B’nai B’rith International has opened its disaster relief fund to help the victims of the multiple high-velocity tornadoes and subsequent flooding that hit six states in the South and Midwest on the afternoon and evening of April 27 and continued into the morning of April 28. The many tornadoes, some rated as EF-5, the highest wind velocity rating the National Weather Service assigns to storms, have killed nearly 300, mostly in Alabama, and destroyed hundreds of buildings and left close to one million homes and businesses without power. Flooding has wreaked havoc on the already devastated area, with record flood levels predicted to continue throughout the region.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of these horrific storms,” B’nai B’rith International Interim President Allan J. Jacobs said. “Many people lack the basic necessities to meet their short-term needs as they work to recover from these disasters. The devastation continuing to be felt by victims of these destructive storms needs to be quickly addressed.”
The B’nai B’rith International Disaster Relief Fund has provided aid to populations affected by natural and man-made catastrophes domestically and around the world, including the Haitian and Chilean earthquakes of 2010 and the 2011 earthquake that recently hit Japan.
“Disaster relief has been a crucial part of the B'nai B'rith mission since 1865, and continues to be a foundation of our commitment to providing global and domestic humanitarian aid,” B’nai B’rith Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “We must do everything possible to help the victims recover and rebuild their lives in the wake of this tragedy.”
To help, donate online at our secure website:http://bbi.convio.net/site/Donation2?df_id=1540&1540.donation=form1
Donations may also be made by mail to: B’nai B’rith International Disaster Relief Fund, Attn: U.S. Flood and Tornado Relief Fund 2011, 2020 K Street, NW, 7th Floor, Washington, D.C., 20006
Ceremony Dedicated To Commemorating the Efforts of Jews Who Rescued Other Jews in the Holocaust
The B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem and the Jewish National Fund (JNF) will hold a joint Holocaust commemoration ceremony on May 2, Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah). This ceremony is the only one in the world dedicated to commemorating the heroism of Jews who rescued fellow Jews in Europe. Some 250 Border Patrol cadets will provide an honor guard, and 300 high school students will participate. The ceremony will take place at the Martyrs’ Forest Scroll of Fire Plaza.
Guest speaker will be professor Uzi Arad, former chairman, National Security Council and diplomatic advisor to the prime minister. Also speaking will be Austria’s Ambassador to Israel Michael Rendi; KKL-JNF Chairman Efi Stenzler; and B’nai B’rith World Center Chairman Haim V. Katz. Soni Schey Birnbaum, eldest daughter of Joschua and Henni Birnbaum who rescued Jewish children in the Westerbork detention camp in Holland and at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany, will represent the Jewish rescuers. She and her five siblings, who all made aliyah after the Holocaust, will light a memorial torch.
For the first time, a “Jewish Rescuers Citation” will be conferred at the event by the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jews who Rescued Fellow Jews During the Holocaust (JRJ) and the B’nai B’rith World Center to the Birnbaum children and other rescuers who will be present. The citation will be conferred in the future on all known Jewish rescuers or their next-of-kin in Israel and around the world.
The event will be held at the Martyrs’ Forest—a joint B’nai B’rith-JNF project which memorializes the victims of the Holocaust in six million trees planted in the picturesque Jerusalem mountains near Moshav Kesalon. At the pinnacle of the forest stands the “Scroll of Fire” by the renowned sculptor Nathan Rappaport, which invokes the destruction of the Jewish people in the Holocaust and their redemption in the State of Israel in a bas-relief. The event will commence with personal testimonies by Holocaust survivors.
The story of the rescue of thousands of Jews by fellow Jews who labored throughout Europe to save them has yet to receive appropriate public recognition. Many who could have tried to flee stayed behind to rescue others; some lost their lives. Jews in every country in occupied Europe used creative methods such as forgery, smuggling and concealment to rescue fellow Jews. This ceremony is a unique opportunity to hear from the rescuers who have often been reluctant to recount their stories.
The organizers of the ceremony view it as especially important to expose Jewish youth to the story of Jewish rescue during the Holocaust as a model for Jewish solidarity and courage.
The B'nai B'rith World Center in Jerusalem announces the winners of the 2011 B’nai B’rith World Center Award for Journalism Recognizing Excellence in Diaspora Reportage in Memory of Wolf and Hilda Matsdorf. This year’s recipients are Bambi Sheleg, founder and editor-in-chief of the bimonthly magazine Eretz Acheret and director/photographer Meni Elias. Veteran Israeli journalist Noah Klieger will receive this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Since 1992, the B’nai B’rith World Center Award for Journalism has recognized excellence in reportage on contemporary Diaspora Jewish communities and on the state of Israel-Diaspora relations in the Israeli print and electronic media. The award is widely acknowledged in the media industry as the most prestigious prize in Israel recognizing excellence in Diaspora reporting.
Members of the distinguished award jury are: Dan Pattir, political analyst and media advisor to prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Menachem Begin (chairman); professor Yehudith Auerbach, head of the Communication and Journalism Studies Division, Bar-Ilan University; Sara Frenkel, Diaspora reporter, Broadcast Authority and Lifetime Achievement Award winner for 2002; Shlomo Nakdimon, journalist and columnist; and Asher Weill, publisher and editor of Ariel: The Israel Review of Arts and Letters (1981-2003).
“The award is geared to strengthening Israel-Diaspora relations by recognizing those who excelled over the past year in reporting on Jewish communities around the world and their relationship with the State of Israel. This is especially important in light of trends of disaffection and distancing that have been observed in some recent studies,” B’nai B’rith World Center ChairmanHaim V. Katz noted. “The award is one of the World Center’s major contributions to building this relationship and making it relevant and intimate for the broad Jewish public in Israel. By recognizing these journalists, we hope they will decide to continue to explore the vast array of Jewish Diaspora communities for their readers and viewers. This exposure will undoubtedly help build relationships between Israel and these communities.”
Bambi Sheleg won the award in the print media category for the November-December edition of Eretz Acheret— the thought-provoking magazine she founded in 2000. The edition was dedicated to the relationship between American and Israeli Jews under the title “Two States for Two Peoples: America Jewry and Us.” In addition to her position at Eretz Acheret, Sheleg has published a regular, highly-regarded column in Ma’ariv since 1996.
Meni Elias won the award in the broadcast media category for his moving documentary “When Israel Went Out.” The film, broadcast in October 2010 on Israel Television and produced by Micha Shagrir, follows three young Israeli Ethiopians on a re-enactment of their dangerous journey by foot from Ethiopia to Sudan on their way to Israel. Elias also lectures on photography at the Sapir College in Sderot and has directed, produced and filmed more than 20 documentaries over the past decade.
The jury also presented a Lifetime Achievement Award to Noah Klieger, member of the editorial board of Yediot Aharonot (Israel’s largest Hebrew daily), journalist, sportsman and author. Born in Strasbourg, France in 1926, Klieger survived the Auschwitz extermination camp and two death marches, and is today a recognized expert on the Shoah. He made aliyah in 1947 aboard the ship Exodus where he was one of the commanders of the battle against British commandos who stormed the ship. He joined Yediot Aharonot in 1957, serving as editor of the foreign news desk and correspondent. During his 54-year career at the newspaper, he published thousands of articles on Diaspora Jewish communities, the Holocaust, the Eichmann and Demjanjuk trials and Nazi war criminals. Klieger has also led many of missions of Israelis to the death camps in Europe.
The Award is made possible through donations from professor Daniel Schydlowsky, a member of the B’nai B’rith World Center International Board of Governors and the Matsdorf family.
Details about the award ceremony will be published in the coming weeks.
For further information please contact Alan Schneider, director, B’nai B’rith World Center, by phone: 02-6251743, fax: 02-6258097; 052-5536-441 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith decries the arson attack on a synagogue on the Greek island of Corfu on the morning of the first day of Passover, April 19. Vandals broke into the Scuola Greca Synagogue of Corfu and set fire to a pile of prayer books. Police, who were patrolling the area, were able to prevent the fire from spreading further.
A synagogue on the island of Crete was targeted in a similar arson attack in January of 2010. These alarming attacks in Greece represent a troubling pattern emerging in the country.
B’nai B’rith calls on the authorities to expeditiously press the investigation and apprehend those who carried out this malicious attack.
B’nai B’rith International Latin American Affairs Director Eduardo Kohn visited San Antonio’s Keystone School where students participated in the 2010 B’nai B’rith Diverse Minds Writing Challenge. The first-place contest winners for San Antonio, who hailed from this school, produced the book, “A Color for Consuelo,” the first Diverse Minds book to be published both in English and Spanish. The challenge asks high school students to write and illustrate a children's book that discusses tolerance and diversity.
Kohn lead classroom discussions on the subjects of politics, history, religion and cultures of the Americas, and later attended a smaller lunch group with students and teachers during his March 29 visit. Keystone School students and teachers enjoyed the visit which strengthened the relationship between the school and B’nai B’rith’s mission of promoting tolerance, cultural sensitivity and diversity.
As B’nai B’rith gears up for the 2011 Diverse Minds Writing Challenge, the contest will continue its legacy of encouraging students to destroy prejudices and strengthen the future of young people through the creation of these inspirational stories. The 2011 contest will take place in Memphis and New York.
Planned Reliance on Private Insurance Will Hurt Seniors and Neediest
B’nai B’rith International is deeply troubled by the U.S. House of Representatives budget proposal for 2012 released April 5, that would drastically cut—and fundamentally damage—important health programs Medicaid and Medicare. These are programs on which millions of vulnerable Americans rely for help meeting their most important and least affordable need: health care.
The proposed budget does not control health costs or encourage efficiencies in the broader health care system; it simply relies on dramatic cuts, with a staggering impact on the elderly. By making Medicaid a block grant while creating a decreasingly valuable Medicare voucher, this bill would deal a devastating double-blow to older adults as well as the disabled.
This proposal would end the guaranteed Medicare coverage as we know it for the next generation of seniors (starting in 2022, which impacts those born since 1957) and replace it with a voucher to buy health care in the private insurance market—a market with a poor track record of providing affordable, quality health insurance to older people. Even more troubling, these vouchers would not keep pace with the rising cost of all health care, about which this plan does nothing.
In order to reduce deficits, the budget proposal would transform Medicaid into a block grant program while dramatically reducing the federal contribution to the program. This would no longer allow the program to expand based on the number of qualified people in need. Rather, it saves money simply by offering reduced benefits or covering fewer people. “Anyone can cut the budget by arbitrarily capping programs,” said Allan J. Jacobs, B’nai B’rith interim international president. “The real challenge we face is to reduce the deficit without decimating help for the neediest among us, or making retirement impossible for the next generation. This means we must be straightforward with one another about how we are saving money. Unfortunately the savings in this budget seem to come simply from doing less for the people who need the most.”
B’nai B’rith is disturbed and frankly surprised by the attempt to privatize Medicare. Past experiments with privatization in Medicare have not saved money. Instead, they have created additional spending and unnecessary confusion without providing better health outcomes.
“Adding private plans into the mix has already created a highly confusing maze through which the elderly must wade, especially in Medicare Part D, without providing savings to the government or better choices for the consumer,” B’nai B’rith Director of Aging Policy Rachel Goldberg, Ph.D., said. “The savings in this budget come not from theoretical-but-never-realized-efficiencies of the private market, but by cutting the amount spent per beneficiary.”
B’nai B’rith is also troubled by the peculiar references to Social Security in this budget proposal, including certain “triggers” that would be created to “force” action on Social Security. As in 1983 (the last time major reforms of Social Security were made) changes to make Social Security stronger can and should be made by experts and policymakers working together, with Social Security solvency and sufficiency as their goal. These triggers are not an appropriate mechanism to replace responsible actions.
B’nai B’rith is fully aware of the steep deficits this nation faces. But blind cuts that don’t take into account long-term consequences could lead to greater expenses as more and more people fall through our valued and needed social safety nets.
In a Washington Post opinion piece, Judge Richard Goldstone, lead member of a United Nations “fact-finding mission” on the 2008-2009 hostilities between Israel and the terrorist group in control of the Gaza Strip, has now acknowledged that, unlike Hamas, the Jewish state did not target civilians and has actively investigated alleged lapses by service members during the conflict. In response, B’nai B’rith International is demanding that the jurist work to retract the mission’s report of nearly two years ago. The Goldstone mission, which was mandated by the Human Rights Council, defamed Israel by accusing it of “war crimes and possible crimes against humanity,” after the Jewish state engaged in cautious, long-delayed counter-terrorism efforts.
B’nai B’rith—whose U.N. representatives and Jerusalem-based staff intensively monitored the Goldstone mission—has consistently deplored Goldstone report assertions as deeply damaging and without basis in fact. Arab and other states hostile to Israel have capitalized on the report to endlessly perpetuate condemnations of, and threats to push sanctions against, the Middle East's only proven democracy.
“Though some news outlets came to play a key part in spreading the distorted, prejudicial conclusions of his panel’s report, Goldstone should above all correct the record at the Human Rights Council and other U.N. forums, so that the overtly politicized ‘follow-up’ to the report cease once and for all,” said B’nai B’rith International Interim President Allan J. Jacobs.
B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin added: “We reject Richard Goldstone’s suggestion that official Israeli cooperation with the inherently biased ‘fact-finding mission’ would have positively changed the course of its final product. From information released comprehensively for the public record, virtually everything the Goldstone investigators had to know, they did—beforehand. They owe Israel and the men and women of the Israel Defense Forces—who are guided by the most impressive professional and ethical standards—a full and formal apology.”
With escalating recent attacks against Israelis, and feverish Hamas and Hezbollah stockpiling of advanced weaponry, B’nai B’rith appeals to the international community to address the terrorist activity before, not after, Israel is forced to more aggressively protect its citizens.