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Background Information

Rabbis for Human Rights are involved in diverse educational activities in both formal and informal frameworks. The activities are run by rabbis from all the Jewish streams. RHR‘s educational goal is to present a religious Jewish voice that promotes human rights for all in Israel. The activities are intended for educators, students, and other groups of people interested in these issues. Human rights in general are ignored by all the education systems in Israel, and all the more so when these rights are perceived as rooted in Jewish tradition.

The educational approach embodied in the educational activities of RHR is Kleinberger’s approach to values education. This approach addresses the intellect and the capacity for criticism, emphasizing ideological and principled aspects, and presenting the student with alternatives.  Kleinberger argues that students must be enabled to develop a critical worldview based on consideration of diverse alternatives, and that through developing intellectual and critical skills, their moral values can be consolidated.  At the same time, he presents two opposing paradigms.  One argues that “we have no right to educate to binding values,” while the second posits the opposite.  Accordingly, the balance depends on the behavior of teachers and of the education system—on their intellectual honesty in approaching this dilemma.

In RHR, the starting point is that Jewish tradition offers various answers and interpretations relating to human rights issues. As an organization, RHR have chosen to focus on the humanistic voice, but we do so while presenting diverse voices, and while developing critical thought around the founding texts of the Jewish people, including a presentation of the prices inherent in each of the choices people make as they develop their perspective on human rights. Kleinberger’s approach is based on an ideological and intellectual experience. He sees values education as education to values “whose content and substance are clear and defined.”

The study texts relate to human rights as reflected in the founding works of the Jewish People: the Bible, Talmud, texts of Jewish and Zionist thinkers, and so on. The texts are taught in an experiential manner. Instead of frontal teaching, we use Hevruta (learning in pairs), teaching tools for coping with the texts. The learning process is accompanied by practical action, in order to create a dialogue between study and action. For example, when we study the subject of our attitude to the “Other,” the participants must first distinguish between different types of “Others:” the poor other, the foreign other, the convert other, the exceptional other, the other with special needs, the enemy other, and so on. Secondly, they are asked to examine how each of these groups of “Others” is reflected in the texts and to discuss the issue with members of other generations. Only then, in the third stage, do they go out to examine the “Other” in light of the texts and in light of reality – a process that includes practical activities in the field of human rights.

The members of RHR accept responsibility for presenting all possible alternatives, including ones that we do not agree with, in order to encourage the participants to develop critical thinking as a foundation for developing a perspective on human rights.  RHR do not confine ourselves to study, however intellectual or critical it may be, but reinforce study with action and experience. In so doing, RHR integrate the approach of Dewey, which assumes that the learning process should be based on personal experience and practice in a practical context, in order to create the continuum between the human society of the past and the student in the present.