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Rooted Cosmopolitans: Jews and Human Rights in the Twentieth

An original look at the forgotten Jewish political roots of contemporary international human rights, told through the moving stories of five key activists
Yale University Press
Publication Year


James Loeffler explores the history of connections between Zionism and international human rights through the stories of five remarkable Jewish founders of international human rights, following them from the prewar shtetls of eastern Europe to the postwar United Nations, a journey that includes the Nuremberg and Eichmann trials, the founding of Amnesty International, and the UN resolution of 1975 labeling Zionism as racism. The result is a book that challenges long-held assumptions about the history of human rights and offers a startlingly new perspective on the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


“This year marks two 70th anniversaries: Israel’s birth and the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Loeffler reminds us how entwined the two events were — both for the role Jews played in codifying human rights and for how Zionism was buoyed by these new international values.” – New York Times Book Review

“[This] book belongs on the shelf of anyone interested in human rights or modern Jewish political thought and history. He marshals remarkable archival research, literary grace, and philosophical insight to recover a forgotten chapter of history (several, actually) and make us think more deeply about political ethics, both Jewish and universal.” — Jewish Review of Books

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