The Basic Idea

The Torah of Human Rights is a text-based program of study exploring the nexus of Judaism and human rights law and activism. Torah tradition wields religious, social and cultural power, and that power can serve the human rights project. At the same time, when our Jewish practice helps protect human dignity, the tradition takes on a new vitality ,and our roots in it grow deeper. The goal of the Torah of Human Rights program is to explore the ways that Torah and the human rights project can make each other stronger.

Overview of activity

The intensive and systematic study of sacred texts has for millennia stood at the center of Jewish religious life. Sacred study carries great emotional and intellectual power but requires skills that liberal Jews often don’t have. At the Conservative Yeshiva, we cultivate the age-old Jewish tradition of learning-as-a-religious practice in a community that is fully cognizant of the moral truths expressed in egalitarianism, democracy and human rights. We work to better ground our religious communities in the life-giving practice of Jewish sacred study.

The Torah of Human Rights applies the methodology of our yeshiva-style learning to explore the Torah meaning of human rights. Our programs are designed to facilitate a profound encounter between Jewish sacred texts and the participants, on the one hand, and to address the key issues of Judaism and human rights, on the other.

Over the last four years, we have offered six full courses to some 90 students, including three Yeshiva summer courses, an online course, and a semester text-intensive for Hebrew College rabbinical students. Many shorter programs have reached dozens of additional participants at the yeshiva, in synagogues in Israel and abroad, in youth movements and in other frameworks. 

The Torah of Human Rights Online

We are presently preparing a more developed online version of Torah of Human Rights. The online course will guide students through the classic texts of Jewish tradition, such as Bible, Talmud, Medieval commentaries, Jewish Philosophy, Kabbalah and modern Jewish thought. The course seeks to help students understand how these texts fit together from a religious Jewish perspective, and to clarify their own relationship to them. On that foundation, students address the contemporary theory and practice of human rights, and consider how different forms of human rights activism might fit into their form of Jewish practice. The online program will include a coursebook designed for self-directed study, video lectures, background readings and multimedia.


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Contact us at the Conservative Yeshiva to learn more about it!