The 2020 René Cassin-AJA Fellowship Programme began with an exciting and inspiring introductory session. The cohort comprises a diverse group of individuals who, while having a variety of professional and personal experience and expertise, all share the common passion for human rights and social justice.
The session began with an introduction to the mandate of the René Cassin organisation and the pillars of work that the organisation focuses on including; educating about and preventing against genocide, promoting equal rights for Gypsies, Roma and Travellers, campaigning against an unfair asylum and detention sysyrm, tackling hate crime, promoting human rights in the UK and abolishing slavery and trafficking. These campaigns resonate so powerfully with the experiences of the Jewish people throughout history.
We learnt about the birth of human rights culminating in a series of legal instruments that are both domestically and internationally binding. The work of Monsieur René Cassin, the organisation’s namesake, in pursuing a fairer and freer world is embodied in his drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This document, which is the most translated document in the world, helped to codify a universally protected legal, social and administrative standard for the treatment of all people.
The rights included in the UDHR include, the right to life, equality, dignity and protection from discrimination. Human Rights such as these are intrinsically linked to Jewish values and Jewish laws such as tikkun olam, tzedakah and loving our fellow.
Monsieur René Cassin, Hersch Lauterpacht, Raphael Lemkin and Ruth Bader Ginsberg are examples of extraordinary Jews who have contributed to the prosperity of global human rights through witnessing injustices and aspiring to fight against them.
With challenges facing human rights today, the René Cassin-AJA Fellowship Programme will work to promote human rights beyond the precepts of the law, into action. Through programmes, education, discussion, dialogue and engagement, human rights can be protected, promoted and fulfilled. It is imperative that modern day Jewry take to heart Hillel’s aphorism, of not only promoting and caring for the interests of our people, but all people, because “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I?”