Category Archives: Uncategorized

Invitation to the AGM

The trustees of BFRHR would like to invite all members to the Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Wednesday 28 June at noon at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, 28 St John’s Wood Road, London, NW8 7HA. Please find the agenda for the meeting below. If you would like a copy of the financial statement please email info@rhruk.co.uk.

Agenda for AGM of British Friends of Rabbis for Human Rights to be held at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, 28 St John’s Wood Road, London NW8 7HA on Monday 26 June at 12 noon

  1. To approve the Financial Statements for calendar year 2016.
  2. The Trustees deem it appropriate that four persons continue to serve as trustees for the remainder of 2017 and for 2018 until the next AGM in 2018.
  3. The existing Trustees, namely Rabbi Daniel Rich, Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild, Rabbi Alexandra Wright and David Davidson offer themselves for re-election.
  4. Any other business.

Following the AGM, Hagai El’ad and Manal al Jabri, the CEO and Fieldworker from B’Tzelem, will be addressing the group thanks to the support from NIF.

The attack on Rabbi Ascherman – Reflections on the 20th Yahrzeit of Yitzhak Rabin

by Rabbi Colin Eimer

Imagine the scene. A rabbi in Israel is being attacked by a man wearing a balaclava and threatening him with a big and dangerous looking knife. They struggle and fall to the ground; the man has the rabbi in a stranglehold, still waving the knife, but incredibly not sticking it in. Eventually the man runs off. Given what’s been happening on the streets of Israel in recent weeks, you might be thinking that it’s not surely all that surprising.

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I Owe My Life to My Attacker

by Rabbi Arik Ascherman

It sounds strange. How can I say anything positive about a knife wielding violent and hate filled young man who has turned the sanctity of the Land of Israel into idolatry?  When one looks at this awful video of the attack filmed from afar by Rabbis For Human Rights’ field coordinator Zakariah Sadeh on October 23rd, one sees that he could have easily murdered me. He was on top of me, my back was exposed, and the knife was in his hand.  One can see him almost plunge the knife several times, but he doesn’t.

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So too must we remember our promise: Passover thoughts 5774

As we prepare for the celebration of the Passover, the Jewish holiday marking the Israelites’ liberation from Egyptian slavery and the beginning of their cohesion as a “people,” Rabbi Arik Ascherman, senior rabbi and president of RHR, shares his Passover thoughts on the holiday, the horrors of housing demolitions,  and RHR’s upcoming High Court date that could end them for good.

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RHR celebrates its 25th anniversary

At 7 pm on Sunday, 6 April 2014 (6 Nissan 5774), at the Jerusalem Botanical Garden Auditorium, Rabbis for Human Rights celebrated its 25th anniversary. The evening events included:

  • Tribute to the founders of RHR and introductions to staff and management
  • A Panel: “The Role of Judaism in the Struggle for Human Rights in Israel: Current Reality and Future Possibilities.  Moderator: RHR Co-Chair Moshe Yehudai; Special guest panelists:
    Rabbi Shmuel Reiner of the Orthodox Ma’aleh Gilboa Hesder Yeshiva, member of RHR
    Rabbi Na’amah Kelman, Dean of the Jerusalem campus HUC-JIR, the Reform movement’s rabbinical school in Israel, long term RHR member and current RHR Advisory Committee member. You can read more about her here.
    Dr. Meir Bouzaglo, Founder of “Tikkun,” a think tank dealing with social issues in Israel; Founder of “Mizrakh Shemesh,” which teaches the religious traditions of Jews from Arab /African countries
    Linda Gradstein, Bureau Chief, The Media Line and Contributor to NPR

The importance of supporting the work of Rabbis for Human Rights

Rabbis for Human Rights is celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary – a landmark achievement for an organisation that draws support from Rabbis across the religious spectrum in Israel.  Rabbi Israel Newman (zecher tzaddik livrachah), an orthodox Rabbi from London who taught Talmud to progressive rabbinic students at Leo Baeck College and who then made Aliyah on his retirement, introduced many of us to the organisation with which he was deeply involved until his death.  Working to highlight human rights violations, educating the public and pressurising the State institutions to correct injustice both in Israel and in the Palestinian territories were some of the things for which he campaigned and worked.

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Standing Where Rabbis Have Been Absent: A Purim Message by Rabbi Arik Asherman

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Click here or on the photo above to see some disturbing footage of settlers from Carmel and their supporters ganging up to block Palestinian shepherds from crossing a ridge the settlers are attempting to take over. Note the army standing by and watching.

Here and there you will see me (sans kippah that fell off in the middle of the action) and one of our volunteers trying to help the shepherds keep the sheep on course.  An additional volunteer is behind the camera. By the way, although the video clip ends with a seeming victory for the settlers, we eventually got the shepherds through. Moreover, though we were there that day because the shepherds had been harassed for several weeks, things have been mostly quiet since then. (However, even as I was writing these words, I received disturbing reports of other locations where shepherds are being harassed. Our work is not done.)

B’Makom Sh’eyn anashim, hishtadel l’hiyot ish. “–Pirkei Avot
(In a place where nobody is acting with basic human decency, you must try to be that person)

I reflected on Pirkei Avot  as I began preparing this combination of “Purim Thoughts 5774” and a brief update (with lots of powerful video clips) on what we in Rabbis For Human Rights have been up to. (And the truth is, it’s way more than I will be able to cover here. I would recommend regularly checking our websitefacebook page and/or twitter account, or subscribing to our RSS feeds.)

Nahafokh hu – Things get turned on their head. Everything is topsy turvy on Purim.   We confront a world so opposite the one we would like to live in. Our fate is dependent on the whims of a drunken potentate. We laugh, and maintain faith that the tables will turn.  At the risk of being way too serious for Purim (again), I wonder whether our faith can lead us to look at the world as it is, and then find the way to help God turn things around to the way they should be.  God doesn’t overtly act in the Book of Esther.  People do, and God works through some of them.

Each of us has the ability to, in some way, turn something around in our world. But, as I think about all of our wonderful partners in the struggle for justice in Israel, I know that few are religious, and even fewer are rabbis. I ask:

Why shouldn’t more Israeli rabbis be standing for justice and decency on barren West Bank hills, Knesset committees, and in poverty stricken communities?

So, my nahafokh hu includes an ammendation to Pirkei Avot:

B’Makom sh’eyn rabanim, hishtadel l’hiyot rav.”
(In those places were rabbis are strikingly absent, try to act as a rabbi should.)

This is what we in Rabbis For Human Rights have been trying to do for 25 years. I personally may not be standing in front of the bulldozers or confronting settlers or the army quite as much as I used to, but today we have a cadre of rabbis every day (except Shabbat) trying to be that rabbi in places where rabbis are generally not to be found.

Let me share another nahafokh hu from this little incident. Ironically,  one of the reasons I was with the shepherds of Umm el Kheir that day was because a sympathizer of the Carmel settlers had written to me and to our website to complain about how the settlers were suffering from the Palestinians of Umm el Kheir. That is what we call in Hebrew “hafukh al hafukh,” a distorted misinterpretation turning reality on its head. You can click here to read my answer. Quoting from the Torah and laying out just how the State and Carmel settlers have abused the residents of Umm el Kheir, I had to say nahafokh hu according to its second usage, “On the contrary.” We certainly condemn the uprooting of trees, but this dwarfs in comparison to the ongoing abuse heaped on Umm el Kheir.

Sometimes being that person present and trying to act decently allows us to prevent injustice on the spot.  Additionally, the truth from the field and insights from the Torah often make all the difference when we go to the Knesset or the courts to try and change policy, or when we attempt to influence public opinion, or when we simply need to set the record straight since reality has been turned on its head.

Rabbi Arik Asherman