General, Parasha / E-Letter

Weekly parasha: Dry Bones, Fecund Land, and Vital Prayer

No Comments 15 April 2014

In this week’s parasha (Chol Hamo-eid Pesach, Exodus 33:12-34:26)  Rabbi Dahlia Marx examines the prophecy of the dry bones, and the power of God to not only deliver us physically from slavery, but to also revive our spirits as well.

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General, Legal Work, Occupied Territories

So too must we remember our promise: Passover thoughts 5774

No Comments 14 April 2014

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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Education, General, Legal Work

RHR Attorney Quamar Mishirqi-Assad: Powerful Voice in Israeli Society

1 Comment 12 April 2014

Rabbi Nava Hefetz presents us with the profile of a groundbreaking woman in Israeli society: Attorney Quamar Mishirqi-Assad, Head of Rabbis for Human Rights Legal Department in the Occupied Territories.

QuamarSusya residents

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Add a bit of human rights to your seder: RHR 5774 haggadah supplements

1 Comment 10 April 2014

It is our duty to carry on the Jewish traditions of compassion, equality, and justice. Please consider adding all or parts of the below Haggadah supplements to your Passover seder.


 IMAGE: Seder plate CC-Wikipedia


Rabbis for Human Rights Haggadah Supplements 5774


Download as pdf: Please click the “download” button in the left of the blue and gray bar directly above this text.

Download as word doc (letter-standard to USA printers): Click here

Download as word doc (A4- standard to Israel printers): Click here

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Scroll down for the entire text.

 Rabbis for Human Rights 5774 Passover haggadah supplements



Eloheinu v’Elohei Kadmoneinu (Avoteinu, Avoteinu vEmoteinu), our God and God of our ancestors, we are gathered around this seder table as b’nei khorin, free people commanded to remember our dark nights of oppression. Your Torah warns us never to become oppressors ourselves, reminding us, “For you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Yet, when we are honest with ourselves, we know that we have been Pharaoh to other peoples, and to the disadvantaged among our own people. Our awareness that “In every generation there are those who arise to destroy us” often causes us to harden our hearts, and perceive hatred where it does not exist.

We therefore turn to You, as in days of old. Stand with us, so that our fears not rise up to be our taskmasters. Help us to banish Pharaoh from our hearts, and let others in.

With Pharaoh at bay, we become more painfully aware of the desecration of Your Image found in every human being. As with the plagues of old, our joy is diminished when we hear of those whose lives remain embittered. “Hashata Avdei,” “This year we remain slaves because of their oppression ” We remove additional drops of wine from our cup of celebration and renew our commitment to winning their freedom, thereby completing ours. We make room in our hearts and at our table for: (Choose one or more. One person can read out loud, and all participants can read the final section together)

Arabiyah has seen her home demolished six times.There is a hollow and vacant look on her face, and she has struggled with depression ever since the first demolition in 1998. Pictures drawn by children on our office wall testify to the trauma suffered by thousands of Palestinian children who left their homes in the morning, only to find rubble where their house once stood. The pictures are full of violence, blood and tears. With the numbers of demolitions skyrocketing both in the Occupied Territories and in the “Unrecognized” Bedouin villages of the Negev, Arabiya, the children and all the families of all the homes we have seen demolished over the years will be in our hearts as RHR goes to court on April 28t to return zoning and planning in Area C to Palestinian hands.

As we sit at our seder table in our secure homes, we leave a place for those whose tables lie under the rubble of their bulldozed homes.

Rivka struggles every month with only 700 shekels, after rent, for food, water, electricity, health care, transportation and municipal taxes. She wouldn’t even have that without the help of RHR. And, there was no open door or place at the table for the poor at the meetings of the Alaluf Committee given three months to find solutions to Israeli poverty.But, with our intervention, Rivka was invited to tell her story.

As we gather tonight to tell our people’s story, we know we must include the forgotten and untold chapters of those whose suffering has not ended, whose tears continue to fall, and who have nothing but the bread of poverty all year long. As we tell their story, we commit to ending their degradation.

Salim was born in the “Unrecognized” village of Umm El Khiran, after Israel moved his family from their lands near what is now Kibbutz Shuval in the 1950′s.They were given long term leases and promised that they would be able to stay in their new homes “until there are no more Jews or Arabs living on this land.” But now the government has approved building the Jewish community to be called “Khiran” on the rubble of their homes. They must move to a poverty and crime stricken township.

Tonight we are asked to recall Laban the Aramean, who changed our ancestor Jacob’s wages time and time again. Tonight we invite to our table those Israeli Bedouin who have learned that a promise is not a promise, and an agreement is not an agreement. As up to 40,000 Israeli citizens face expulsion from their homes and villages, they have a place in our homes and our hearts, and our commitment not to rest until justice is done.

Natalie breaks into tears every few minutes as she tries to explain why she and her young daughter were forced to squat in an empty public housing after being kicked out of the apartment her job didn’t allow her to afford. She has been on the waiting list for public housing for eight years. But, with successive governments seeking to eliminate housing, the supply is short and every time she gets close to the top of the list, she falls back again.

Tonight we dipherbs in salt water reminiscent of our ancestors’ tears. As we dip tonight we gaze at Natalie’s empty seat, her tears are our tears. As we sing Adir Hu and dream of the day when God’s house will be built, know that first our national home must have a home for all.

Ismail. A bitter wind courses through the South Hebron Hills. RHR returned Ismail and other families to Bir El ‘Id almost ten years after settler intimidation forced them to abandon their villages. The laughter of children was heard again where there had been only desolation. However, Ismail and his family have continued to pay a price since returning. They eked out a living from their flocks, while suffering arbitrary arrests, harassment from settlers and soldiers, tires slashed, water tankers emptied, midnight visits and much violence. Ismail could return to his cave, but everything he and others built was demolished. They build again. A year ago Ismail was brutally attacked by knife wielding masked settlers. The final straw for his children was when settlers attacked them and sent one to the hospital while working their land next to the Mitzpeh Yair outpost, but they were arrested and are about to stand trial. Ismail and the other families of Bir El ‘Id would gladly accept the bitterness of hard labor, were it not for the ruthlessness of army backed settlers.

Our ancestor’s lives were made bitter. As slaves they worked endlessly, with no reward for their labor. Ismail and all the residents of Bir El ‘Id sit with us tonight if we commit to their struggle to peacefully and safely live on their lands.

African refugees. Even after Israel’s High Court struck down the law allowing African refugees to be imprisoned for the crime of fleeing for their lives, the Knesset approved a new law creating “Open” detention facilities. The detained are the lucky ones. A fence prevents most from crossing our border. Traumatized Israeli soldiers tell how they defy orders when they can, but often helplessly watch those cannot cross being shot and raped by Egyptian soldiers.

As we open our doors to invite all who are hungry to come and eat, we remember the many doors closed to us over long years of persecution. As we await Elijah, the empty seat next to us waits for those who our fences prevent from arriving.

Even ma’asu habonim – “The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.”

As we joyfully recite these words as a part of our seder, we pledge to build a homeland with a place for all those who are today rejected, ignored or oppressed. Tonight, they all have a place at our table.

Recalling the midwives of old, we know that the seeds of redemption are planted when we oppose Pharaoh’s command.

This year we also celebrate accomplishments. Lands have been returned to Palestinian owners, olives have been picked, trees planted and fields successfully sowed and reaped. Inside Israel the Bedouin displacement program has been frozen, while the public attention we have focussed on the Alaluf Committee on fighting poverty will apparently lead to a significant change in the recommendations for the better.



The Four Children at the Seder Table: Which Child Am I?

As we celebrate this Holiday of Freedom, the ending of slavery, we ask, “Who am I, when I hear of human rights abuses? Who will I choose to be when I know that others are suffering?”

Will I be one who does not ask? Will I close the newspaper or turn off the television, the computer or the mobile device so that I do not hear or see? Will I turn my head and heart away?

Will I ask only simple questions? “What is this?” Will I ask what, but never why?

Will I let the evil impulse, my yetzer hara ask: “What has this to do with me?” Will I let the problem belong only to the victims and the do-gooders? Will I distance myself from those in need?

Or will I strive to act in wisdom, to ask: “What are the underlying causes of the problem and what needs to be done to stop the abuse and free the oppressed? What are the laws and what does Gd expect of me?”

May Gd open the eyes of those who do not see, the mouths of those who do not ask, and the hearts of those who do not care, and grant us the wisdom to open our hands to our fellow humans when they are in need – the hand of generosity, the hand of support, the hand of peace and friendship.

Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch, Commentary to the Torah

You shall not wrong a ger (Non-Jew living among you and living by your rules) or oppress him/her, for you were gerim in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 22:20)

The great, meta-principle is oft-repeated in the Torah that it is not race, not descent, not birth nor country of origin, nor property, nor anything external or due to chance, but simply and purely the inner spiritual and moral worth of a human being, that gives him/her all the rights of a human being and of a citizen. This basic principle is further protected against infringement by the additional explanation, “For you were gerim in the land of Egypt.” Your entire misfortune in Egypt was that you were “foreigners” and “aliens.” As such, according to the views of other nations, you had no right to be there, had no claim to property, to homeland, or to a dignified existence. It was permissible to do to you whatever they wished. As gerim, your rights were denied in Egypt. This was the source of the slavery and wretchedness imposed upon you. Therefore beware, so runs the warning, from making human rights in your own state conditional on anything other than on the basic humanity which every human being as such bears within him/her by virtue of being human. Any suppression of these human and civil rights opens the gate to the indiscriminate use of power and abuse of human beings, to the whole horror of Egyptian mishandling of human beings that was the root of abomination of Egypt.

 Do not “wrong”, Do not “oppress”…means to be illegally deprived of material or spiritual possessions…[thus, the full implication is] – Neither by words nor by deeds shall you hurt a ger…[and] here the admonition against differentiating against gerim is directed primarily to the state as such. It is not to practice any discrimination and injustice against gerim because they are gerim.. It is not to impose heavier taxes or grant lesser rights than it does to the native-born; and in no ways is it to restrict them in the free exercise of any means of gaining their livelihood…The main point is not to limit where s/he can live, or taking away his/her hold on his/her possessions.




General, Justice in Israel-Prawer

RHR Responds to columnist Seth Frantzman’s attempts to deny Bedouin land rights

No Comments 09 April 2014

RHR responds to Seth Frantzman’s article on the Mida website denying Bedouin land rights. According to Mr. Frantzman, Rabbis for Human Rights distorted the Israel Land Development Company’s 1920 report and the conclusions that can be drawn from it. True or false? We will present Mr. Frantzman’s arguments and our responses. You can see for yourselves that his arguments are disconnected from the facts and illogical.  Continue Reading

General, Parasha / E-Letter

Parashat Acharei-Mot: “There is no goat that can atone for us”

No Comments 09 April 2014

In Parashat Acharei-Mot, Rabbi Dov (Dubi) Haiyun examines the Biblical origins of the term “scapegoat” and reminds us of the terrible price paid when individuals or groups are arbitrarily forced to atone for sins they did not commit.  Continue Reading

General, Occupied Territories, Refugees rights - UNHCR

Getting Ready for Pesach! Upcoming seders and donations to the needy

No Comments 08 April 2014

Passover starts next week! We ask you to please take a break or two from your Pesakh cleaning and your holiday preparations to join in on a number of social-justice/human rights oriented seders throughout the country, contribute to Kimkha D’Peskha (donations to the needy), and to donate your khametz.

Kimkha d’Peskha

We are again accepting donations so that so that the less fortunate will be able to celebrate on seder night. Please send checks made out to “Rabbis For Human Rights” and designated for “Kimkha D’Peskha” to Rehov HaRehavim 9, Jerusalem 93462 or online here . Again, please note that your contribution is for “Kimkha D’Peskha.”  If you let us know  the check is in the mail, we can use the money  before it even arrives!

Donate your khametz to non-Jews in need

Through Sunday, we can accept khametz in our office in unopened packages and bottles.  We will help you donate in other parts of the country as well. Email:; Telephone: 02-6482757

Human rights seders throughout the country

2014-04-10 Israel Seders Flyer


Let’s restore the meaning of Pesakh by showing our solidarity with and commitment to the slaves and oppressed of our society:  Since 2007, each year during the week before Passover, a “Refugee Seder” has been held in Levinsky Park in south Tel Aviv, in which refugees and Israelis sit side by side, sharing with one another their own “Exodus” stories, enjoying a warm meal together in tears and in laughter, with bitter herbs and sweet Haroset, celebrating our freedom and aspiring for the freedom of those who are not yet free.

  This year for the first time there  will be two refugee seders in Israel – one in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv and one outside the Holot Detention facility in the Negev desert.

1. Tel Aviv Refugee Seder | THURSDAY APRIL 10 2014

8pm-10pm at Rabin Square.Rabbi Estaban Gottfried, an RHR member, will be speaking.

- Roundcircle discussions with Israelis & refugees
- Musical performances
- Theatrical performance: “One Strong Black”
- And more…

FACEBOOK EVENT HERE. Please register via Facebook event.


2.Holot “Open” Detention Facility in the Negev | FRIDAY APRIL 11 2014

1pm-3:30pm (return before Shabbat)

Rides will be leaving from Levinsky Park in south Tel Aviv at 10:30 am. Pre-registration required!

- Roundcircle discussions with Israelis & refugees
- Musical performances
- Theatrical performance: “One Strong Black”
- And more…


3. “Combatants for Peace” seder | FRIDAY APRIL 11 2014

1pm, Palestinian village of Masara

Combatants for Peace are organizing a seder in the Palestinian village of Masara, as part of the struggle agains the route of the Separation Barrier

FACEBOOK EVENT HERE  Please register in advance here:

For more information: Saar –


Hag sameach!


Live Event this Sunday: Marking 25 Years of Rabbis for Human Rights!

1 Comment 03 April 2014

Participate live on Facebook!

Please click the link, sign into Facebook, and mark that you are “going”  to the event; then you will be able to type any important questions you have in the “comments” section of the event.  We cannot guarantee we will get to your question, but we will try.


Please join us in marking 25 years of our work with an exciting LIVE event!

THIS SUNDAY, APRIL 6th (6 Nissan)

7pm, Jerusalem Botanical Garden Auditorium


For those who cannot make the event in person, you can watch the event LIVE  here, with English subtitles. No need for registration or anything else! CLICK HERE TO WATCH

You will also be able to participate virtually by asking questions. This can be done on our Facebook “event” page. Please click the link, sign into Facebook, and mark that you are “going”  to the event; then you will be able to type any important questions you have in the “comments” section of the event.  We cannot guarantee we will get to your question, but we will try.

Evening’s Events
7:00 Tribute to the founders of RHR and introductions to staff and management
7:20 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
  • Dr. Meir Bouzaglo, Founder of “Tikkun,” a think tank dealing with social issues in Israel; Founder of “Mizrakh Shemesh,” which teaches the religous traditons of Jews from Arab /African countries
  • Linda Gradstein, Bureau Chief, The Media Line and Contributor to NPR

The evening will conclude with a performance by the

Israeli Palestinian youth ensemble “Heartbeat”


The event is at 7pm in Israel. This corresponds to the following times globally:


Pacific Daylight Time (LA, San Fran, Vancouver)- 9am
Central Daylight Time (Chicago, Minneapolis)-11am
Eastern Daylight Time (NYC, Boston,Atlanta, Toronto, Montreal)- 12pm, noon
British Summer Time (London)-5pm/17:00
Central European Summer Time (Berlin, Paris, Stockholm, Johannesburg)- 6pm/18:00
Eastern European Time (Cairo, Istanbul)-6pm/18:00
Australian Eastern Daylight Time (Melbourne, Sydney)- 3am, APRIL 7th

25 Years of Rabbis for Human Rights: A Retrospective



The Botanical Gardens are at the entrance to the neighborhood “Neot” at the Hebrew University- Givat Ram campus. Enter through the gas station “Delek” on Herzog Street. Public transportation: Bus number 32 or 19 to Herzog Street; Bus number 17 to Yehuda Burla Street. Entrance to gardens are near the parking lot.


RHR’s 25th Anniversary Event: Meet panel participant Rabbi Naamah Kelman

2 Comments 02 April 2014

Meet Rabbi Naamah Kelman, one of our distinguished guests at our 25th Anniversary event on April 6th. Rabbi Kelman will participate on a panel entitled “The Role of Judaism in the Struggle for Human Rights in Israel.” The panel will be moderated by RHR’s co-chair Rabbi Moshe Yehudai. 

Kelman, Naamah

Rabbi Naamah Kelman is a descendent of 10 generations of rabbis, becoming the first woman to be ordained by the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem in 1992, where she is currently the Dean. Born and raised in New York, she has lived in Israel since 1976; where she has worked in community organizing, Jewish education, and the promotion and establishment of Progressive and Pluralistic Judaism for Israelis . Naamah Kelman has been intensely involved in the emerging education system of the Israeli Movement for Progressive (Reform) Judaism. Among the founders of the first Progressive Day school, she has overseen the development of curricular materials, teacher training programs, and family education. She has been involved in teacher training and enrichment, the professional development of the Israeli Rabbinic students, and the establishment of “Mazorim” Spiritual Care/Israeli Chaplaincy. She was the Director of the Year in Israel Program for HUC’s North American students. She is a board member of Rabbis for Human Rights, MELITZ, and the Tali Education Fund. Naamah Kelman is deeply engaged in inter-faith dialogue and feminist causes. She is married to Dr. Elan Ezrachi and they have three children.



Education, General

“I come from an inclusive world”: Rabbi Amsellem visits Beit Midrash for Human Rights

No Comments 02 April 2014

Rabbi Chaim Amsellem met last week (March 26) with our students from the Beit Midrash for Human Rights in cooperation with Hillel at Hebrew University.  Rabbi Amsellem, a Sephardic Haredi rabbi, is a founder of the Shas Party but resigned to establish the Am Shalem movement. Rabbi Amsellem, an articulate man with a commanding presence, opened the discussion with an explanation of his motivations for this move: “What motivates me is getting out of my shell. I see the injustices in Israeli society as well as in the society that I am from, Mizrahi society, and I decided that the best way to make change is to act within the political system.” Rabbi Nava Hefetz brings us her fascinating impressions from this meeting with a ground-breaking leader in Israeli society. Continue Reading

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