Rabbinic Conference on Judaism and Human Rights
I just returned from Rabbis for Human Rights-North America’s first annual conference on Judaism and Human Rights (see earlier post here). The speakers were beyond amazing, and despite the overall state of human affairs these days, there were a number of notes that sounded for hope, including: the creation of Imams for Human Rights (by Washington D.C.’s own Imam Yahya Hendi), and another organization created independently: Evangelicals for Human Rights.
On a sad note, it was announced Monday morning that the Dari home had, yet again, been destroyed. I was there after the first destruction, when RHR went to the site to figure out how to begin again, and so hearing that their home had again been destroyed was particularly moving to me, as was seeing Rabbi Arik Ascherman, of RHR Israel, standing behind the podium with tears in his eyes reporting this terrible thing. These people are not terrorists. They just want to house their families. How can we continue to bulldoze the homes of people who have done no harm, who merely want to live in peace on their own land? ..it is unconscionable from a people who know as our deepest national story the pain of exile and homelessness.
Sessions were devoted to among the many and varied topics on human rights, economic justice (by, among others, Rabbi Jill Jacobs, one of the Forward’s “Forward Fifty”), Torture and Jewish Law (from the unparalleled Rabbi Saul Berman) and many organizing sessions were held to talk about how to move forward on a variety of fronts.
My long-time chevruta, with whom I travelled to the conference, posted his thoughts or here.
The personal courage of some of our speakers was humbling…
Sister Dianna Ortiz, Catholic nun, spoke about her experiences being tortured in Guatemala. It was clearly very painful for her to discuss the subject at all. What the Guatemalans did to her is unbelievable and unforgivable, and the fact that the US government was supporting the Guatemalans when they knew such abuses were going on is very hard to take. She said that if she had vowed to God to speak out on what happened, she probably would have tried to find a way around the vow, a way to avoid speaking. But she felt since she had vowed to the other victims – victims who died, whose screams haunted her as she was being tortured herself – she felt she had no way out of that vow, hence her passionate speaking out for all victims of torture. And she pointed out it’s not a partisan issue; yes, she was called a liar among other things, despite one hundred and eleven 2nd degree burns from cigarettes on her body, by officials in the administration of George H.W. Bush. However, the Clinton administration was not particularly more responsive in doing anything about what happened or launching an investigation.