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:
- “We will look back on this period of our history and feel ashamed” – so says Michael Goldin, who sees routine cruelty and absurdity in the UK’s practice of indefinite immigration detention
- “We need a modern slavery strategy that’s more than just a slogan” – Will Bordell finds that Home Office flaws are prolonging the suffering of victims
- And for a fresh and ever-changing perspective on human rights, check out our Human Rights Thought for the Week – which views each portion of the Torah through a human rights lens
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.
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And let us know if you have any comments or questions about any aspect of René Cassin’s work please email me via [email protected]
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/