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Poster Commentary
"We must believe not only that all people are created equal but also that all peoples are created equal."Natan Sharansky
Poster design:Jean Claude (J.C.) Suares


by Rabbi Benjamin Samuels

One of the most difficult challenges we face in the twenty-first century is whether we should advocate for, and even impose, our values such as democracy and civil rights, upon others in our world. Pluralism demands that we celebrate our world’s remarkable diversity of cultures and religions. But does pluralism require that we tolerate tyrannical forms of government, religious beliefs that promote violence and oppression, cultures that suppress human freedom?

Sharansky, a former refusenik and champion of human rights, offers us an answer. While the U.S. Declaration of Independence speaks of the equality of all people—“all men are created equal”—Sharansky expands this idea to all peoples. On the one hand, the equality of peoples supports the principle of pluralism. There is a self-evident, inalienable right for each people within our world of nations to develop and sustain its own unique culture and national identity. On the other hand, the very right of equality also requires of each people that it values and upholds fundamental human dignity and civil rights by governing itself through some form of democracy. Fear societies that govern through terror and tyranny need to be replaced by free societies that give voice and vote to the equality of people and peoples.

By defending the freedom of peoples, Sharansky also legitimates the national rights and Zionist aspirations of the Jewish people and Israel, along with those of every people and country. Sharansky challenges us to promote personal freedom and advance peace among peoples.

Rabbi Benjamin Samuels has served as rabbi of Congregation Shaarei Tefillah (Newton, MA) since 1995. He is a Genesis Scholar at Boston’s Combined Jewish Philanthropies, a Meah instructor, and a master teacher at Ma’ayan. He is a member of several national and local Jewish organizational boards and a doctoral student in Boston University’s religion and science program. Rabbi Samuels studied at Yeshiva University as a Wexner Graduate Fellow, receiving rabbinic ordination and an MA in both Bible and medieval Jewish history. 

Conversation Guide


1. Do you agree with Sharansky that “all peoples are created equal”? Is there a necessary connection between the two beliefs that “all people are created equal” and that “all peoples are created equal”?

2. The Torah calls the children of Israel am segulah, God’s chosen people. What does this mean to you? Can the idea of am segulah be reconciled with Sharansky’s teaching about the equality of both people and peoples?

3. As a politician and human rights activist, Sharansky wrote The Case for Democracy proposing solutions to problems facing the peoples of the Middle East, in general, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in particular. Do you believe that democracy can solve these challenges?



1. Which characters stand out to you? Which most reminds you of yourself? Which would you pick to represent your people?

2. Which visual elements describe individuality, “people,” and which represent “peoples”?

3. Why is it significant that the people of the world have assembled on a stage? What is happening among the characters, and between the characters and the audience?



Frames of Mind©2015, Jean Claude (J.C.) Suares, Quote: Natan Sharansky, Harold Grinspoon Foundation, West Springfield, MA