Reflections on Session One

Posted on Monday, February 11th, 2019

By Claudia Hyde

The 2019 René Cassin-AJA Fellowship Programme kicked off on 29 January 2019 with the inaugural session, where we were introduced to each other and to the themes of the programme. With eight participants, this year’s cohort is benefiting from a diverse range of experiences and professional backgrounds, which include public health, rabbinical service and the charity sector. After making introductions and getting to know each other a bit better, we welcomed Adam Wagner to lead the day’s session. Adam is a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers and founder of the charity Rightsinfo, which in a short space of time has become the go-to source of news and accessible information on human rights.

 Adam’s presentation was an insightful introduction to the foundations of international, European and British human rights protection- from the Magna Carta up to the 1998 Human Rights Act. We also explored the contemporary challenges to our human rights today, such as attacks from politicians and the press. This was followed by an interesting debate on the place of universal human rights in a Jewish context. In particular, the question of whether the ideals of universal human rights can be reconciled with Old Testament conceptions of equality is a challenging one that I look forward to exploring further. In future weeks we will continue to explore the links between Judaism and human rights, from its textual origins to its modern day champions.