General, Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly parasha: This year, Numbers 31 is even harder to swallow

No Comments 26 July 2016

PLEASE NOTE: Until August, the Torah reading in the Land of Israel will be different than the Torah reading outside of the Land of Israel. This Shabbat we in Israel read Matot while abroad Pinchas, which was read last week in Israel, is read. You can find last week’s Dvar Torah on Pinchas here.

After a painful year of mass murder and brutality across the world, how must we, as Jews, respond to violent, vicious Torah passages such as the ones in Parashat Matot? 

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Special thank you to Dr. Shaiya Rothberg!

No Comments 13 July 2016

Rabbis for Human Rights would like to thank Dr. Shaiya Rothberg for voluntarily teaching a group of our rabbis, supporters  and staff members over a period 4 months a fortnightly class (8 classes)  on the Torah of Human Rights of Rabbi Chaim Hirschensohn. Shaiya was a wonderful teacher and the material we studied with him was inspiring and very relevant to the vision of RHR.  We plan to continue a learning process for those interested in September after a break for summer vacations.







A statement of principle: human rights and terror

No Comments 13 July 2016


"The Creation of Adam" By Michelangelo - Public Domain

“The Creation of Adam” By Michelangelo – Public Domain

And God created man in God’s image, in the image of God created God man; male and female created God them (Genesis 1:27)

As Jews and as rabbis, we understand that human rights are indivisible. God created all people in the Divine Image and so endowed all of us with the fundamental rights that flow from our inherent worth as images of God’s Self. For this reason, acts of killing which are not strictly for self-defense – whether carried out by governments or by terrorist groups – are acts of rebellion against God. Such acts go against God’s decision to make us all in the Divine Image. No cause justifies it. No person, organization or government committed to God-given values can support it. For this reason, the law against murder is included in the Noahide Laws, the Talmudic statement on behavior that constitutes human beings’ shared a moral heritage, whatever our background and ethnicity.

We call on all parties to the national dispute afflicting the peoples who live in our Land to prioritize the recognition of the image of God even among rivals and enemies. We call on governments and religious leaders to cease the glorification of murderers, whatever the cause they sought to serve. We call on religious leaders to redouble our work of teaching the ways of peace, even when violence and conflict threaten us on a daily basis.

We call on governments, international organizations and religious leaders to take the lead in rejecting the de-legitimation of the other side’s religious traditions and sense of belonging to its Holy Places – be they Jewish, Muslim or Christian traditions. This is not the road to peace.

We see this responsibility of leadership as a personal one, whatever may be the dysfunctions of states, non-state groups, religious establishments and so on.

As Rabbi Hillel taught us:

“In a place where no one behaves like a full human, strive to be a human” (Pirkei Avot 3:5)


Knesset passes NGO bill (AKA “Mark of Cain” bill)

No Comments 12 July 2016

Last night the Knesset voted to pass the contentious NGO bill (AKA “Mark of Cain” bill), a new law which appears to actually be about ideological persecution of human rights and left-wing organisations in Israel. This bill might be passed, but it will not stop Rabbis for Human Rights from working to honor the Image of God in every human being.

Hebrew graphic reads: We might not have been able to stop the NGO bill, but the NGO bill will not stop us"

Hebrew reads: We might not have been able to stop the NGO bill, but the NGO bill will not stop us”



Job opening: Development Director

No Comments 12 July 2016

Come work with us! Rabbis for Human Rights is hiring…


Major responsibilities:

  • Writing and submission of proposals and reports to existing donors and foundations
  • Supervision of fundraising staff
  • Research and submission of grant proposals to new donors and foundations
  • Maintaining ongoing contacts with donors


  • Mother-tongue English
  • Experience in Grant Writing / Reporting
  • Experience preparing and managing project and organizational budgets
  • Excellent writing skills
  • Ability to research new fundraising sources
  • Well-organized
  • Deadline driven
  • Commitment to human rights

Please sends resumes to [email protected]


General, Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly parasha: From Anti-Semitism to Qualities without Ethnic Boundaries

1 Comment 11 July 2016

PLEASE NOTE: Until August, the Torah reading in the Land of Israel will be different than the Torah reading outside of the Land of Israel. This Shabbat we in Israel read Balak while abroad Hukkat which was read last week in Israel, is read. You can find last week’s Dvar Torah on Hukkat here.

Despite his status as a prophet, Balaam is a loathed figure in the traditional Jewish worldview. In Rabbi Goldfarb’s  commentary to Parashat Balak, he explores the qualities of Balaam that are considered despicable. It is these qualities  all of humankind must strive to reject— so that none of us follow in the path of Balaam.

By Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb

The Prophet Balaam and the Angel, John Linnell. Public domain

The Prophet Balaam and the Angel, John Linnell. Public domain

Balak, the King of Moab, “saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites” at the end of last week’s parasha. In typical anti-Semitic fashion Balak ignored what the Amorites had done to Israel – attack them while seeking safe passage – that had led to Israel’s defending itself (Num 21:21-25). The worried Balak engages a “seer,” Balaam, to “curse” the children of Israel so that he (Balak) could defeat them and drive them out of the land.

By illustrators of the 1728 Figures de la Bible, Gerard Hoet (1648-1733) and others, published by P. de Hondt in The Hague in 1728

“Moab leads Israel into sin” By illustrators of the 1728 Figures de la Bible, Gerard Hoet (1648-1733) and others

Balaam is one of the most enigmatic characters in the Bible. Of unclear origin (his name could interpreted “without a people”), Balaam has access to God. In fact the Midrash said that he had prophetic power like that of Moses. Hired to curse, Balaam tells Balak he can only declare words which the Lord puts in his mouth, and indeed delivers four parables, each more rhapsodic than the one before, singing Israel’s praises. A Jew’s first words upon entering the synagogue, “Ma tovu ohelecha, Yakov; mishkenotecha Yisrael/How lovely are your tents (sanctuaries), O Jacob; your dwellings (study houses), O Israel,” are a quote from Balaam (Num 24:5). Yet the rabbis took a very negative view of Balaam. Balaam is blamed for inciting the Midianite women to seduce the Israelite men at Baal-Peor, the incident with which our parashah ends (Num 25:1-9), leading to crisis and tragedy in the camp. Thus, through treachery and the exploitation of human weakness, Balaam manages ultimately to curse the Jewish people, which he had been unable to do directly. The basis for this rabbinic interpretation is the mention of Balaam amongst the important people slain with the Midianites (Num 31:8, 16), suggesting that after failing to produce for Balak, Balaam had joined the Midianites in their hostility to the children of Israel.

In Pirkei Avot (5:21) Balaam is portrayed as the antithesis of Avraham Avinu – Abraham’s disciples who have “a good eye” (a generous view towards others), humility and moderate appetites (for the pleasures of the world). Balaam’s disciples, on the other hand, have “an evil eye” (they are jealous), a haughty nature and excessive appetites. The commentators find proofs in the Torah’s text for each of these traits – for good in Abraham’s case, negatively in regard to Balaam. The consequences are extreme – Abraham’s disciples will be doubly rewarded, both in this world and in the world to come, while Balaam’s disciples are doomed to destruction and the lowest pit in “Gehenom” (“hell”).

It is interesting to note that Balaam, who began as cursing/blessing Israel as a racial/religious group, becomes the archetype of evil on the human level. Abraham, the “father of many peoples,” is portrayed here as having the three key qualities a person should hope for – a healthy, non-jealous attitude towards others; humility; and control over physical passions. Balaam, the loner, is deficient on all three; people like him “drive themselves from the world” (cf. Avot 2:16, 4:28). These good qualities are not exclusive to Jews nor are they deficiencies found only amongst non-Jews. They are human traits; both Jews and non-Jews can be disciples of Abraham or Balaam. The choice is ours.

Shabbat shalom!

Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb is a member of Rabbis for Human Rights

General, Justice in Israel-Negev Bedouin

Urgent call to join residents of Umm al Hiran Sunday morning

No Comments 09 July 2016

The Israeli Bedouin residents of Um El Hiran have issued an urgent and desperate call for anybody and everybody to come to Umm Al Hiran tomorrow at 7:00 am because they have been informed that the JNF bulldozers are going to start working on a security road right next to their homes. Up until now they have been working much further away. The police told Rabbi Ascherman on Friday that they will not be entering the village or demolishing homes for another few months, but the residents don’t trust that. If there isn’t a public outcry and determination to defend on the residents’ right to live where the government moved them in 1956 and promised them that they could rebuild their lives, very shortly the village simply will be wiped off the face of the earth.  Jewish “Hiran” will be built on the rubble of Umm Al Hiran.

Click here for more background on the threat over Umm al Hiran

Please call at anytime, and Rabbi Ascherman will try to arrange transportation: 050-560 7034. Depending on what happens, we may need people over the next few mornings.

The residents have also requested urgent appeals to President Rivlin. You can send them here.  


American rabbis studying at the Hartman Institute stand under JNF flag outside Umm al Hiran


American rabbis studying at the Hartman Institute join RHR with residents of Umm al Hiran

JNF bulldozer overlooks village of Umm al Hiran

JNF bulldozer overlooks village of Umm al Hiran


The State’s cynical use of “security considerations”

No Comments 08 July 2016

This week, Haaretz newspaper exposed how the state attempted to use an unjustified “security considerations” argument in order to prevent the release of a guest list for a Passover seder given by Israel’s ambassador to the USA. The High Court rejected the claim and released the list. Going over the list, it is hard to find any possible security concerns related to it. This anecdote has great importance beyond this specific case: it is an example of the state raising the issue of seurity without basis.

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General, Occupied Territories

Rabbis for Human Rights mourns the loss of Hallel Yaffa Ariel and Rabbi Michael Mark

1 Comment 04 July 2016

Rabbis for Human Rights bows its head in grief at the murder of Hallel Yaffa Ariel z’l and Rabbi Michael (Miki) Mark z’l. May their memory be a blessing.


Rage and frustration are understandable responses and we share in them. But the states’ response to these criminal actions must not include the use of collective punishment. Collective punishment will also impact innocent Palestinians— for example, the Palestinians who notified medical and security forces about the shooting incident on Route 60, the Palestinians who hurried to treat the wounded, as well as the Palestinians who condemned the teenager who murdered young Hallel Yaffa Ariel on social media. Punishment of innocents sends Palestinians the message that no matter what they do, they will suffer from the military regime that is imposed on them by Israel, and therefore, refraining from violence will not prevent them from being harmed. This message may very well encourage more violence.

In Judaism there is a clear calling against collective punishment. In the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham argues with the Creator against collective punishment of the city of Sodom:

“Wilt Thou indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?…” and afterwards the explicit reproach: ” Far be it from You to do such a thing, to bring death upon the innocent as well as the guilty, so that the guilt and innocent fare alike. Far be it from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?”(Genesis 18: 23, 25)


Israeli politicians’ response to MK Zoabi tests nations freedom of expression & democracy

1 Comment 03 July 2016

Israel’s politicians’ unreasonable response to the provocative statements of MK Zoabi tests the nation’s freedom of expression and democracy.

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