Human Rights

What are Human Rights? 

Human rights are international standards, comprised of several treaties, which articulate the universal treatment of all human beings. 

Examples of rights that are commonly thought of as a part of the human rights paradigm are civil and political rights, which include the right to life and liberty and the right to equal protection under the law; and economic, social and cultural rights, which encompass the right to adequate housing, the right to participate in culture, and the right to work. 

All human rights are Inalienable (rights can’t be taken away), Indivisible (one right can’t be prioritized over another), and Interdependent (fulfilling one right often requires the fulfillment of another). 

Ultimately, human rights are the standards which enable individuals to be fully human. The imperative to understand and to accept that human rights matter is strongly supported by international law. 

What is the Human Rights Difference? 

Utilizing the prophetic values of Judaism, JCUA has worked diligently with its community partners over the past 45 years to attain much success in a variety of social justice campaigns. The social justice framework has afforded us the ability to advocate for the equal treatment and status of many groups of people and communities, as well as to combat discrimination in areas such as housing, employment and criminal justice.   

Human rights, on the other hand, advocates for a minimum standard of living for everyone. They move beyond the right not to be discriminated against to the right (for everyone) to housing, to work, to freedom from torture, etc. These rights are entitlements, which mean it’s not whether rights will be fulfilled, but how they will be fulfilled. 

Furthermore, the human rights framework provides JCUA’s advocacy and organizing work with an international language of accepted moral and legal standards. While our work focuses primarily on issues that affect local communities, these issues – housing, employment, immigration reform, criminal justice – do not manifest solely within Chicago borders, but are issues that affect communities the world over. By applying human rights language and framing to our strategies, we create opportunities to connect to global activism on these issues, thereby engaging a larger audience to the plight of local campaigns.  

Integration of Human Rights Framework  

JCUA integrates the human rights framework into all of its organizing and advocacy campaigns. This includes the incorporation of human rights language in its advocacy messaging, as well as utilizing the human rights paradigm to analyze a social problem and to inform the development of our campaign strategies. 

Some of the rights that JCUA work specifically to protect and that are inherent in our priority work issues are: 

  • Affordable Housing – The right to adequate housing
  • Worker Justice – The right to adequate living standard
  • Immigration Reform – Addresses many human rights


An Example of Human Rights Integration – Immigration Reform 

JCUA’s “National Immigration Reform Policy Statement” articulates five recommendations that we believe, if implemented, will ensure dignity and respect for immigrants living in the United States. In an effort to integrate the human rights framework into our immigration reform strategy, we identified the key rights addressed by many of the recommendations and the international treaty associated with those rights: 

Recommendations and Rights: 

  1. Moratorium on ICE Raids – Right to safety and security, equal protection and due process,  Freedom from discrimination
  2. Legal Opportunity for the Immigration of Family Members – Right to family unity
  3. Protecting Wages and Work Conditions of Immigrants – Right to just working conditions
  4. Equal Access to Education, Health Care and Housing – Right to education, right to health care, right to adequate housing
  5. Clear Path to Citizenship for Undocumented Workers – no associated rights

Human Rights Focus: ICERD 

The International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) is an international human rights treaty that articulates the rights of individuals to be free from discrimination on the bases of race. ICERD also articulates the standards that governments must respect, protect and fulfill in order to ensure that all of its citizens have the freedom to enjoy these rights.  

Given JCUA’s mission to combat racism, governmental adherence to ICERD is a top human rights priority for the organization. 

Human Rights Reports 

Jewish Council on Urban Affairs

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