Human rights “ …are very radical ideas. They are re-engineering the basic software of human existence” creating for the first time in human history a society based on the principles of equality and dignity. These are the thoughts of barrister and blogger Adam Wagner, who with Philippe Sands, spoke at our Jewish Human Rights Heroes event to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in December. The Jewish Museum was packed to the rafters for this interesting and very lively discussion – as you can hear for yourselves in the podcast of the event.
To coincide with the 70th anniversary of the UDHR, we published Making the Jewish Case for Human Rights – an accessible and inspirational guide to the past, present and future of Jewish involvement in the development of human rights. Dip into it to read about how Jewish texts and Jewish campaigners have helped shape human rights thinking, and how René Cassin puts their ideas into action and ensures the torch is passed to a new generation.
Human rights begin in small places, close to home
The UDHR was drafted by our namesake, the French-Jewish lawyer Monsieur René Cassin. Cassin’s colleague, Eleanor Roosevelt, who chaired the UDHR drafting committee, famously said that human rights, though universal, began “… in small places, close to home”. “Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home”, she went on to say, “we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”
Inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt’s words, René Cassin will be calling on the UK’s Jewish community to uphold human rights in those ‘small places, close to home’ – the neighbourhoods where we live, the streets where we shop, and the places we work, play and relax:
- Some of our neighbours are vilified and denied the right to a home – On 4 March we coordinated a letter from 29 rabbis and Jewish community organisations to the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, to protest at the prejudicial language used in a Home Office statement about Traveller sites and the fact that Government policy was criminalising this minority and denying it the right to a home
- For too many women, ‘small places’ are not safe spaces – we marked International Women’s Day on 8 March by focussing on the particular inequalities suffered by women in the UK and beyond. As I point out in my blog “It is in their home, their workplace and their communities where women still experience most inequality”. René Cassin continues to draw on the inspiration of female Jewish human rights heroes to argue for greater gender equality in the future
- Get your community to help some of its most vulnerable women – the modern scourge of slavery and human trafficking touches every community. Women are particularly hard hit and René Cassin is teaming up with the anti-slavery charity Unseen to provide vital practical support for female survivors of slavery and trafficking. From £3 to pay for a survivor’s meal to £2,000 to cover a women’s entire stay at a safe house, find out how you can get involved in our ‘Fundraising for Freedom’ campaign
Need inspiration and ideas about how to get involved in working to promote human rights? Perhaps Debora Singer can help.
Debora, tell us a bit about yourself
I live in London where I’ve worked in the voluntary sector for forty years. My current job involves lobbying on issues affecting women seeking asylum.
How did you get involved with René Cassin?
I was keen to join your campaign to save the Human Rights Act.
What motivates you to campaign on human rights issues?
I think my interest in human rights must relate to the fact that my sister and I are second generation Holocaust survivors (our parents came here as child refugees escaping Nazi Germany). Human rights seem so fundamental to how we live.
What do you want to achieve?
My role with Rene Cassin focuses on trying to save the Human Rights Act. I believe that drama is a really good way of getting political messages across. I wrote the screenplay of Sunrise, not Sunset [a short film that shows how the Act helps ordinary people in everyday situations]. Through René Cassin, I am now offering synagogues and Jewish Societies in London to invite me to screen the film and facilitate a discussion or workshop about it. There are also educational resources available.
If you’d like to invite Debora to screen Sunrise, not Sunset please get in touch with us via [email protected]
Another way to get involved with René Cassin is to come to our events:
- Never again? A Jewish response to the Uyghur crisis
Around a million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities are being held in ‘re-education camps’ in China’s Xinjiang region. They are being persecuted because of their Turkic culture and their Muslim faith.
John Sweeney – whose hard-hitting film about the persecution was shown on the BBC’s Newsnight last year – will chair a discussion with experts on China and the Uyghurs, and a leading Rabbi from our community.
Evening of Thursday 9 May 2019 at Jewish Vegetarian Society, 853 Finchley Road, London NW11 8LX.
- Universal Human Rights – founded on Jewish experience, inspired by Jewish values
The foundation stone of international human rights law – 1948’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights – was a direct response to the horrors of the Holocaust.
Academic and human rights activist, Professor Francesca Klug explores the origins of this landmark document, its roots in Jewish experience and the influence of Jewish values and authors on its vision for a better world. She asks: “What can today’s volatile world can learn from the human rights pioneers who brought the Declaration to life?”
Evening of Tuesday 10 September 2019 at The Liberal Jewish Synagogue, 28 St. John’s Wood Road, London, NW8 7HA
We will send out more information on these events as soon as this is finalised – or your could keep an eye on the events section of our website.
At our Jewish Human Rights Heroes event in December, Philippe Sands said that René Cassin “… is a wonderful and important organisation and if you haven’t joined it, you should, because it needs help and human rights need 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/
PS If you have any comments or questions about any aspect of René Cassin’s work, I would love to hear from you – please email me via [email protected]