The Jacob Soetendorp Institute for Human Values, formerly the Jewish Institute for Human Values, was founded in 2001, by three business people who were inspired by the message and work of Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp. All three men recognized in Rabbi Soetendorp a sincere teacher of compassion who brings to the world a message of peace and hope and inspires people to engage in tikkun olam, repairing the world, making it a better place for the community of life.
The Institute has played a critical role in enabling Rabbi Soetendorp to engage in his work in the realms of inter-faith dialogue, peace building, protecting and restoring the environment, building just societies and realizing the rights of children, particularly to education. This was also one of his key motivations for his ongoing work with the Earth Charter and the Earth Charter Initiative, of which he was one of the drafters and founding members when it was launched in 2000. The Earth Charter and its holistic message of promoting respect for the community of life, ecological integrity, sustainable ways of life, economic and social justice, participatory governance, democracy, non-violence and peace are themes which imbues all of the work done by the Institute and Rabbi Soetendorp. Both he and the Institute also have a strong focus on intergenerational cooperation and the need to engage youth in this work Rabbi Soetendorp remains an Earth Charter Commissioner and the Institute continues to support his work in this regard.
Since its founding more than eight years ago, the Soetendorp Institute for Human Values has been the source and inspiration of a number of great achievements. In 1999, Rabbi Soetendorp and a team of dedicated volunteers engaged Dutch society in an attempt to promote a voluntary contribution of .001% of everyone’s income to fund universal basic education for children everywhere. While they were unable to forge an agreement with the Dutch investment funds, they sparked a crucial debate and heightened awareness of children’s right to education. Today, the Institute still works to promote the realization of this right which is also one of the Millennium Development Goals.
This effort led Rabbi Soetendorp and those working with him, to create the Dag van Respect (Day of Respect) Foundation in 2006. As its name indicates, the Foundation was created to promote respect among the members of Dutch society in general and amongst the youth specifically: respect for ones self, for other people and for the world and the environment. The program takes place in schools and is based on a curriculum which surrounds the day itself on which well known people from all parts of Dutch society volunteer as guest teachers in schools around the country. (To read more about the Dag van Respect Foundation click here).
Rabbi Soetendorp has engaged in a wide variety of other efforts and organizations working toward his overarching goals. He was a co-founder of the Green Cross environmental movement and is chair of Green Cross Netherlands; President of the European Region of the World Union for Progressive Judaism from 2001-2007; Board member of the Anne Frank Foundation in Amsterdam; Honorary President of the United Nations of Youth; Member of the International Advisory Committee of World Peace Summit; Founding member of the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders for Human Survival; member of the World Connectors; Board Chair of Radio La Benevolencija, which works to prevent incitement to mass violence and hatred; advisor to the American Jewish World Service which supports humanitarian projects in developing countries; and member of the Elijah Interfaith Institute’s Board of Religious Leaders.
Rabbi Soetendorp’s work has been acknowledged in various ways in The Netherlands and around the world. He is a recipient of: the Royal Distinction Officer of the House of Orange in 1994; the International Peace-Builder Award of the Alliance for International Conflict Prevention and Resolution, Washington, in 2005; the International Gold Medallion “Peace Through Dialogue” of the International Council for Christians and Jews, in November 2007; the highest distinction of the city awarded by the City of The Hague, in February 2008; and the James Parks Morton Interfaith Award from the Interfaith Center of New York in 2008.
The Jacob Soetendorp Institute for Jewish Values will continue to support Rabbi Soetendorp in his work and reach out to others who are interested and inspired to join with him and the Institute staff in building the bridges that will enable us all to arrive at a more just, sustainable, and peaceful future. We hope that you will join us in these efforts and working to create a better day for all life that shares this small, wonderful world of ours.