Our History – 23 years of impact

In the year 2000 the Consultative Council of Jewish Organisations (CCJO) takes a group of young professionals to the UN Commission on Human Rights (since reformed as the Human Rights Council) in Geneva. Dismayed by the absence of a Jewish voice on universal human rights, they are inspired to set up René Cassin to raise awareness of human rights and encourage activism within the Jewish community.

René Cassin began…

Geneva, Activism Enrichment Programme, 2010


René Cassin hosts a series of public events featuring high-profile speakers such as Dame Ruth Deech, Dr Indarjit Singh and Peter Tatchell, addressing the most important human rights issues of the day.


We launch an innovative education programme for UK secondary schools on genocide, immigration and childrens’ rights which reaches over 3,000 Jewish secondary school children.


As part of a campaign for restitution for victims of genocide, René Cassin representatives negotiate the first-ever reference to group rights in a UN instrument (the Basic Principles on Rights to Victims).


We launch the Jewish Human Rights Network with the support of the Chief Rabbi and the Attorney General of the United Kingdom.


Marks the beginning of a relationship with the Pears Foundation when René Cassin is accepted as a JHub resident with goal of professionalising operations.  We begin our campaign to end modern slavery and trafficking in the UK, which eventually results in legislation to combat this human rights issue. We produce a Haggadah Companion on slavery and trafficking for the Jewish community.


We take on attempts to repeal the UK Human Rights Act in Parliament and with the Jewish community, we develop alliances to combat discrimination against Gypsies, Travellers and Roma people in the UK and Europe.


We travel to Geneva and The Hague with our activists to intervene at high level meetings. We begin producing a series of resources for lawyers on Asylum and Detention.


René Cassin is growing! We hire a new staff member to manage our five campaigns and educational programmes! We travel to New York for UN meetings and intervene on behalf of Gypsy and Traveller rights. In addition to JHub residency, Pears becomes a significant funder, providing unrestricted support for continued organisational growth and development.


We launch the René Cassin Fellowship Programme on Judaism and human rights. Our first group of Fellows from the US, UK and Israel spend two weeks in Israel looking at human rights issues on the ground in a complex environment. This year also marks the beginning of a relationship with the Sigrid Rausing Trust providing unrestricted funding in support of organisational growth and development.


René Cassin leads the Jewish community in the fight against legal aid cuts, takes lawyers to Geneva for the Universal Periodic Review and continues to voice Jewish support for the Human Rights Act.


René Cassin launches a training programme for faith leaders on combatting endemic discrimination against Gypsies and Travellers; helps launch a Parliamentary Inquiry into immigration detention and speaks out against proposals to withdraw the UK from the European Convention on Human Rights.


René Cassin hosts London premiere of Valley of Sighs, a powerful documentary about a forgotten genocide of Roma by the Nazis; organises major meeting to mark the passing of the Modern Slavery Act; emphasises the links between the Magna Carta (800 years old this year) and the Human Rights Act; builds pressure on the issue of indefinite immigration detention – actions at Harmondsworth Immigration Detention Centre attract coverage in Jewish and national press.


Former Attorney-General, Dominic Grieve tells Rabbi Julia Neuberger why he fully supports the Human Rights Act at a packed René Cassin meeting; ex-detainees and Jewish, Christian and Muslim clerics tell Parliamentarians why they should oppose indefinite immigration detention at an event in the House of Commons; René Cassin produces video testimony of a German Jew interned on the Isle of Man by the British in 1940. René Cassin has now grown sufficiently to ‘graduate’ from JHub to our own office. Since leaving Jhub, René Cassin continued to benefit from training and professional opportunities provided by the Pears Foundation.


René Cassin launches campaign to ‘remake the case for human rights values’ in response to growing nationalism; arranges landmark collaboration between Gypsy, Roma & Traveller groups and Jewish community to promote solidarity and counter growing hate crime; hosts major public meeting with Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer. We partnered with the Anglo Jewish Association to re-launch the Fellowship Programme with a UK cohort of participants.


We run a year-long campaign to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the civilised world’s response to the horrors of the Holocaust and drafted by our namesake Monsieur René Cassin. We also host the premiere of ‘Sunrise, not Sunset‘ a short film outlining how the Human Rights Act helps ordinary people in everyday situations.


A new focus on genocide: we highlight China’s brutal repression of its Uyghur Muslims. We also being work on women’s rights and, after a roundtable discussion with eminent experts, social and economic rights. We publish a comprehensive booklet ‘Making the Jewish Case for Human Rights‘.


The year starts with a successful Women’s Seder. But then Coronavirus causes a succession of lockdowns. René Cassin becomes a highly effective ‘virtual’ organisation, running a series of online events. The campaign on Uyghur genocide gathers pace, with support from Jewish News.


There is now widespread communal support for Uyghur campaign, with Chief Rabbi and Board of Deputies making high-profile interventions. Our work on women’s rights and socio-economic justice begin in earnest, with new campaign staff recruited. In November and December, our ‘New Horizons Festival of Women’s Rights‘ featured MPs Jess Phillips, Margaret Hodge, and Caroline Nokes; lawyer Harriet Wistrich; and Uyghur campaigner Rahima Mahmut. René Cassin helps broker a relationship between Pears and Stop Uyghur Genocide, culminating with initial seed support to set up Stop Uyghur Genocide on a professional footing, and subsequent core funding support.


The year begins with a focus on labelling the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics ‘the Genocide Games’. In May, we launch the Jewish Food Rights Declaration on the right to food. In November, we take part in 16 Days of Activism on violence against women. Constant themes throughout the year are: countering ‘hostile environment’ rhetoric against refugees; and defending the Human Rights Act from attempts to replace it with a weaker ‘British Bill of Rights’. We launched a new initiative in partnership with the Anglo Jewish Association to promote the Jewish case for human rights.


This year’s 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the foundation stone of the human rights framework, co-authored by our namesake Monsieur René Cassin – will be a major focus of our work.