Pope Francis I is no stranger to us. In recent years he attended many inter-faith events co-organized by the WJC and our regional affiliate, the Latin American Jewish Congress. I personally met with him in Buenos Aires in June 2008. He always had an open ear for our concerns. By choosing such an experienced man, someone who is known for his open-mindedness, the cardinals have sent an important signal to the world. I am sure that Pope Francis I will continue to be a man of dialogue, a man who is able to build bridges with other faiths.
During the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, Catholic-Jewish relations reached unprecedented levels. This was due to the determination of the pope to continue the work of his predecessor, John Paul II. We are convinced that new pontiff will continue on this path, that he will speak out against all forms of Antisemitism both within and without the Catholic Church, that he will take action against clerics who deny or belittle the Holocaust, and that he will strengthen the Vatican's relationship with Israel.
In November, then-Cardinal Bergoglio was the keynote speaker at B'nai B'rith's Krystallnacht commemoration in Buenos Aires, where he helped light the menorah.
"We welcome Pope Francis I to his new role as leader of the Catholic Church," B'nai B'rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. "Catholic-Jewish relations had remained a focus of Pope Benedict XVI and we look forward to continuing the solid foundation that already exists for interfaith dialogue...more.
Argentina's Congress approved an agreement with Iran to jointly investigate the 1994 bombing of the Buenos Aires AMIA Jewish Community Center.
The legislative body's Lower House early on Thursday approved the bill establishing the joint program with 131 votes in favor and 113 against, after 13 hours of debate. The accord was approved last week in the Argentine Congress' Upper House.
No single political representative of the main opposition parties voted for the bill, but the government party has its own majority in both chambers.
“We are surprised that the Argentine government would team up with the Iranian government to seek out justice,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan Jacobs said in a statement. “Given Iran’s deplorable judicial track record and its refusal to turn over those previously implicated in the bombings, there’s little reason to believe anything substantial will come out of this commission...more.
by Michael Wilner
At a UN Security Council discussion on the protection of civilians in armed conflict on Tuesday, Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor renewed his call for Hezbollah to be designated as a terrorist organization by the European Union, as it has been categorized by the United States.
“Make no mistake: Hezbollah’s sole purpose is to commit terrorist acts both inside and outside the Middle East,” Prosor said. “Calling Hezbollah a charity is like calling al- Qaida an urban-planning organization because of its desire to level tall buildings.”
The charge came just days after Bulgarian authorities identified Hezbollah as the perpetrator of a terrorist attack in Burgas last July, which killed seven people, including the suicide bomber, and wounded 32.
“Too often members of the EU conveniently ignore the violence of Hezbollah and insist it is merely a political organization,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “Hopefully this report will strip Hezbollah of any claim of legitimacy and finally allow people to see it for what it is – a violent and dangerous terrorist organization.” ...more.
by Phil Jacobs
Pope Benedict XVI's resignation announcement on Monday brought reaction from many different parts of the Jewish world.
Well it should have.
Jews have every reason to be watchful and concerned by actions from the Vatican that could impact Jewish-Catholic and Israel-Vatican relations.
Benedict, 85, will step down at month's end, citing his "advanced age" and failing health. He is the first pope to resign since Gregory XII in 1415.
"We wish Pope Benedict only good health as he steps down from his position," B'nai B'rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. "He consistently expressed his commitment to Catholic-Jewish relations, and his accessibility to Jewish leaders was significant. We are very grateful for the opportunities we had to meet with him to further the Catholic-Jewish friendship."
B'nai B'rith leaders met with Pope Benedict, as with a line of his predecessors, on multiple occasions. In 2011, Jacobs and Daniel S. Mariaschin, B'nai B'rith International executive vice president, led a B'nai B'rith delegation to the Vatican to meet with Benedict. Jacobs and Mariaschin spoke with him about the Middle East and the challenges facing Jews and Christians in the region.
Representing the American Jewish community, David Michaels, B'nai B'rith director of United Nations and intercommunal affairs, presented a gift to Benedict from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum during the pope's 2008 visit to Washington. Michaels and Alan Schneider, B'nai B'rith World Center director, greeted the pope at the Western Wall in Jerusalem in 2009.
"Pope Benedict deserves appreciation for his contributions to the great cause of Catholic-Jewish engagement," said Mariaschin. "We hope that Benedict's successor will continue to build upon decades of historic progression in Catholic-Jewish relations."
B'nai B'rith International President Allan J. Jacobs quoted:
Argentina's government rejected the Israeli government's summons of its ambassador in order to explain the memorandum of understanding signed between Argentina and Iran advancing the investigation of 1994 AMIA bombing case.
“The attack was suffered by the people of our country on July 18 and did not involve any Israeli citizen. The victims were mostly Argentines and include six Bolivians, two Poles and one Chilean,” Argentina's Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued late Tuesday.
“We are surprised that the Argentine government would team up with the Iranian government to seek out justice,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said in a statement. “Given Iran’s deplorable judicial track record and its refusal to turn over those previously implicated in the bombings, there’s little reason to believe anything substantial will come out of this commission.” ...more.
B'nai B'rith International President Allan J. Jacobs is quoted:
Holocaust survivors, their families and delegates of their cause flooded the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations on Friday, where the international body commemorated the victims of Nazism with a day of remembrance on the 68th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
The ceremony opened with a moment of silence followed by a taped message from Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon, who promised that the UN, founded out of the principles of humanity highlighted by the Holocaust, would “never again” let such an atrocity occur.
At a breakfast before the ceremony held to mark the day, B’nai B’rith International president Allan J. Jacobs told The Jerusalem Post that denials would continue as more time passes and more witnesses pass on.
“We know that’s going to happen,” Jacobs said. “There is certainly a dichotomy that exists. And we’ll continue to fight that in every venue we can, including at the UN.” ,,,more.
by Paul Foer
The nation narrowly has avoided falling off the so-called fiscal cliff, at least for a brief time.
Congress retained most tax cuts and cut some spending but continued to put off deeper cuts. The House of Representatives remains deeply divided and at odds with the president but still passed tax increases for the wealthiest Americans, a cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s campaign.
B’nai B’rith, which also expressed reservations about the work left undone, including potential cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, was specific about its support in one area. “Ensuring seniors have access to doctors by stopping a cut in reimbursements to those who treat the elderly is a vital element of this bill,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs.
“We certainly hoped Social Security would be left out because it is self-funded and doesn’t contribute to the deficit, but we have reason to be concerned about that as well,” said B’nai B’rith International Associate Executive Vice President Mark D. Olshan...more.