Sheri Rosenberg passed away on May 22, 2015, after a brave battle with cancer. As a scholar and activist, Sheri dedicated her life to preventing mass atrocities and helping those whose lives were affected by them. Her contributions revolutionized international law and significantly advanced the field of prevention.
Sheri was an extremely important thinker who linked international law to a practical preventive policy agenda. At the same time, she was acting upon her thoughts: she worked in rebuilding the court system in Bosnia, built the Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights, and set up mechanisms to assist asylum seekers from societies destroyed by atrocities. She was a lawyer for cases that could positively affect societies that were at risk of atrocities and she built with us the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation. Her amazing knowledge, passion and humor made her one of the most effective advocates for change. Her vision will forever inspire us in our community and especially at AIPR.
AIPR had the great honor and privilege of working with Sheri for many years and in various capacities. Sheri had been with AIPR from the beginning, first serving as an instructor for our inaugural Global Raphael Lemkin Seminar in May 2008. Sheri then became a regular part of our instructional team, giving her latest lecture on the legal frameworks for prevention at the November 2014 Lemkin Seminar. Sheri truly touched the lives of our alumni from around the world with her teaching, through the countless conversations over meals and other activities during the Seminar, and the ongoing guidance she provided following the program.
Sheri also spearheaded the publication of a volume, Reconstructing Atrocity Prevention, a joint effort by the Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights and AIPR. This book will be published in late 2015 and will include an in-depth analysis of atrocity prevention in practice. It is authored by various scholars and practitioners in the field, including Sheri herself, and will be used as a textbook and general resource for the atrocity prevention community. This book is one of the many ways Sheri’s legacy will live on.
Jacqueline Murekatete, a human rights activist and survivor of the Rwandan Genocide, shared this statement with AIPR about Sheri’s lasting contributions to the field:
I got to know and work with Sheri as a student at Cardozo Law School and she always supported me and other genocide survivors’ efforts to share our testimonies and educate the world about the crime of genocide. She was truly an inspiring woman who hated every form of injustice and worked tirelessly to promote basic human rights for all… Sheri was a mentor to many genocide prevention and human rights activists like me and she inspired so many young people to pursue careers in human rights. She will continue to live on in the memories of all the people whose lives she touched and inspired.
Sheri’s optimism inspired many and remained a constant thread in her work. For example, on January 13, 2015, Sheri shared her views on how far the field of prevention has come since the Rwandan genocide at an event co-organized by AIPR and the New York City Bar Association. According to Sheri, in the face of mass atrocities “the question is not whether we should do something, it is how and what. And while that may seem small, for a problem that has been around since time immemorial, that is a huge step forward.”
In 2014, Sheri became an AIPR Board Member and formalized her relationship with our organization as one of our most trusted and valued advisers. Truly enmeshed in our work, she will always be a part of the fabric of the Auschwitz Institute and we commit to further building Sheri’s vision. Together, in her memory, we will make mass atrocity prevention a palpable reality that improves the lives of all.