Jews and human rights

Loeffler takes the reader on a journey that stretches from minority rights through the idea of a universal Bill of Rights.

October 17, 2019 20:53
Jews and human rights

Rooted Cosmopolitans: Jews and Human Rights in the Twentieth Century. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The title of James Loeffler’s new book is Rooted Cosmopolitans, a term originally used by the USSR to denigrate its Jews. In typical antisemitic mode, it charges Jews with being both rooted and rootless at the same time – wedded to the idea of belonging to a Jewish homeland while being incapable of belonging to any one country. Loeffler demonstrates that when the oxymoron is unpacked, it reveals the central role that Jewish political activists played in the development of international human rights in the 20th century.
By detailing the lives and achievements of five Jewish political activists – far less recognized than they deserve – Loeffler provides a deeply researched account of the struggle for Jewish minority rights, and what that struggle morphed into.

The movement to achieve Jewish minority rights, born in the shtetls of Eastern Europe before the World War I, gained a new momentum immediately after the war by way of the League of Nations. Demands for minority rights for the Jewish communities scattered far and wide across eastern Europe vied, within the League’s political imperatives, with the re-establishment of Europe’s historic national identities such as Poland and Lithuania, and also with the rights of other minorities left stranded by the post-war redrawing of the map of Europe.


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