The American Jewish World Service (AJWS) says that human rights must be protected for vulnerable people, including women, girls and LGBTQI people
Today, 302 Jewish clergymen from 35 states and the District of Columbia have joined together to send a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo against the Commission for Inalienable Rights. Rori Kramer, director of the U.S. Advocacy for American Jewish World Service (AJWS), the world’s leading Jewish human rights organization, made the following statement:
“The American Jewish World Service has mobilized more than 300 rabbis and cantors to send this message to Secretary Pompeo: we will not allow faith to be used as an instrument to undermine human rights.
At this moment of public health crisis, it is clear that the most vulnerable in our global community will be the first to be affected. As a strong example of how these communities are mistreated by this government, Secretary Pompeo has used the misguided Inalienable Rights Commission to investigate the “basic” principles of human rights and is trying to redefine them in US foreign policy the clear intention of blocking them access to the rights of the most marginalized people, if not entirely.
We have observed how this commission used “religious freedom” as a stick to belittle the rights of the most vulnerable, including women, girls and LGBTQI people. We are now seeing our fears materialize as this Commission may pose a direct threat to the rights of the most vulnerable communities around the world. The clear mistreatment of the COVID-19 crisis clearly shows that people whose human rights are already threatened will be at much greater risk if their mandate is fulfilled.
As Jews, we recognize the inherent dignity of all people and stand in solidarity with women, girls, the LGBTQI community and other vulnerable people in their fight for human rights. We will not be silent when the Trump administration tries to destroy human rights protection, nor will we allow faith to be used as a tool to promote hatred and discrimination. Against the backdrop of the global health crisis that we face as a nation and the world, the Jewish community clearly reaffirms our support for a rights-based approach. “
The text of the letter sent to the Secretary of State on behalf of the 302 Jewish clergy from 35 states and the District of Columbia is listed below. AJWS also provided an organizational comment to the Commission:
Honorable Michael R. Pompeo
2201 C Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20250
March 26, 2020
As 302 rabbis and cantors from 35 states and the District of Columbia, representing all major Jewish denominations, we are writing today to express our deep concern about the State Department commission for inalienable rights. The work of the Commission, which you are promoting as a body that examines the principles and foundations of human rights in U.S. foreign policy, has become an undisguised effort to use dangerous religious ideologies to restrict human rights around the world . Our tradition teaches us as Jews that all people are created b’tzelem Elohimin the divine image. As a result, we reject any attempt to deny the rights of the most vulnerable, which, as can now be seen, is the Commission’s real aim.
As ministers, we denounce efforts to suggest that there is a crisis or “spread” of human rights today. Of course, this is not the case. Human rights movements around the world – including those for women, girls and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) community – benefit everyone. We support their loud demands for justice. We know from our own history that vulnerable people are exposed to stigmatization, violence and discrimination solely because of their identity. Our scriptures teach that we have to love our neighbors as we love ourselves – that we have to face injustice everywhere (Leviticus 19:18, Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 54b). The divine is only served when all people have the opportunity to exercise their rights and live a dignified life.
Unfortunately, the public views and records of individual commissioners and the open meetings of the commission itself reject this divine mandate by claiming that there is a hierarchy of rights at the head of what is claimed to be freedom of religion and conscience. As religious leaders, we strongly reject this distinction. We reject the use of perceived religious values to promote hatred and discrimination against people in vulnerable communities, including denying access to reproductive rights and criminalizing people based on their person or love.
As 302 Jewish leaders from across the nation, we ask you, Secretary, to dissolve the Inalienable Rights Commission immediately. We urge the State Department to maintain and promote the dignity of vulnerable people around the world. We also request that the Ministry no longer undermine the ability of women, girls and LGBTQI people to access their sexual and reproductive health and rights, including abortion services, through this commission or any other means.
As leaders, we condemn the Commission’s efforts to disguise hatred and discrimination as moral and religious beliefs. Rather, it is our moral obligation to uphold human rights and speak out against injustice and oppression.
The signed 302 rabbis and cantors
Click here for the full list of Jewish clergymen.
About the American Jewish World Service (AJWS) Human Rights Work
AJWS funds LGBTQI + human rights groups in 19 countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa and mobilizes the American Jewish community to promote a US policy to support human rights abroad. With Jewish values and global reach, AJWS changes millions of lives and brings a fairer and fairer world closer to everyone.
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