Rabbi Arik Ascherman, the Executive Director of Rabbis for Human Rights, will be in Williamstown tomorrow, May 1st. He'll be speaking about Jewish Values, Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict at the Jewish Religious Center at Williams College. His talk, at 8pm, is free and open to the public; it's preceded by a 7pm reception/fundraiser with a suggested donation price of $100.
I imagine most of you reading this know RHR already, but in case you don't, their About Us page says:
Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) is an organization of Israeli rabbis committed to defending the human rights of all people in Israel and in the territories under Israeli control: Israelis and Palestinians, Muslims, Christians, and Jews, young and old, rich and poor, citizens and foreigners...
RHR-North America is a rabbinic organization dedicated to education, advocacy, prayer, and action in support of human rights. Our initial focus has been on supporting the work of Rabbis for Human Rights in Israel. New initiatives are now underway focusing on human rights in the United States as well.
(As far as those "new initiatives" in the United States go, I'm especially moved by RHR-NA's campaign to stop torture. This should be such a no-brainer; why aren't we all up in arms about it already?) My rabbi tells me, further, that RHR is the only organization of rabbis in Israel that includes Reform, Orthodox, Conservative, and Reconstructionist rabbis. RHR "lobbies for economic justice, creates educational materials, provides support for Palestinian families facing home demolitions, and protects Palestinian farmers' access to their farm land."
There's a bio of Rabbi Ascherman at the RHR site here. His previous work has included setting up homeless shelters and soup kitchens, and serving as a rabbi for both college communities and kibbutzim; he's been the executive director of RHR since 1998. In 2004 he stood trial in Israel with two other defendants for blocking bulldozers from demolishing Palestinian homes. (Susannah Heschel wrote an article about that, which you can read here. Also of interest, on a related note: this open letter from a multitude of rabbis on the subject, and Rabbi Ascherman's court testimony from the trial.)
I'm planning to go hear him speak. If you live nearby, you should, too. (And if not, stay tuned; hopefully I'll be able to blog some portion of his remarks...)