B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement on the tragic death of Polish President Lech Kaczynski:
B’nai B’rith International mourns the tragic loss of Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife, Maria, and nearly 100 government, military, and church leaders in a tragic plane crash on April 10. The group was en route to a service in memory of 20,000 Polish officers killed in a Soviet massacre during World War II.
Kaczynski was a reliable friend of the Jewish community and a supporter of Holocaust education and commemoration. As mayor of Warsaw, he was instrumental in laying the ground work for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which is scheduled to open in 2012. During his presidency, he visited Israel for the Jewish state’s 60th anniversary celebration and, earlier this year, spoke at a ceremony at Auschwitz marking the 65th anniversary of the Nazi concentration camp’s liberation.
A staunch foe of communism, Kaczynski became a firm believer in the trans-Atlantic partnership. His presidency saw a democratic Poland emerge as a key member-state in both NATO and the European Union. President Kaczynski also proved himself to be a close and trusted ally of both the United States and Israel.
B’nai B’rith, whose presence in Poland dates back to the 1880s, was forced to close its lodges there in 1938. At a 2007 ceremony in Warsaw, Kaczynski sent a message welcoming the reestablishment of a B’nai B’rith lodge in Poland and underscoring a commitment to the continuous development of the Polish-Jewish relationship.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims and the people of Poland at this moment of profound national sorrow.
The ritual foods of Passover are out of reach for far too many Jews in need every year. That’s when B’nai B’rith International’s Project H.O.P.E. (Helping Our People Everywhere) steps in to provide Passover meals to elderly Jews and Jews in need in several Northeast cities.
B’nai B’rith program organizers and volunteers came together in Philadelphia, Connecticut, Washington, D.C., and the New York metro area. Volunteers performed such tasks as packing the food, breaking down boxes for recycling, loading cars, and, of course, delivering the care packages. For the recipients, many of whom live alone, the food deliveries also provided a welcome bit of company during the holiday.
“Project H.O.P.E. provides a wonderful opportunity for people to come to the aid of those less fortunate who live in their own communities,” said B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick.
Project H.O.P.E. is a vital B’nai B’rith program, which has built on its Brooklyn, N.Y. roots and has expanded to other major population centers in the Northeast during its more than three-and-a-half decades.
“This program brings hope to those in unfortunate circumstances and connects them with the Jewish people, which is the main focus of Passover,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin.
In the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., volunteers delivered Passover food to 41 families, and 120 people in total, on March 21.
“Families recently arrived from countries where borders change daily and Jews are less safe than anyone else,” said Barbara Brenman, coordinator of the project. “We helped, we did it, we brought Passover to all of them. However temporary, we took their thoughts away from their situations.”
To get involved, for the 2011 program, contact B’nai B’rith’s Center for Community Action at 212-490-3290 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s not too late to donate. Checks can be made payable to B’nai B’rith International and sent to B’nai B’rith Project H.O.P.E., 801 Second Avenue, 14th Floor, New York, N.Y., 10017. Donors can indicate the region they would like to receive their donation.
B’nai B’rith International strongly condemns a hate-filled graffiti attack on the walls of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension in Oakland, Calif. The swastika, profanity, and racial slurs were found painted on the walls on Palm Sunday.
B’nai B’rith International conveys its sympathy to the church and stands in solidarity with church members over this intolerable desecration. Religious intolerance anywhere is absolutely unacceptable.
We urge prosecutors to fully punish the perpetrators to the fullest extent of hate crimes laws.