Rabbi Looks at Human Rights

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RABBI LOOKS AT HUMAN RIGHTS

"It is not enough to [only] teach and educate," one must "also take action" when faced with injustice, said Israeli-American Rabbi Arik Ascherman on Oct. 18 at the Middle East Institute.

For the last two decades, Ascherman has been involved in Jewish-Palestinian dialogue, has lived in Israeli-Arab villages, and has worked with the homeless in the U.S. and in the Soviet Union. Now, as the executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights, his main focus is on human rights issues within Israel and the West Bank.

Rabbis for Human Rights began 11 years ago, Ascherman said, primarily as a result of a stereotype that it was "so unusual for rabbis to be concerned about human rights." Too often, rabbis focus their energies only on specific religious laws such as dietary regulations and not on issues of justice, he said.

Ascherman referred to the vibrant peace movement in Israel but said that it was largely secular. In a context in which "internal Israeli/Jewish schisms are at least as broad as Israeli-Palestinian" differences, Ascherman said Rabbis for Human Rights wishes to create a religious voice for human rights. "We as Jews are taught that one of the central beliefs for any human being is...the repair and sanctification of the world," he explained.

Much of the work of Rabbis for Human Rights focuses on the abuses and discrimination Palestinians and foreign workers in Israel have faced as "the victims of the ethnocentric, zenophobic" outlook in Israel. …