Tag Archives: Human Rights

Humanitarian Crisis at the Border

By Leah Citrin

In the last several weeks, considerable press time has been spent covering the humanitarian crisis taking place at the U.S.-Mexico border. A surge in unaccompanied minors from Central America has spurred much discussion and debate about the best way to address the fact that to date, 58,000 undocumented and unaccompanied minors have entered the United States. This number is more than double the 24,500 unaccompanied minors who entered the United States in 2013.

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Torture: Moral Issue, American Issue, Jewish Issue

As many already know, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has completed a comprehensive investigation on the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques after 9/11. The committee decided by an 11 to 3 bipartisan vote to make the 500 page executive summary and conclusions of the report available to the public.

At this point in the process, the CIA is completing their redactions to the report. Redactions are a necessary piece of this process. While I hope that as little as possible is redacted, I understand specific names and locations will need to be redacted for national security reasons, as well as the safety of the agents and their families. Redactions beyond those absolutely needed for the safety of this country however hurt more than they help. This report provides a great opportunity for public debate, the foundation of our democracy. The more that is redacted the less information the public and our leaders will have to use in a thorough and meaningful public debate. Furthermore, redacting the truth of the extent and specifics of torture will leave much to the imagination, leaving the opportunity for the public to assume the worst. Instead, admitting to the human rights violations this country has committed in the past, will allow us to better safeguard against similar crimes being committed again. Rev. Ron Stief, Executive Director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture has stated that, ”Admitting the truth about the United States’past is the first step toward redemption.” Read more…

Fighting for Religious Freedom Around the Globe

Last Thursday, Rabbi David Saperstein joined a delegation of religious leaders in meeting with Sudan’s Ambassador to the United States, Maowia Khalid.  The meeting came shortly after a Sudanese court sentenced Meriam Ibrahim to death for allegedly converting to Christianity.  In response to her sentence, Rabbi David Saperstein issued a statement, in which he said: Read more…

June is Torture Awareness Month

Although the 2013-14 L’Taken season is over, I want to reflect on my experience working with high school students on issues of torture and indefinite detention as we prepare to commemorate Torture Awareness Month.

Nearly 300 students participate in each of the six L’Taken weekends, and I had the privilege of teaching a program on issues related to the War on Terror to about 35 of them each weekend. Although these students and I are not that far apart in age, we did grow up in two very different worlds in terms of these topics, which is why it is so important to approach any conversation regarding torture – in particular – with a sense of how an individual might view the world. I am comfortable sharing with the students that I was 10 years old on September 11, 2001, and that I was in Lower Manhattan (in school just a few blocks away from the Twin Towers) on that day. That experience, and the aftermath, has shaped my views and sharpened my sensitivity to the importance of human dignity: ending the use of torture, better sensitivity to language that can be hurtful and hateful, and using our traditions – governmental, religious – to further these agenda.

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Reform Movement Responds to Kidnapping of Schoolgirls in Nigeria

Rabbi David Saperstein’s statement on the kidnapping of schoolgirls in Nigeria was quoted in the Jerusalem Post.  You can read the full article here.

Several weeks ago, Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group whose name means “Western education is sinful” operating in Nigeria, kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls from their school.  To date, most of the girls are still missing.  The leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, released a video in which he stated that he planned to sell the young women. Read more…

Guantanamo Bay barbed wire watch tower

Our Civil Liberties, Ourselves

It has been a long time since I last wrote about the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. In recent weeks, the major civil liberties focus has been the Senate Intelligence Committee’s vote to release the report on the CIA’s use of torture. But now, as Congress begins work anew on the FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, provisions related to Guantanamo and efforts to close it have been reignited.

Last year’s NDAA included language that lifted a ban on the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo to another country, although bans on transfers to the United States for trial in federal court or emergency medical care remains. The NDAA is an important opportunity to further efforts to close Guantanamo Bay.

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Rabbi Everett Gendler

A Heavenly Earth Day

By Rabbi Everett Gendler

Thirty six years ago, when Jimmy Carter was president, he established a number of regional Solar Energy Centers to encourage the use of sun-fueled electricity.  Attracted to the idea of plugging our temple Eternal Light directly into the sun, I and several members of Temple Emanuel, Lowell, MA, investigated the feasibility of converting our Ner Tamid to solar power.

Its symbolic appropriateness is evident.  Non-polluting, not in danger of imminent depletion, it seemed perfectly suited as a pure symbol of illumination and eternity.  We obtained two solar panels, storage batteries for hours of darkness and periods of heavy cloud cover, and at the dark of the year, during Hanukkah, 1978, we celebrated its installation.  People appreciated its symbolic value, and in December, 1991, we celebrated its Bar/Bat Mitzvah.

During my remaining years as rabbi of the temple, the light ever so gently kept nudging me:  Why only a symbol?  Why not real production of more usable electricity for your temple?  The question was not easily answered.  Succeeding U. S. administrations did not maintain the solar energy centers, and the necessary technical information was hard to obtain.  Even though the Light was included in a Union of Concerned Scientists-Real Goods book, Renewables Are Ready, published in 1995, by then I was retiring from the temple, and so it remained symbolic, not pragmatic. Read more…

Release of CIA Torture Report Reignites Important Conversation

Earlier this month, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence voted to release parts of a 6,300 page report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” – broadly considered to be torture. The committee, led by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), voted 11-3 to release the report (only three of the Republicans on the committee opposed its release). If you want to learn more about the story of the torture report, this is a helpful timeline.

The release of this report is crucial because it shows that the CIA’s interrogation methods did not, contrary to popular belief, provide valuable information, and that the CIA misled the government and the public on these matters. While this is an important step forward, the journey is not over. The Obama Administration still has to review the report to decide what exactly will be released, and it is possible the CIA might be in charge of deciding what or what does not get disclosed.

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