Human rights leader Jerome Shestack dies


(JTA) — Jerome Shestack, a human rights leader and Jewish activist, has died.

Shestack, also a prominent lawyer, died at his home Aug. 18th of kidney failure; he was 86.

He was chairman of the American Jewish Committee’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights from 1989 to 1992, but remained involved in the institute until his death, according to the AJC.

Shestack was president of the American Bar Association in the late 1990s. He was also the chairman of the International League for Human Rights and was appointed by President Carter as the U.S. representative on the U.N. Human Rights Council in 1979-1980.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Shestack "a committed public servant and a dogged defender of human rights.”

A prominent lawyer with the Philadelphia firm Schnader, Harrison, Segal, and Lewis, Shestack served as chair of the Committee on Conscience at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. For 20 years before that, Shestack was president of the International League for Human Rights, the oldest international non-governmental organization active in defending rights globally, where he led initiatives protesting abuses in the Soviet Union, Latin America and South Africa.

Shestack was born in Atlantic City, N.J. Both of his grandfathers were rabbis, and he spoke Hebrew and Yiddish before he spoke English, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, and was wounded in an attack on the aircraft carrier Ticonderoga. The Philadelphia Daily News reported that he escaped serious injury because he did not go to lunch that day since they were serving pork on the deck that was hit hardest.

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