Jewish leaders and human rights activists in the UK have paid tribute to the international community’s response to the Holocaust on the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The hugely influential document was adopted by the UN shortly after the Second World War and was drafted in part by René Cassin, a French Jewish lawyer who lost family in the Holocaust. He was later awarded the Nobel Prize for his contribution, and a Jewish human rights group bearing his name is now based in London.
The Declaration was a reaction to Nazi crimes and among other things it prohibited slavery, enshrined the right to life, free expression and religious freedom, and established the basic concepts of dignity, liberty, equality and brotherhood.
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis this week said: “We must be emphatic that we cannot be satisfied while there remain men and women deprived of their dignity all over the world. Wherever people are dehumanised or harassed, we must work and fight on their behalf, to the last.”
“As the storms of populism and division swirl around the world, minorities are under threat again from extremists and far-right regimes, people are trafficked as commodities, and women’s rights are curtailed,” she said.
“So let us celebrate the anniversary, but let us also be vigilant, heeding the warning signs and committing ourselves once again to protecting the human rights of all.”
René Cassin director Mia Hasenson-Gross said: “Human rights are an essential part of Jewish identity; they are born out of Jewish values and Jewish history and form an intrinsic part of our present and, ultimately, our future.
“As we mark the anniversary, there has never been a greater need for empowered Jewish advocates, actors and partners making the case for human rights values and safeguards.”
While life in Israel has returned to normal and hopes are high that Britain is set for a summer without restrictions thanks to vaccines, for billions around the world there is no such imminent light at the end of the tunnel. In the majority of countries around the globe, particularly the poorest, the vaccine rollout has barely kicked off.
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We have never before done this for any charity fundraiser but it's hard to recall a campaign that affects so many people, and indeed an entire planet aching for a return to normality. Just like the Chief Rabbi and Rachel Riley, we hope to boost the mission to deliver two billion vaccines, 165 million treatments and 900 million test kits around the world by the end of this year.
Please donate as much as you can, in the spirit of the Talmudic sages: “to save one life is to save the world entire”