March 24, 2013 ~ B'nai B'rith Liberty Region serving Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
One day after attending the formal installation of Pope Francis as the new head of the Catholic Church, B’nai B’rith International Director of United Nations and Intercommunal Affairs David Michaels attended an interreligious meeting with the pope in Clementine Hall at the Vatican.
At the meeting, Pope Francis greeted Christian and non-Christian leaders alike, with representatives in attendance from several major religions. At his installation, the pope publicly offered special greetings to Jews, who were seated in close proximity to Francis. In meeting with religious leaders he affirmed his commitment to Nostra Aetate, the Second Vatican Council declaration that transformed Catholic-Jewish relations, and to the path of his predecessors.
“I’m very pleased to hear that on the first day of his papacy, Pope Francis is already picking up where Pope Benedict left off with regard to the church’s relations to the Jews,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “Today really demonstrates that the relationship between our religions is important to him. We look forward to working with him in the future.”
Though Pope Francis did not delve deeply into his plans for Catholic relations with any religion, his actions as a cardinal in Argentina forecast well for the Jewish community. In November, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was the keynote speaker at B’nai B’rith’s Kristallnacht commemoration in Buenos Aires, where he helped light a candle in commemoration of the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust. He has also consistently addressed Jews with affinity as “elder brothers.”
Michaels warmly greeted the pope and conveyed the good wishes of B’nai B’rith members around the world, expressing hope in Francis' friendship with Israel and the Jewish people.
“It’s encouraging that the Jewish people, including our organization, already have ties to the new pope,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “I think this bodes well for the future as we continue to advance the interreligious dialogue between the two communities.”
A delegation of leaders from B’nai B’rith International met with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on March 20 to discuss such pressing issues as Israel’s treatment at the United Nations, the growing nuclear threat Iran poses to the world and the situation in Syria, among other subjects.
B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin led the delegation.
“We had an opportunity to have an open conversation with the secretary-general about issues of great concern to Israel,” Jacobs said.
At United Nations offices in New York, Paris, Geneva, Santiago and Vienna B’nai B’rith has engaged U.N. officials and representatives of dozens of nations, advocating for Israel and speaking out for the advancement of human rights.
After the meeting with Ban, Mariaschin noted: “B’nai B’rith has been active at the United Nations since its founding. In that time, we’ve had the opportunity to advocate for human rights and the fair treatment of Israel at U.N. forums. It was important to meet with the secretary-general to ensure certain issues stay at the forefront of the United Nations’ attention.”
Joining Jacobs and Mariaschin in the delegation: Joel S. Kaplan, Woodmere, N.Y.; Seymour D. Reich, New York; Gary P. Saltzman, Centennial, Colo.; Charles O. Kaufman, Austin, Texas; Bruce Pascal, North Potomac, Md.; and Matthew Waas, Arlington, Va.
B'nai B'rith Omaha’s Henry Monsky Lodge calls its signature program “Breadbreakers.” It takes place over lunch during the noon hour. Every Wednesday. It has gone on for over 60 years, at least 49 times a year.
It is a friendship-building, brand-promoting B’nai B’rith educational program, put on primarily, but not exclusively, for the Jewish community. To sustain the program, week in and week out, the Lodge has to get approximately 20 attendees to cover the cost of the buffet lunch. To do that, the Lodge employs the following criteria: recruit the prominent and preeminent, the interesting and influential to tackle a timely topic in a mini-press conference format.
This can be a very challenging task, especially when you have to find 49 people over a year’s time. For the last 14 years, Gary Javitch and co-chair Marty Ricks accepted that challenge, rarely missing the goal and on many occasions going over it. The key to success is, of course, selecting the right guest speaker.
This past week, on Wednesday, March 20, the duo invited Rabbi Mordechai Levin to speak. Rabbi Levin matched the above criteria perfectly.
The rabbi, it seems, just happens to be a personal acquaintance of the new leader of the billion- plus-member Catholic Church, the recently-elected 266th pope.
During his introduction of the rabbi, Javitch noted that the clergyman had been hyped more than any other speaker in the history of Breadbreakers. “Just two days ago,” Javitch said, “our presenter wrote an op-ed piece about the new pope
which JTA, a world-wide Jewish wire service, published. Then yesterday, the rabbi’s relationship with the pope was the featured above-the-fold story on the front page of the Omaha World-Herald (in both editions).
Those two articles helped Levin attract a large crowd, drawing nearly 50 people – more than double the average weekly attendance.
“The Buenos Aires-born rabbi distinguished himself as a leader in his home country’s Jewish community,” said Javitch. “He is a past president, a past secretary and a founder of the Latin American region of the Rabbinical Assembly; a past secretary of the Board of Rabbis of Latin America, and he is also a co-founder of the Association of Conservative Congregations in Argentina.”
It was in that context that Rabbi Levin became acquainted with the man, now known to most of the world as “Pope Francis.”
Mixing light humor, insightful information, and utilizing PowerPoint, the rabbi told his story.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Mordechai Levin grew up separately in their country’s capital, but their paths often crossed when one became a rabbi and one achieved the rank of Archbishop and then Cardinal.
Of the then-Cardinal, Rabbi Levin observed, “One of his most distinguishing attributes was that he is a quiet and humble guy. Whereas he could have had a limo pick him up every day, the cardinal instead walked or took local transportation to the church where he worked, often stopping along the way to buy a newspaper from a local street vendor.
“Our local B.A. newspaper,” Rabbi Levin said, “recently reported that shortly after his election, the pope made his own personal long-distance phone call to that street vendor telling him, ‘I am sorry, but I have to cancel my newspaper subscription.’
“The Cardinal attended a number of our Jewish events in Buenos Aires, including a B’nai B’rith program memorializing the 1994 terrorist destruction of the Jewish community center. I expect that his friendly relationships with the Jews will continue on a very positive note.”
Judging by the applause following the rabbi’s thirty-minute interactive presentation, he was a “crowd-pleaser.” But that was to be expected. He was, after all, the right speaker, for the right time.
The B'nai B'rith Great Lakes Region's Project H.O.P.E. (Helping Our People Everywhere) Passover Food distribution event held on Sunday, March 17, was a big success. Volunteers filled 100 baskets with food items and paper goods and delivered them to seniors and individuals in need.
B'nai B'rith had a lot of help during this year's Project H.O.P.E. including young professionals and teens.
Project H.O.P.E. is a community action project whose major goal is the collection and distribution of food packages to poor and elderly Jews during Passover. Many Jews who cannot afford special holiday foods depend on B'nai B'rith members to provide matzoh and the other Passover staples. To these people the remembrance is often as special as the needed food. Project H.O.P.E. works with the community family service agencies and local Jewish social services and with B'nai B'rith members and synagogue volunteers. Jewish organizations provide the lists of people who need packages and the facilities for collecting, storing, and packing the food.
Nada como começar as atividades de 2013 com uma confraternização. No último dia 16 de março, diversos casais se reuniram no Restaurante TRYP, em Higienópolis, em um gostoso reencontro da B’nai B’rith paulistana. Henrique Golberg agradeceu a presença de todos, a ex-presidente Adélia Cabílio pediu uma salva de palmas para Henrique por sua dedicação aos eventos da instituição. Lia Bergmann falou sobre o novo informativo que a entidade está lançando, destinado aos seus integrantes e Ana Levi contou uma estória que emocionou a todos.
The B'nai B'rith Perlman Camp held a Shabbat Dinner on Friday, March 15, 2013 at 7pm in Merion Station, Pennsylvania.
The Clibanoff Family hosted us for a wonderful camp-style Shabbat dinner for Philadelphia-area Perlman Camp families where attendees shared camp news and our excitement for the upcoming summer.
If you have any questions about the 2013 summer Perlman camp experience, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or to register for camp, visit www.perlmancamp.org
B’nai B’rith International sent its annual leadership delegation to Geneva to address key issues facing the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), including the council’s continued obsessive focus on Israel, Iran’s appalling domestic human rights record and its repeated threats against Israel and the devastating fighting in Syria.
Sixteen B’nai B’rith International leaders and supporters led by President Allan J. Jacobs and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin met with representatives from some 40 countries.
Recently, the UNHRC released a report that was yet another example of its anti-Israel bias. The council-ordered “fact-finding mission” report stated that Israel must withdraw from all settlements or Israelis could be tried for war crimes at the International Criminal Court should “Palestine” sign on to the Rome treaty, as Palestinian leaders have repeatedly threatened to do. The panel also suggested that businesses cut ties to business interests in the settlements. The report is to be presented at the current session of the council and a follow-up resolution on the matter is expected later in the session.
“It’s this kind of bias that we’re here in Geneva to address,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “It’s completely unacceptable that time and time again this council has unfairly trained its eye on Israel, while ignoring many member states’ countless human rights abuses.”
The B’nai B’rith delegation also emphasized the negative effects of decisions and resolutions taken at the United Nations on the peace process.
“As long as U.N. bodies continue to pass biased resolutions against Israel, you can certainly bet that the Palestinians will prefer to internationalize its conflict with Israel instead of returning to negotiations without preconditions,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “We’re here to make sure that the Human Rights Council members understand that the actions of the council only aid in the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to circumvent direct peace talks.”
In addition to Jacobs and Mariaschin, B’nai B’rith was represented by: Helene Briskman of London; Matthew Caplan of Washington, D.C.; Jay Feldman of Washington, D.C.; Michael Gellman of Washington, D.C.; Ralph Hofmann of Frankfurt, Germany; Jacques Jacubert of Paris; Yves Kamami of Paris; Charles Kaufman of Austin, Texas; David Matas of Winnipeg, Canada; David Michaels of New York; Joëlle Perelberg of Nice, France; Ada Sadoun of Grenoble, France; Gary Saltzman of Denver, Colo.; and Stéphane Teicher of Paris.
On March 13, B'nai B'rith International leadership held a reception at the U.N. headquarters in Geneva, hosting numerous ambassadors. Joshua Lincoln representing Director-General of the U.N. Office in Geneva Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, addressed the delegation and its guests, as did Peter Mulrean, deputy permanent representative of the United States to the U.N. Office in Geneva.
Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev and B'nai B'rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin
B’nai B’rith International marked the 70th anniversary of an incredible story of courage—the rescue of the Jews of Bulgaria.
In 1943, Bulgarians from every segment of society united to prevent 48,000 Bulgarian Jews from being deported to Nazi death camps by the Nazi-allied regime in Sofia. It was the broad involvement of the Bulgarian population—politicians, church leaders, every day citizens—that ensured the continuation of the Jewish community in Bulgaria.
This inspiring story serves as a reminder that courage and determination know no limits and can have an immeasurable impact.
Tragically, Bulgarians had already seen 11,300 Macedonian and Thracian Jews, living under Bulgarian military occupation, deported to concentration camps, on trains that traveled through Bulgarian territory. Witnessing that horror spurred citizens to rise up to prevent more carnage.
B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin is in Bulgaria to participate in commemoration ceremonies. “We must pause to reflect on this collective act of defiance and bravery,” he said from Sofia, Bulgaria. “The story of the rescue of the Jews of Bulgaria is truly living proof that intolerance and hatred can be stopped.”
While in Bulgaria, Mariaschin also met with Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev, outgoing Foreign Minister Nickolay Mladenov, Bulgarian Socialist party leader Sergei Stanishev, U.S. Ambassador Marcie Ries and the Israeli Ambassador Shaul Camisa Raz. Mariaschin also observed the 20th anniversary of the re-established B’nai B’rith lodge, which was originally founded in the late 19th century.