Sam Grant, campaigns and programmes officer of the Jewish human rights organisation René Cassin, was guest speaker at Sinai Synagogue recently. Speaking about misconceptions about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he explained its origins after World War II and its close relationship to Jewish values.
He spoke about the threats to human rights legislation, mentioning that there were still quotas limiting the numbers of Jews able to go to particular universities in Britain as recently as 40 years ago. He felt that recognition of threats to human rights are particularly pertinent this year, as not only is 2015 the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta but the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
René Cassin is named in honour of René Cassin, a French Jew and Nobel laureate who was one of the principal co-drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. René Cassin works to promote and protect universal human rights, drawing on Jewish experience and values, which it achieves by campaigning for change in defined human rights areas through a combination of advocacy, policy analysis, public campaigning and education and building the capacity of activists and lawyers to promote and protect human rights.
In answer to a question about whether it is valid to have a Jewish human rights organisation, Sam said: “By having a Jewish human rights organisation we can not only ensure that a Jewish view is heard, but we can speak in synagogues, Jewish community centres and schools from a Jewish perspective. We know that we have a positive influence in many areas, including giving evidence to Parliament.”
When asked about current campaigns, he commented: “We are focussing on five campaigns at the moment: equality in human rights, asylum and detention, equal rights for gypsies and travellers, genocide, slavery and human trafficking, and international advocacy.”
Pictured above are Sinai’s Chair Elsje Prins, Rabbi Ian Morris, Sam Grant, Assistant Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz