The Vanishing Minority: The Forgotten Story of Human Rights as Jewish Politics

Loeffler, James

I am at present at work on a book, “Rooted Cosmopolitans: Human Rights and Jewish Politics in the Twentieth Century.” This study will offer the first major survey of the history of Jewish participation in the modern international human rights movement. Looking across Europe and the United States, I chronicle a network of Jewish legal scholars, political activists, and communal leaders who invented the modern human rights NGO; envisioned a new kind of international law and transnational criminal justice; and helped to construct the modern United Nations human rights program. Much of the source base for this research project is comprised of the papers of the human rights organizations Amnesty International. The institutional history of this organization offers vital access to primary sources. I have therefore been delighted to take advantage of the generous grant from the Columbia University Libraries System in order to pursue my in-depth research in their holdings. During 2014, I conducted research across several collections of the Columbia University Library System, including Special Collections, the Center for Human Rights Documentation and Research, the Oral History Office, the Judaica print holdings, and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America library holdings. What was particularly remarkable was the pioneering effort to build a specialized archive of materials related to human rights history, an extremely young field in the American academy, which is generating a rapidly growing demand for additional primary sources.


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