going cross-regional chevrutot that will convene monthly.

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How was it for you? Fellows reflect on the Budapest trip

  • “It was really empowering to feel part of a global Jewish community that cares about human rights.” – Naama Weinberg, Israel
  • “A wonderful, inspiring week. I hope that it’s a springboard for the future and an avenue to change.” – James Masters, UK
  • “This program must continue. I have never has such a compressed experience with so much growth, so much learning and such a powerful connection to Jews across the planet.” – Mike Schwartz, US
  • “I learned that being committed to Judaism does not have to be in conflict with my commitment to human rights. Human rights can actually enhance my Jewish identity based on what I learned from the Jewish tradition.” – Carolina Rios Mandel, Israel
  • “The study tour has caused me to think more about my future role in human rights work and the extent to which I’d like to connect it overtly with my Jewish identity.” – Hannah Schraer, UK

 

Eight full days in Budapest – the RCFP study tour itinerary

Monday 8 June – Arrival in Budapest

  • Welcome and icebreakers in the Israeli Cultural Institute
  • Jewish Perspectives on Human Rights – Rabbi Sid Schwarz
  • Zionist/Israeli Perspective on Human Rights – Elan Ezrachi

Tuesday 9 June – The Legacy of the Holocaust for Human Rights

  • Tour of Holocaust Memorial Centre
  • Jewish Life in Europe: A 75-year Perspective – Dr Zsofia Kata Vincze, ELTE University
  • Introduction to Human Rights – Dénes Balázs, Director, Open Society Foundations
  • The European Human Rights System – Dr Eszter Polgár, Central European University

Wednesday 10 June – Racism and Discrimination in Europe

  • Political Scapegoating in Contemporary Hungary – Éva Simon, TASZ (Civil Liberties Union).
  • Gender and Politics in Hungary – Dr Andrea Pető, Central European University
  • LGBT issues in Hungary – Tamas Dombos, LGBT Program Director, Háttér Foundation
  • Protecting Human Rights for Europe’s Minorities – Anna-Mária Bíró, Tom Lantos Institute

Thursday 11 June – The Roma

  • The situation of the Roma in Central Europe – Katalin Barsony, Romedia.
  • Tour of Roma Ghetto in Bag – led by students from Roma NGO, Bagázs, followed by briefing and community service.
  • Tour of the Roma neighbourhood of Budapest with the UCCU Foundation – Joci Marton
  • The Rise of Extremism – Dr Peter Kreko, Political Capital

Friday 12 June – Homelessness, Jewish Budapest

  • Tour of the Jewish Quarter – Tamas Buchler
  • Human Rights for Homeless People – Dr Tessza Udvarhelyi, AVM Foundation
  • Visit to Aurora Center (Jewish cultural and community centre) – Adam Schoenberger, Eszter Susan
  • Shabbat services
  • Shabbat dinner

Shabbat 13 June

  • Text study – Rabbi Sid Schwarz
  • Parshat haShavua sessions led by Fellows
  • Emerging Jewish Options in Eastern Europe – Lutza Elek, Moishe House; Andrea Ausztrics, Dor Chadash; Gábor Majer, Teleki Shul; Bogi Palko, Young Adult Unit, Federation Of Hungarian Jewish Communities
  • Havrutot meetings
  • Havdalah led by Fellows

Sunday 14 June – Refugee Rights and Human Trafficking in Hungary

  • Fragmentation and Jewish Identity: Jews, Judaism and Tzedek – Rabbi Sid Schwarz
  • Refugee Policy – Zoltan Somogyvari, Hungarian Helsinki Committee; Behrooz, MIGSZOL
  • Human Rights Education – Peter Neumann, Haver Foundation; Flora Laszlo, UCCU Foundation
  • Jewish Community Activism for Social Justice – Mircea Cernov, Joint Distribution Committee

Monday 15 June – Closing Session and Evaluation

  • Morning gathering
  • Final group conversation
  • Evaluations