Columbia University Libraries/Information Services Acquires Papers of Human Rights Advocate Joshua Rubenstein

Joshua Rubenstein

Rubenstein worked as a staff member for Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) for 37 years, from 1975 to 2012.   He became a member of Amnesty USA in 1974, helping found Boston’s Adoption Group 54.  In 1975, he joined the staff and was appointed AIUSA New England Coordinator. Between 1976-78, Rubenstein on behalf of the national office led initial efforts of the Section to organize Amnesty adoption groups in the midwest and south.  In 1983, when the regional office in Boston was enlarged, he was named Northeast Regional Director. 

His papers document his decades of leadership in AIUSA, his work in developing the organization’s membership and staff throughout its history, and his role in organizing and leading the Northeast Regional Office, including development and event planning. 

"I feel very honored to see my Amnesty International papers being collected so responsibly by Columbia's CHRDR,” said Rubenstein.  “I hope that the history of AIUSA will inspire both researchers and activists to join our efforts and advance the cause of human rights." 

Rubenstein was deeply engaged in AIUSA’s major programmatic initiatives such as the Campaign to Abolish the Death Penalty and the Campaign Against Torture.  He worked extensively on issues related to Israel, helping to reorganize the Israeli Amnesty Section in 1985 and also conveyed AIUSA’s concerns to American Jewish organizations.  As a specialist on Russian and Soviet history and politics, he became a strong advocate on the behalf of prisoners of conscience in the Soviet Union.  He also worked to establish and mentor an AIUSA Soviet Coordination Group in the Boston area.

An accomplished independent scholar, Rubenstein is the author the first general history of the Soviet dissident movement , Soviet Dissidents:  their struggle for human rights (Beacon Press, 1980).  He is also the author of Tangled Loyalties: The Life and Times of Ilya Ehrenburg (University of Alabama Press, 1999) and Leon Trotsky: A Revolutionary’s Life, (Yale University Press, 2011 and 2013).

“This accession fills our collecting objective of acquiring personal papers of human rights advocates that align closely with the organizational archives in the CHRDR collections,” said Pamela Graham, Director of the CHRDR. 

The Center for Human Rights Documentation & Research supports the community of teachers, students, researchers, and law and social justice advocates working in the multidisciplinary sphere of human rights.  The Center, established in 2005, is part of Columbia University Libraries/Information Services.  The CHRDR website is the central access point for its activities, archives, and research resources:

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