Current Concerns
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Current Concerns - The monthly journal for independent thought, ethical standards and moral responsibility - English Edition of Zeit-Fragen
No 2, 2002
25 May 2015, 09:12 AM
current issue

Rabbis for Human Rights

The ‘Rabbis for Human Rights’ (RHR) in Israel are very active in giving a voice to the Jewish tradition of human rights. It is the only Israeli rabbinical organisation consisting of reform-, orthodox-, conservative and rebuilding rabbis and students. The members are rabbis in leadership positions nationally, as well as educators and congregational rabbis capable of influencing change from the grass roots. RHR received the ‘Speaker of the Knesset’s Award for the Quality of Life in the fi elds of Enhancing the Rule of Law and Democratic Values, Protecting Human Rights, and Encouraging Tolerance and Mutual Respect’.RHR was founded in 1998 in response to serious human rights abuses committed by the Israeli military authorities in their suppression of the Intifada. The Rabbis for Human Rights were concerned at the indifference of many leading religious authori-ties and practicing Jews from their country towards the suffering of innocent people who are considered enemies. The religious as well as the non-religious sectors of the general public need to be reminded that Judaism had another face. Human rights abuses are not compatible with the centuries old Jewish tradition of humanity and moral responsibility or the Biblical concern for the ‘stranger in your midst’–even in the face of danger to public order and security, which the uprising represented. RHR also participates in the Israeli Coalition for the Prevention of Home Demolitions, as well as a campaign to find ‘adoptive families’ for the over 2,000 Palestinian families who currently have demolition orders on their homes.For the Passover Feast, which lasted from March 28 until April 4, the Rabbis for Human Rights wrote an open letter to friends and supporters in which they showed understanding for both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Both sides suffer; and the Jewish tradition would have a lot to contribute to peace, if one would call it to mind. Human rights abuses are clearly disregarded in the Jewish ethics.On Passover, the Jews commemorate the liberation of the Jewish people from bondage under the Pharaoh in ancient Egypt. This message of freedom should be valid for both peoples and bring hope to the entire world.

Pesach Eve, 5762

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Slavery takes many forms and Pharaoh appears in many guises. Today, Israelis are enslaved by fear and anger. A faltering economy leaves us fearful for the future. The growing number of unemployed and working poor are trapped between an economy which cannot provide them a living wage and a government which is cutting away their safety net. Israelis and Palestinians have each suffered so much that they can only see themselves as victims and the other as Pharaoh.

Pharaoh dominates when our own anger and fear render us incapable of recognizing the image of God in every human being. We in RHR dwell among our people and identify with the tremendous diffi culties facing us from within and the terrible threat from without. However, we are determined to do our part to uphold the values of Torah even in these dark times. We believe that by standing for keushah (holiness) and honoring God’s image we build hope for the future.

Out of this faith, we (either alone or in coalition) have in recent months lobbied against budget cuts harming the Israeli poor, sent volunteers to work in a school in an unrecognized Bedouin village in the Negev and sent food relief to besieged Palestinians. On Tu B’Shvat supporters from abroad joined us for ten days of Torah study and replanting uprooted Palestinian trees, trees destroyed by Palestinian arsonists, and planting trees in areas threatened by expropriation. RHR has demonstrated with Israeli workers about to lose their jobs, organized the first Israeli fact fi nding mission to the Balata refugee camp after the Israeli army pulled out and helped bring a new prefab clinic to the Jahalin Bedouin. We have sent inquiries to the army and lobbied against the legalizing of hostage taking. RHR has contributed to the growing awareness of human rights abuses among Israelis, educated about Judaism and human rights in the Israeli school system and spoken at kibbutzim, parlor meetings, etc., about realities in the fi eld which do not always make the newspapers.

Please continue to be our partners for a better future. May Passover’s message of freedom bring renewed hope and faith to all the world.


Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann


Rabbi Arik W. Ascherman

Executive Director

Happy are those who act justly, who do right at all times (Ps. 106:3)

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