Summer Session II (3 weeks)–June 25- July 13, 2017

Volunteer each morning with a Jerusalem Human Rights organization and learn each afternoon with Dr. Shaiya Rothberg.

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Our era has seen the first foundations of a global order predicated on protecting and nurturing all human beings. From the abyss of the Holocaust, humanity set out on a journey to achieve agreement regarding binding norms to protect human life and dignity. For the first time in the history of our species, the contours of a global order based on justice and human security has come into view. While the obstacles are great, and injustice and poverty still surround us, the time has come to invest what’s necessary for guaranteeing civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights for all members of the human race. The Human Rights track at the Conservative Yeshiva’s Volunteer and Study program is your opportunity to help achieve this goal while deepening your roots in Judaism and Israel. Come to Jerusalem to invest your strength in achieving the vision of the prophets who walked the stone streets of this Holy City: They will not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the world will be filled with the consciousness of God as the waters fill the seas. (Isaiah 11:9).

Description of Study Program

The study segment of the program is a course in Jewish Human Rights Education. The course is called “The Torah of Human Rights”, and is divided into two sections: “The Halacha of Human Rights” (three weekly meetings) and “The Aggadah of Human Rights” (two weekly meetings). The goal of the study segment is to explore the Torah meaning of Human Rights, and to introduce the participants to Jewish Human Rights Education. For participants who are also educators, an additional goal of the course will be to enable them to take the course-materials of “The Torah of Human Rights” and to teach the course themselves. We’ll consider how participants might adapt the course-materials to better reflect their educational goals and audience.

The Halacha of Human Rights: God’s Commandment to Establish the Global Rule of Law

This section deals with the basic infrastructure of the Torah of Human Rights. Here we will provide a critical overview of Human Rights law and activism, and address the interpretative methodology that we will use in this course when we explore the Torah meaning of Human Rights. Basic subjects covered in this section include the Kingdom of God as envisioned by Isaiah and other prophets, Mitsvat Dinim (“the Commandment of just laws”) as understood by the Rabbis, the mending of humanity’s body and soul as envisioned by Maimonides, and the halachic status of international law as formulated by some modern religious Zionist thinkers.

The Aggadah of Human Rights: Revealing God through Cultivating Humanity

This section deals with the deeper religious meanings of protecting human beings from poverty and injustice, and supplying them with the material and cultural conditions necessary to realize their potential to be in the Image of God. For much of classic Jewish thought, achieving higher humanity – a humanity that is wiser, more loving and more just than it was before – is the path to unlocking realms of God’s mystery, glory and goodness that are concealed in our unredeemed species. In this section, we’ll turn to the prophets, Talmudic Rabbis, Medieval philosophers, Kabbalists, and modern thinkers to consider the divine significance of liberating humanity from exile and destruction.

In the essence of the foundational root of this people [the People Israel]…is revealed the aspiration to create a great human collective that “shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment” (Genesis 18:19). This is the aspiration – built upon a clear and mighty consciousness and the highest and most inclusive moral imperative – to redeem humanity from the horrific burdens of spiritual and material sorrow, and to achieve for her a life of freedom filled with dignified glory and refined pleasure, in the light of the Divine Ideal, in order to achieve success for the human project in its totality.                                                           Rabbi Abraham Kook, Orot, pg. 104. (trans. by Shaiya Rothberg)

Description of the Torah of Human Rights Volunteer Program

Volunteering in the Human Rights track enables participants to work in an Israeli non-profit organization with a human rights mission. Volunteering provides hands-on experience in which participants work on a project, contributing through grassroots involvement and learning about the organization, issues and Israel throughout the process.

The volunteer component of the human rights tracks gives participants the experience of “na’ase v’nishma”- doing and learning. While participants study the meaning of human rights in the Jewish tradition, volunteering provides participants with the opportunity to apply and explore their learning in the field.

Participants will volunteer 4-5 mornings per week during the three week session. Volunteer placements are structured to utilize to the extent possible the participants’ skills and interests. Hebrew language skills are not required although knowledge of spoken Hebrew and Arabic can certainly be an asset to placement.

Human Rights Issues for Vounteer Placement

(Modified from the list of the UN Office for Human Rights)

  • Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity
  • Poverty, Discrimination & Adequate Housing
  • Refugees & Asylum Seekers
  • Arab Israelis & Rights of Minority Communities
  • Human Trafficking
  • Terrorism
  • Health & HIV/AIDS
  • Women’s Issues
  • Racism

Quotes from past participants

“Having the opportunity to work with Bizchut has given me the chance to work with such a diverse group of people who have come together to work towards a common goal of enhancing the lives of all who face disability challenges.” Rebecca Cushman, NYC 2013

“Volunteering with Yedid, I learned about Israel and Israeli society in ways I don’t imagine I could have done anywhere else.”

The Torah of Human Rights Website provides more details about the conceptual framework and order of study of the program.

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