Why Rights? Why Me?

Journal of Religious Ethics 35 (4):559-589 (2007)
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Abstract

That Jews are concerned about human rights is distinct from why Jews should be concerned about rights in the first place. This project analyzes the reasons Jews in the twentieth century put forward to convince co‐religionists to take rights seriously. Focusing on the content of these arguments facilitates dividing the proffered rationales into three broad categories—the temporal, the innate, and the philosophical. Analysis of each category reveals subdivisions, reflecting the many ways Jews try to persuade each other to care about human rights. This taxonomy, unlike others, highlights the different ways in which Jews conceptualize the burning ethical questions of our day: of how and why to be Jewish and modern. These rationales therefore are understood to function as moral reasons and, as such, can be assessed by their relative claims.

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