Human Rights in Judaism
44 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2022
Date Written: March 8, 2022
This paper focuses on how Judaism recognizes the inherent equality and dignity of all people, a central tenet underpinning modern human rights thinking and doctrine. As this chapter explains, classical rabbinic approaches to the coercive enforcement of Jewish law suggest that Judaism recognizes and prescribes the protection of various material human rights such as rights to life, property, education, housing, clothing, fair employment conditions, freedom of contract, and equal treatment under the law. At the same time, rabbinic practice also offers respect for private religious conscience and dissent from Jewish ritual norms. Unlike some other religious-legal traditions that seek to compel their members to comply with ritual norms and punish religious dissent with force, Judaism has avoided doing so. Instead, rabbinic practice has tolerated private religious dissent by Jews, and has focused on using ordinary tools of group membership and association to cultivate Jewish communities of like-minded individuals who publicly respect the norms and values of rabbinic law. In doing so, rabbinic authorities have largely succeeded in carving out what can be viewed as a sphere for private freedom of religion and conscience within a normative Jewish framework.
Keywords: human rights, judaism, religious freedom, jewish law
JEL Classification: K00, Z12
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation