The “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), in Paris, France, on December 10, 1948. Article 1, which in English reads:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.And in Yiddish reads:
Yeder mentsh vert geboyrn fray un glaykh in koved un rekht. Yeder vert bashonkn mit farshtand un gevisn; yeder zol zikh firn mit a tsveytn in a gemit fun brudershaft.It is neither a universal document nor a perfect document, but an attempt through compromise to do something good, to make a statement, to provide a secular vision bathed in humanistic language. How well it has educated or changed the world towards good, after almost 70 years, is debatable. How much it is valued and cited today by a majority of the world’s nations is also debatable, as are the merits of the United Nations itself as a world body devoted to goodness, to fairness, to justice.
The words sound nice, the height of humanistic language. Yet, the words become insincere to the point of absurdity when nations with clear records of denying human rights sit on human-rights councils and other UN organizations. Such is the way it is.
I know; this is politics. a concession to the way that the world is and will be for a long time. As is the knowledge that in a good many nations of the world—all members in “good standing” of the U.N.— its governments don’t give its citizens the kinds of human freedoms commonly found in western civilization, which they view as immoral, corrupt and unrestrained. Yes, they have their own history, their own understanding of government and what it means to rule.
I doubt that human rights will ever become universal, since there is little appetite for it in many parts of the world, including in nations who wield much power and influence in the world. You can’t force human rights; you can only encourage its adoption, which seems less important today than seven decades ago. Such is the way it is.
Looking around, I find most of the world as inhabitable places, as places in which I would not want to live. There are only a handful of places in the world in which I would want to reside. I am fortunate that I live in Canada, where human rights are part of the laws of the land.
The Yidn have long fought for it, for human rights and justice, for the freedom to live as Jews, for the right to exist as a people, long before the U.N. was formed, long before the U.S. existed, long before western civilization, and rarely receiving the recognition they deserve. When the Yidn fight for human rights, workers rights, etc., many others benefit. Such is the way it is.
There is no Yiddish nation, of course, but there is a Yiddishlayt, places where Yiddish and the people who spoke Yiddish was allowed to thrive, which goes hand in hand with human rights and religious freedom. Such places are no longer in Europe, but in New York, Montreal and Israel. For the record, the complete “Declaration” in Yiddish can also be heard and read here.