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T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, often referred to as T'ruah, is a nonprofit organization of liberal rabbis who act on the Jewish imperative to respect and protect the human rights of all people in North America, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories. Approximately 1,800 American and Canadian rabbis are affiliated with T'ruah. T'ruah was founded as Rabbis for Human Rights-North America (RHR-NA) in 2002. On January 15, 2013, RHR-NA ended its formal affiliation with Rabbis for Human Rights in Israel, and was renamed T'ruah.
|Legal status||501(c)(3) charitable organization|
|Focus||human rights activism|
|United States, Canada|
|Rabbi Ayelet S. Cohen|
|Rabbi Eric M. Solomon|
|Rabbi Jill Jacobs|
|Rabbis for Human Rights North America|
T'ruah's offices are in New York City and the organization is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit philanthropic organization. T'ruah was named one of the nation's 50 most innovative Jewish nonprofits in Slingshot '12-'13, a resource guide for Jewish innovation.
T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights is an organization of rabbis from all streams of Judaism that acts on the Jewish imperative to respect and protect the human rights of all people. Grounded in Torah and our Jewish historical experience and guided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we advocate for human rights in Israel and North America. T'ruah continues the historic work of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America, which was founded in 2002 and renamed T'ruah in January 2013.
In 2002, inspired by the work of Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) Israel, a group of North American rabbis organized a North American Rabbinic Committee of RHR. Just a few months later, the rabbis began to gather signatures for a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in protest of the Israeli government's policy of demolition of the homes of Palestinians. More than 400 rabbis signed the "Rabbis Letter on Home Demolition", the organization's first independent initiative.[dead link] With Rabbi Gerald Serotta and Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum as founding board co-chairpersons and Rabbi Brian Walt as founding executive director, RHR-NA was launched.
Not long after the organization's founding, RHR-NA began to work on advocacy and education around human rights issues in North America. In January 2005, in response to revelations about the use of torture at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and in Afghanistan, RHR-NA launched Honor the Image of God: Stop Torture Now, A Jewish Campaign to End U.S.-Sponsored Torture, the organization's first full-fledged North American campaign.
Rabbi Brian Walt was the first executive director, serving from 2002 to 2009. Steven Gerber served as RHR-NA's second executive director from 2009 to 2011. Since 2011, Rabbi Jill Jacobs has been the executive director.
In a press release on January 15, 2013, RHR-NA announced that it ending its formal affiliation with its sister organization in Israel, and would subsequently go by the name T'ruah: the Rabbinic Call for Human Rights. T'ruah said in its statement that the formal and fiscal status of the two groups had confused supporters. Board member Rabbi Sid Schwarz explained that the decision to re-organize was made "by mutual agreement with our colleagues in Israel."
Issues and campaignsEdit
Israel and Palestinian territoriesEdit
Justice for JerusalemEdit
In its Justice for Jerusalem campaign, T'ruah works to encourage conversation about Jerusalem as "simultaneously a spiritual place and a place with deep political implications."
T'ruah works to end discrimination against Bedouin citizens of Israel. On June 27, a T'ruah press release urged the Israeli Knesset to reconsider the "Bill on the Arrangement of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev," which they said could dispossess 30,000-40,000 Bedouin.
African Migrants in IsraelEdit
T'ruah has spoken against the deportation of African migrants and the legislation surrounding it, which it calls "xenophobic." T'ruah calls for a fair Refugee Status Determination process that will allow Israel to listen to individuals' histories, consider their claim to asylum, and accept those who qualify according to international law.
Torture and solitary confinementEdit
T'ruah has been an outspoken critic of torture. Executive Director Rabbi Jill Jacobs wrote in the Jewish Week that torture is "ineffective", "morally wrong", and against Jewish law. T'ruah launched the Jewish Campaign Against Torture in 2005, with more than 800 rabbis signing T'ruah's Rabbinic Letter Against Torture. T'ruah also condemns the use of prolonged solitary confinement in American prisons, which it says is a violation of basic human rights. T'ruah's work on national security also includes calling for the closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention center and related issues of indefinite detention. In a petition to President Barack Obama, T'ruah called Guantanamo Bay detention center a "national symbol of torture" and called upon the President to close it.
Slavery and human traffickingEdit
T'ruah cites the Jewish connection to slavery and liberation at Passover as an imperative to oppose modern day slavery. T'ruah created The Jewish Campaign to End Slavery and Human Trafficking in an attempt to combat the record-high numbers of slaves today, as well as the root causes of trafficking in poverty and worker exploitation.
Through a partnership with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, T'ruah started the "Tomato Rabbis" campaign to oppose low wages and trafficking of farm-workers in Southwest Florida. T'ruah and the CIW have urged restaurant chains and grocery stores to sign Fair Food Agreements and buy only from growers that "legally commit to higher ethical standards." T'ruah's partnership with CIW was cited by the White House's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships for its successful work to end human trafficking in Florida.
T'ruah has stood against Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry, which it says has grown since the September 11 attacks. T'ruah is a member of Shoulder to Shoulder, a coalition of interfaith religious organizations working in solidarity with Muslims.
In response to advertisements in New York City Subway stations produced by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, which called to "support the civilized man" and "defeat jihad," T'ruah launched its own ad campaign. Their advertisements, also hung in subway stations, read "In the choice between love and hate, choose love. Help stop bigotry against our Muslim neighbors."
T'ruah calls for the ethical treatment of workers, and cites Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as evidence in favor of unions, equal pay for equal work, and protection against unemployment. T'ruah is the rabbinic voice for the Justice at Hyatt campaign, which stands to fight low wages and firings at Hyatt hotels.
Human Rights ShabbatEdit
Human Rights Shabbat is an annual T'ruah initiative to educate Jewish communities about the intersection of Jewish values and universal human rights. Started in 2007, Human Rights Shabbat falls before International Human Rights Day, the yearly celebration of the passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Communities study Jewish text regarding human rights, discuss contemporary human rights struggles, and celebrate the connections between universal human rights and Jewish values. Over 130 communities participated in Human Rights Shabbat in 2012.
The North American Conferences on Judaism and Human RightsEdit
In 2006, 2008, and 2010, RHR-NA held North American Conferences on Judaism and Human Rights, which brought together diverse groups of hundreds of rabbis and cantors, human rights activists, and energized supporters to learn how they can take action on the most pressing human rights struggles of our day.
The Raphael Lemkin Human Rights AwardEdit
In 2006, 2008, and 2010, the Raphael Lemkin Human Rights Award was presented at the North American Conferences on Judaism and Human Rights.
In 2011, T'ruah shifted to an annual award ceremony that honors two rabbis for their human rights leadership, as well as one lay person who receives the Raphael Lemkin Human Rights award.
Trainings for Rabbis and Rabbinical StudentsEdit
Rabbinical Student Fellowship in Human Rights LeadershipEdit
Since 2012, T'ruah has sponsored a Rabbinical Student Fellowship in Human Rights Leadership program. Through this program, a cohort of rabbinical and cantorial spend eight weeks working in a human rights/social justice organization in New York. Students spend two days at the T'ruah office, studying human rights in Jewish texts and learning with guest scholars and experts, and work three days a week in partner organizations of T'ruah.
Rabbinical Students for Human Rights: Year in Israel ProgramEdit
Launched in 2011, the Rabbinical Students for Human Rights: Year in Israel Program offers rabbinical and cantorial students spending the academic year in Israel the opportunity to learn about human rights issues there, and to consider how to integrate such issues into their rabbinates. In the 2011-2012 academic year, approximately 70 students participated in this program. Sessions included "The Rabbi as a Moral Leader," "Masekhet Zechuyot HaAdam based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," and "Masekhet Atzmut based on Israel's Declaration of Independence." The program also included trips to assist and learn from Palestinian olive farmers in the West Bank and trips to East Jerusalem, Hebron and the unrecognized Bedouin village of Al Arakib.
Training in human rights leadership for rabbis and lay peopleEdit
T'ruah has led delegations of clergy and lay leaders on trips to Israel and the occupied territories, to witness firsthand and to take action on human rights issues. T'ruah conducts periodic conference calls and in-person training for rabbis to learn about current human rights issues, and to develop the skills to take leadership on these issues.
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