"If Not Now, When?": Jewish Advocacy for Freedom of Religion

"If Not Now, When?": Jewish Advocacy for Freedom of Religion

Felice Gaer


"'If Not Now When?': Jewish Advocacy for Freedom of Religion,"
by Felice Gaer, Director of AJC's Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, examines Jewish advocacy for international religious freedom and related human rights from the Holocaust and the founding of the United Nations to current times, using this advocacy to uphold universal human rights standards. The article was published by The Review on Faith & International Affairs (Fall 2012) in a volume of essays about numerous communities and advocacy approaches.

Gaer argues that Jewish advocacy for freedom of religion and related human rights has been indelibly shaped by the Holocaust, in which six million Jews were annihilated, as well as by the experiences of expulsion, discrimination, and violence against Jews throughout the millennia. The most prominent and successful particularist Jewish advocacy effort was the movement for Jews to be allowed to depart from the Soviet Union. Efforts by Jewish organizations and advocates to advance religious freedom are also anchored in and directly influenced by universal elements in Judaism that value all human life and call for equality for all before the law, which has translated into support for efforts that guarantee universal human rights through bodies like the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). As part of the interplay between the universal and the particular, Jewish advocacy has also reflected a sense of what is possible – a realism about how to achieve the idealistic goals of religious freedom and related human rights. The strategy remains that by defending and respecting each individual’s rights, all will flourish and be protected.

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