Jerome J. Shestack, a prominent human rights lawyer who led the American Jewish Committee’s Jacob Blaustein Institute, died at 86, the AJC announced.
“Jerry Shestack was a brilliant, dynamic and effective advocate for human rights and the Jewish commitment to justice for all,” said AJC executive director David Harris. “Motivated by his deep roots in Jewish tradition, he championed the plight of those abused and excluded worldwide.”
Shestack, who lived and worked in Philadelphia, was one of America’s most distinguished attorneys and served as president of the American Bar Association.
He was a dogged leader in the struggle to ensure that international institutions deliver on the promise of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments.
“Human rights is no sport for the short-winded,” Shestack wrote in a JBI publication.
As U.S. Representative to the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1979-1980, Shestack played a decisive role in helping to create the first “special procedure” of the commission. This mechanism became a model for others focused on aiding those silenced, imprisoned, or abused for exercising their human rights.
In addition to his activism on human rights, Shestack worked tirelessly at AJC in support of Israel, civil rights, Holocaust remembrance, and Soviet Jewry. He served as vice president and chair of AJC’s Foreign Affairs Commission.