Joe Torre and Author/Educator Sharon Robinson (Daughter of Baseball Legend Jackie Robinson), as well as Rachel Robinson (Widow of Jackie Robinson) Also Attend
B’nai B’rith International bestowed Major League Baseball Commissioner Allan H. “Bud” Selig with the Distinguished Humanitarian Award on June 27 at the St. Regis New York.
The B’nai B’rith Distinguished Humanitarian Award recognizes personal and professional commitments to improving the lives of others at the community and global levels.
“I am truly honored to be here, as all of us at Major League Baseball join you in the celebration of B’nai B’rith International’s 170th anniversary. I didn’t think anything was older than baseball, but you guys are,” Selig said. “On behalf of Major League Baseball and our 30 clubs I am deeply humbled to accept the Distinguished Humanitarian Award from B’nai B’rith International, whose mission I have always admired and whose ideals are shared by so many of the men and women who are fortunate enough to work in the game of baseball.”
Selig was presented with a tzedakah box and a baseball jersey with “B’nai B’rith” emblazoned on the front, and “Selig” and 18 on the back. The number 18 or the Hebrew symbol “chai” was selected because in Jewish culture it represents “life.”
“We are not honoring the commissioner here today for his corporate achievements, we are honoring him for his deep commitment and tireless efforts that have touched millions of Americans,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “Through education, cancer research, diversity and public service, he has made the great sport of baseball synonymous with caring and compassion.”
At the award dinner, special presenters Sharon Robinson and Joe Torre addressed Major League Baseball’s commitment to diversity.
“I want to congratulate B’nai B’rith International for honoring the commissioner with the Distinguished Humanitarian Award,” Torre said. “You picked quite a guy.”
Robinson attended the dinner accompanied by her mother, Rachel Robinson. Sharon Robinson spoke about the values that she and B’nai B’rith share, the impact her father made by breaking the color barrier in baseball, and Selig’s work to promote tolerance and education.
“The principles of B’nai B’rith mirror those that were instilled in me by my parents,” Sharon Robinson said. “We weren’t just a baseball family, we were a civil rights family.”
As the leader of Major League Baseball for nearly 21 years, and prior to that as a team owner and lifelong fan of the game, Selig has earned accolades and awards for an incredibly diverse list of actions, activities and contributions. He’s been recognized as a supporter of cancer research and an environmental advocate, as well as for his commitment to youth education and training. Diversity, tolerance and fairness are hallmarks of his career.
MLB’s humanitarian efforts under Selig include valuable contributions to such programs as Stand Up To Cancer and Welcome Back Veterans, and the national pastime has recently supported Hurricane Sandy relief efforts and participated in the National Day of Remembrance, which was launched after the Sept. 11 attacks. MLB also supports the Baseball Assistance Team, which helps those in the “baseball family.” MLB’s Civil Rights Game and the Diversity Business Summit also serve to highlight baseball’s commitment to some of the very core values that define B’nai B’rith International as a humanitarian organization.
Sharon Robinson, an author and educator, is vice chairperson of The Jackie Robinson Foundation. Robinson also serves on the boards of the Roberto Clemente Sports City Complex in Carolina, Puerto Rico; Metropolitan Opera; Urban America; and Omnicom Diversity Committee. As an educational consultant for Major League Baseball, Robinson oversees community-based programs aimed at providing students with the tools to help them face obstacles. She is the author of “Jackie’s Nine: Jackie Robinson’s Values to Live By,” “Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America,” and “Testing the Ice: A True Story About Jackie Robinson,” among other books.
Joe Torre, who is currently MLB’s Executive vice president for baseball operations, has seen all sides of baseball as a player, manager, broadcaster and baseball executive. As a player he was a nine-time All-Star and the 1971 National League Most Valuable Player. A 29-year manager in the Majors, Torre took the New York Yankees to the playoffs in each of his 12 full seasons as manager. He led the team to six American League titles and four World Series championships. He earned the inaugural Chuck Tanner Major League Baseball Manager of the Year Award in 2007 and took home Sporting News’ Manager of the Decade in 2009. Sports Illustrated named him Best Manager of the Decade in 2009, and the magazine also placed Torre as third on its Top 10 Coaches/Mangers of the Decade for U.S. professional and college sports.
Robinson and Torre are powerful representatives and ambassadors of baseball and its positive impact on society.
“Both our organization and Bud Selig’s share a commitment to empowering and emboldening vibrant communities,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. Mariaschin, who also hosted the event, noted: “As we mark 170 years of service to these communities, we share with pride Major League Baseball’s positive role in our American conscious.”
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith International welcomes the Senate’s passage of a bill overhauling the nation’s immigration laws.
B’nai B’rith has been a staunch supporter of comprehensive immigration reform. We commend the bipartisan group of senators who worked to form a consensus on a more just and humane immigration policy.
This compromise legislation would strengthen border security and employment verification while creating a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. It would also allow for more legal immigration of low- and high-skilled workers.
Comprehensive immigration reform is a welcome and worthy accomplishment. We urge the House to quickly consider and pass the bill.
B’nai B’rith International is disappointed at the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling, which eliminates the requirement that nine states and numerous counties must seek federal approval before changing their election laws. We are concerned that this ruling could pave the way for state and local efforts to suppress voting by minorities.
We are relieved that the decision does not actually overturn the 1965 law banning discriminatory voting rules.
Over the years, Congress voted repeatedly to extend the requirement that these states and localities get pre-approval to change their voting laws. It’s time for Congress to act again.
B’nai B’rith urges Congress to remedy the situation by enacting new legislation that addresses discriminatory voting conditions by enacting federal oversight of voting rules.
Report Critical of Upcoming Visit to Canada by Gilad Shalit
B’nai B’rith International unequivocally disassociates itself from a news story in the Jewish Tribune newspaper, which is associated with B’nai B’rith Canada, that is deeply critical of Gilad Shalit, the former Israel Defense Forces soldier captured and held captive by Hamas for five years. The story was picked up by JTA.
The Jewish Tribune story in no way represents the views of B’nai B’rith International or its members and supporters around the world.
B’nai B’rith International has the deepest respect for Shalit and the horrors he endured as a Hamas captive. We are proud to have hosted him as a special guest at the B’nai B’rith Europe Young Jewish Adult Forum in London in November 2012, where he was warmly received. Some 200 delegates from more than 20 European countries, Israel and the United States were on hand when Shalit was made an honorary B’nai B’rith International member.
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
In a ruling that will have a significant impact on older adults in same-sex relationships among America’s growing population of seniors, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected central provisions in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), while allowing others to stand.
The court ruled that the federal government violated the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution and states rights when it defined marriage for the purposes of federal benefits as between a man and a woman. However, the court did not require states to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, creating two tiers of marriage recognition. This could create unintended complications, especially for older Americans by allowing couples to be considered married by the federal government but unmarried by some states.
B’nai B’rith International has long been an advocate for seniors and their ability to live their lives in peace and security. It is important to inform senior, same-sex couples how their benefits and legal rights will change with this ruling.
What this means on the federal level and in states recognizing same-sex marriage:
There are more than 1,100 federal rights afforded to married couples and they are often associated with financial and health care matters. In most cases under DOMA, federal programs could not recognize same sex-marriages for purposes of federal benefits. This now changes.
For instance, any employer-sponsored insurance benefit to an employee’s spouse is not considered income to either party for federal tax purposes, but is considered taxable income for same-sex couples, even if they are legally married, no matter where they live. DOMA did not allow the federal government to recognize those marriages, thus denying the couples a significant tax break. This is of particular concern as people age because group insurance coverage is much less expensive for older workers than buying insurance individually through the open market.
A surviving spouse in a same-sex marriage can also inherit large sums without incurring federal inheritance taxes. Previously legally married gay couples were treated as unrelated heirs for federal estate tax purposes.
What the ruling means in states that do not allow same-sex marriage:
As previously mentioned the court did not address the issue of states that don’t allow same-sex marriage and states that do not recognize same-sex marriages from other states. What the court did do is establish the standard of scrutiny for laws restricting recognition of married couples, which may influence state decisions on the matter at a later time. For now, the indecision on the state level by the court will result in many issues for older, married, same-sex couples related to whether or not another state recognizes that marriage.
The most basic example is complicated tax filings for couples who live outside of their marriage jurisdiction in a state that doesn't have same-sex marriage.
Additionally, like any other retirees, older same-sex couples may choose to move away from the state in which they lived (and were married) at retirement. As we know, places like Florida and Arizona (neither of which recognizes the legal, same sex-marriages of other states) are attractive destinations for retirees.
For older adults, living in a state that does not recognize marriage sanctioned in another state also raises various issues, including inheritance rights and medical decision-making. For same-sex couples married in any state (or foreign country) there are automatic inheritance rights—one spouse is the presumed heir of the other (to varying percentages by state). For same-sex couples retiring to states without marriage recognition, establishing these inheritance rights requires, at the least, additional legal planning and at the most, civil dispute resolution with competing heirs.
With the Supreme Court leaving the door open on state recognition of same-sex marriages, this issue is still evolving. After any Supreme Court decision, there is some confusion as to how it actually affects Americans. B’nai B’rith will continue to monitor how the court’s ruling plays out and what laws or other judicial decisions are handed down to address the ruling with more clarity.
A B’nai B’rith delegation was in attendance June 25 at the first official audience Pope Francis held for international Jewish community leaders. The B’nai B’rith leaders were part of a group from the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC), the long-standing Jewish representative group for Catholic-Jewish relations.
Honorary B’nai B’rith President Seymour Reich, a past IJCIC chair; B’nai B’rith International Senior Vice President Daniel Citone and B’nai B’rith Rome lodge President Sandro Di Castro participated in the audience at the Vatican.
In remarks on Catholic-Jewish relations, the pope spoke out forcefully against anti-Semitism
In March, B’nai B’rith took part in an interfaith meeting at the Vatican with Pope Francis, one day after his formal installation.
B’nai B’rith International is outraged that the United Nations system is once again allowing itself to bend to the political will of the Palestinians with the latest politicization of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee and a report from the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child.
During the previous meeting of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee in April 2013, it was agreed that a special technical mission would be organized to visit the Old City of Jerusalem to examine the current state of the site, which is inscribed on the World Heritage List. The Palestinians then tried to shift the focus of the mission from technical to political issues, in contravention of an earlier agreement between Israel and the Palestinians and supported by a number of key UNESCO member states. After the Palestinians reneged on their agreement, Israel decided it would be best to not go forward with the mission.
Then in an unsurprising turn of events, the Palestinians brought forth a resolution at the current session of the World Heritage Committee meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia condemning Israeli policies regarding the site. The resolution blasts Israel for allegedly not supplying the committee with essential information regarding the current state of the Old City and for harming the site.
“This is just the latest example of the Palestinians exploiting their unilaterally-pursued elevated status within such bodies as UNESCO to push an anti-Israel agenda and to divert the U.N. from upholding its mission,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “The World Heritage Committee has important business to which it should be attending, rather than singling out Israel and continuing to fuel the Palestinians’ delusional worldview.”
In addition to the resolution from the World Heritage Committee, the United Nations continued its Israel-bashing this week with the release of a Committee on the Rights of the Child report that rehashes varied accusations of alleged wrongdoing by Israeli police and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
The report on the alleged Israeli mistreatment of Palestinian minors lacks any real acknowledgement of the exploitation by Palestinians of youth in violence against Israel. The committee reiterates its “deepest concern” from previous reports that children on both sides are killed or injured, but focuses almost exclusively on purported victims in the Palestinian territories. The effect of rocket attacks and other forms of terrorism on the wellbeing of Israeli children is not discussed. Also not discussed is the danger to Israelis, both security personnel and civilians, who have been killed in attacks by Palestinian youths, nor does it recognize the innumerable instances Israeli hospitals and doctors provide health care for Palestinian youths.
“The approach taken by the Palestinians at the world body is extremely detrimental to peace efforts.” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “Furthermore, it is a stumbling block in the way of the attempts by the United States and others to bring the two sides back to the negotiating table without preconditions, a position accepted by Israel but rejected by the Palestinians.”
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith International commends singer Alicia Keys for going ahead with her planned July 4 concert in Tel Aviv and not bowing to the pressure from various organizations and coalitions urging her to cancel the performance.
Many groups and individuals contacted Keys urging her to cancel the sold out performance in the face of alleged mistreatment of the Palestinians by Israel.
Keys has courageously taken a stand against the international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign and we hope that her performance and music will act as a unifier rather than divider.
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith International spoke before the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva during the anti-Israel “agenda item 7” session. B’nai B’rith addressed UNHRC special rapporteur Richard Falk’s appalling recent comments blaming the Boston Marathon bombings on the United States’ foreign policy and urged his removal.
“Just a few weeks ago, the entire world was shocked to hear and see the bombing that occurred at the end of the Boston Marathon resulting in the death of three and the injury of hundreds of innocent bystanders,” B’nai B’rith representative to the U.N. in Geneva Klaus Netter said. “Yet there were a few contrary reactions, such as the one expressed by the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories… In the Foreign Policy Journal dated 21 April 2013, he wrote: ‘The American global domination project is bound to generate all kinds of resistance... the United States has been fortunate not to experience worse blowbacks.’”
Netter’s comments continued:
“A few days later, a U.N. spokesman said that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the Boston Marathon bombing and that he ‘strongly believed that nothing can justify such an attack,’” Netter quoted the spokesman as saying. “He rejected Falk’s comments and indicated that…such public comments by special rapporteurs ‘could undermine the U.N.’s credibility and the work of the United Nations.’”
Separately, B’nai B’rith joined European representatives at the council and U.S. Ambassador to the UNHRC Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe in taking Falk to task on a biased report he delivered at the council blasting Israeli policies toward Gaza.
Netter noted that only the council can remove Falk from his position and added, “We strongly urge such action at this session of the council.”
Book Writing Contest Focused on Tolerance and Diversity
The winner of this year’s Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge is “We Are All Atoms” written and illustrated by Ashley Deng from Staten Island Technical High School in Staten Island, N.Y. Diverse Minds is a contest where high school students write and illustrate children’s books to help elementary school children celebrate tolerance and diversity. The winning book was announced the evening of June 10 at an awards ceremony hosted by the New York Stock Exchange.
“It’s great to see Diverse Minds still flourishing seven years into the program,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “It’s amazing how creative these kids are and what they can achieve when their minds are working toward a noble cause.”
Deng’s story “We Are All Atoms” uses a bit of science to explain to young readers that all things in the world are comprised of atoms, including human beings. Because we’re all made of the same thing, there’s no need to put down others for their differences, Deng writes.
“It’s always a great experience judging this contest and it seems every year that these kids outdo themselves,” said B’nai B’rith International Associate Executive Vice President Mark D. Olshan, who presented the award to the winner. “By competing in this contest, these students truly are role models for the community. It’s extremely important for younger generations to embrace each others’ differences and these high school students are truly helping out with that by writing these books.”
By placing first, Deng secures a $5,000 scholarship and her book has been professionally published. It will be distributed to local schools, libraries and community organizations, as well as to the annual TODAY Show Holiday Toy and Gift Drive. She will also have her book published in an e-book format, available for free download in the iBooks Store.
Deng, the author and illustrator, has always been fascinated by the aesthetics and creativity of art. She hopes to be able to exercise her creativity in every aspect of her life, even as she pursues future plans of being an accountant.
Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Corporate Communications Officer JJ Ko, who served as a contest judge and attended the awards ceremony, told the student contestants that her organization was drawn to the Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge because it not only impacts their generation, but it also supports works of writing that will impact the next generation.
Second place winner Lucian Stern from The Beacon School in New York City, wrote and illustrated “Foond and the Tree People” and will receive a $2,000 scholarship. Third place winners Anastasia Hayes and Marguerite Coles from Curtis High School in New York City, wrote and illustrated “Show and Tell” and will receive a $1,000 scholarship.
In addition, Deng’s teacher Elizabeth Murphy, who oversaw the creation of the winning book, will receive a $500 stipend to use for classroom or organizational materials. Staten Island Technical High School will receive a $500 grant.
This education and awareness initiative was created in conjunction with B’nai B’rith programs that promote tolerance and communicate a message of equality among all citizens. The contest aims to enlighten, inspire and educate America's young people and their families in an effort to abolish prejudices and strengthen ties among today’s youth.
A diverse panel of judges from the New York City worlds of education, the arts, business and government, along with B’nai B’rith International leaders, reviewed the submissions and selected the finalists and winner. The judges include NYSE Euronext Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Leibowitz; USA Network Senior Vice President Toby Graff; and New York Knicks General Manager Glen Grunwald. B’nai B’rith is pleased to work in partnership with USA Network/NBCUniversal, the NYSE Euronext Foundation and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ for the 2012-2013 contest in New York City. The top-five books from this year’s contest can be read here