B’nai B’rith International hopes that U.S. Senate ratification of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) will ensure Russian cooperation in stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program. B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick called Iran, “the most dangerous threat to stability in the Middle East. To enable the global leader in state-sponsored terrorism, a nation bent on destruction of the one true democracy in the region, to possess nuclear weapons is an eventuality that cannot be tolerated.” Glick noted, “Were Iran to possess nuclear weapons, it would be a virtual certainty that they would share them with terrorist groups and other rogue nations and trigger an international arms race. This threat to international stability cannot be overstated.”
According to the administration, if the treaty is ratified it would isolate nations such as Iran and North Korea that refuse to adhere to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and would deny them the opportunities that international recognition bring.
It is imperative that the United States take all possible steps to ensure that Iran does not continue its march toward developing nuclear weapons.
B’nai B’rith International commends the work of a United Nations committee dealing with human rights for calling attention to Iran’s deplorable human rights record.By an 80-44 vote, with 57 abstentions, the General Assembly’s Third Committee passed a resolution expressing “deep concern at serious ongoing and recurring human rights violations” in Iran. The Third Committee deals with social, humanitarian, and cultural issues. Human rights questions are an important part of the committee’s purview.
Canada’s permanent representative, John McNee, sponsored the resolution and described Iran’s “very regrettable” declining human rights record.
B’nai B’rith urges the General Assembly to approve the measure when it comes before the full body in December.
B’nai B’rith remembers Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, which took place across Europe on Nov. 9 and 10, 1938. During that horrendous time, at least 91 Jews were killed and innumerable synagogues, Jewish-owned stores, community centers, and homes were attacked, looted, and destroyed. B’nai B’rith Venezuela, Costa Rica, Argentina, and Cuba held remembrance events throughout the week.B’nai B’rith Argentina organized a commemoration program at Iglesia del Pilar church with the support of the Argentina Jewish-Christian Confraternity and the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires. On Nov. 10, more than 400 people heard readings and remarks and participated in a candle-lighting ceremony.
On Nov. 9, B’nai B’rith Venezuela opened its doors to diplomats, national personalities, Holocaust survivors, and members of the Jewish community to remember the victims of Kristallnacht, including Susy Iglicki, a witness to the horrors of Kristallnacht,. Daniel Rafecas, federal judge of the Republic of Argentina in the city of Buenos Aires and keynote speaker, analyzed the Nazi bureaucratic structure that allowed these atrocities to occur. B’nai B’rith Costa Rica organized a commemoration program with candle-lighting ceremony at the Synagogue of the Zionist Israelite Center of Costa Rica (CIS). With more than 500 people attending, the solemn ceremony featured prominent government officials including Vice President Luis Liberman and President of the Supreme Court of Justice Luis Paulino Mora, who spoke at length about the key role of B’nai B’rith in keeping the memory of Kristallnacht alive.
B’nai B’rith Cuba’s Maimonides Lodge organized a commemoration of Kristallnacht at the Sephardic Hebrew Center of Havana. Throughout the ceremony, exhibited materials testified to the memory of the Holocaust in different parts from the world. The display was donated by Stanley Cohen, International chairman of the B'nai B'rith Cuban Jewish Relief Project. The solemn program ended with the singing of Hatikvah. “Continued remembrance of Kristallnacht ensures that each new generation learns of the legacy of the Jewish communities terrorized by this horrific event,” said B’nai B’rith International Dennis W. Glick. “This shared memory reminds us all of the violence of the past, that it might not be repeated in the future.”
“The world shares the burden of the atrocities of Kristallnacht,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “The more time passes, the more important community support of remembrance events is in order to perpetuate the memory of this tragedy of monumental proportions.”
The B’nai B’rith New England sponsored facility, The Fairways at 33Com, was named as one of four recipients of the Jack Kemp Workforce Housing Models of Excellence Awards by the Urban Land Institute (ULI), recognizing innovation and creativity in developing affordable housing for working families in America.“What is exciting about this development is that it is very replicable, particularly in affluent suburban communities which have lost much of their economic diversity and which are grappling with how to retain young professionals, families and elders who want to return to these communities,” said Susan L. Gittelman, executive director of B’nai B’rith Housing New England.
Known locally as 33Comm, the property is situated in Newton, Massachusetts, and includes 15 deed-restricted affordable condominiums for working families. These condominiums provide middle income families the opportunity to live in a smart growth community, conveniently located near public transportation, commercial facilities, and near Boston College, one of the area’s largest employers.
“It’s the first affordable housing of its kind in the Chestnut Hill area of Newton,” said Marvin Siflinger, chair of the senior housing committee of B’nai B’rith International and president of B’nai B’rith Housing New England board of directors, “It’s in a beautiful neighborhood with a lot of amenities.”
ULI is research and education non-profit with the mission to provide leadership and guidance in responsible community development and land use around the world.
The award will be presented to B’nai B’rith at ULI’s Jack Kemp Awards Gala in Washington, D.C. at the Renaissance Hotel.
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:B’nai B’rith has joined members of Congress in calling for clemency for Jonathan Pollard, who as a civilian defense officer passed classified information to Israel more than 25 years ago. He’s been serving a life sentence since 1985.
A clemency appeal to President Obama signed by 39 members of Congress notes a severe sentencing disparity for Pollard. B’nai B’rith International and the lawmakers are questioning the length of the sentence, not disputing Pollard’s guilt. At a time when the average sentence for passing classified information to an ally was 2-4 years, Pollard received a life sentence.
At a Capitol Hill news conference on Nov. 18, B’nai B’rith International Legislative Affairs Director Eric Fusfield joined Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), and Rep. Steven Rothman (D-N.J.) in calling for Pollard’s release.
Fusfield said: “This cause is about one simple but crucial principle: Equal justice under the law. Jonathan Pollard has already served 25 years of a life sentence for one count of passing classified information to an ally, a crime that, for other offenders, carries an average sentence of much less than 10 years; in fact, today the maximum sentence for this crime is 10 years. In Pollard’s case, the sentence clearly is vastly disproportionate to the crime and should be commuted to time already served.
“Today, B’nai B’rith joins nearly 40 members of Congress in their appeal to President Obama. Mr. Pollard has expressed remorse for his crime many times, in both his written and spoken words. Furthermore, he has been a model prisoner for 25 years. Enough is enough: He has served far too long for his crime, and the time for clemency is now.”
B’nai B’rith International congratulates Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York upon his election as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on Nov. 16. The archbishop has proven a friend of B’nai B’rith and the Jewish community during his tenure, particularly since his appointment in late 2009 as the USCCB’s moderator for Catholic-Jewish relations.B’nai B’rith leaders have already had a variety of opportunities to engage with him and his team at the archdiocese, and look forward to continuing a close relationship with the archbishop in his new role at the USCCB throughout his three-year term as president. The archbishop hosted B’nai B’rith and other Jewish communal officials at his residence for an intimate dialogue on the day of Pope Benedict XVI’s historic visit to the Great Synagogue of Rome on Jan. 17.
“Archbishop Dolan, in his short time in New York, has made clear his intention to offer an ‘open door’ to Jewish partners,” said B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick. “Judging by his degree of openness thus far, we have even greater hope in the archbishop’s future contribution to Catholic-Jewish relations.”
“Time and again, we are reminded of the importance, and delicacy, of the engagement between Catholics and Jews,” Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “In this country and abroad, there is much that can bring us together. We will continue to look to Archbishop Dolan to provide commitment and guidance in deepening this critical relationship.”
Meron Reuben, ambassador of Israel to the United Nations, addressed the B’nai B’rith International Policy Conference on Nov. 16, telling conferees that despite a deeply troubling U.N. system that displays an ongoing bias, Israel has a lot to offer the world body.
Reuben said the United Nations—which spends an inordinate amount of its time on issues pertaining to Israel—is at the front lines in the delegitimization of the Jewish state, and there is often “double-speak, double standards, and hypocrisy” surrounding discussion of Israel at the U.N. He noted that too many resolutions blindly condemn Israel, “irrespective of the facts on the ground.”
But despite that, he said we can’t forget all the good the U.N. does do, and can do, in the world. He reminded the attendees that the history of Israel is intrinsically linked to the world body. Therefore, we cannot ignore the U.N. he said, instead “we must play on this playing field and play on it well.”
Regarding Iran, the ambassador reminded the audience that it is not the people of Iran, but its leadership, that poses a grave danger. He said a nuclear Iran threatens the world, not just Israel and the Middle East. The international community must stand together against the “marriage between religious fanaticism and weapons of mass destruction,” Reuben said. Sanctions are an important part of keeping the Tehran regime in check, and he urged companies and nations to abide by the current sanctions in order for them to have the appropriate impact.
Reuben said the best way the peace process can move forward is through direct negotiations between the two sides. He said unilateral statements were not effective at promoting peace negotiations or lasting peace in the area.
B’nai B’rith International is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its Office of U.N. Affairs.
B’nai B’rith International is profoundly disappointed that a federal judge in Florida has ruled that a multi-state challenge to the nation’s health care reform law can go forward. The health care reform measure signed into law this spring will ensure the vital life-long access to health insurance that will enable Americans to stay healthy as they age.With a long and active involvement in issues important to seniors, B’nai B’rith believes expanding access to health care to all Americans will contribute to the well-being of the nation.
“B’nai B’rith, a staunch advocate for America’s seniors, considers life-long access to good quality health care, including prevention and maintenance of chronic conditions, imperative,” B’nai B’rith President Dennis W. Glick said. “Requiring all Americans to be insured will help eliminate age, gender, and pre-existing condition discrimination.”
Ensuring all Americans have health insurance will keep coverage affordable for millions of Americans who currently don’t have access to reliable health care. Long-time access to preventive care could lead to lower health care needs for older Americans. The continued strength of the insurance industry is in part dependent on pooling risks. If only the old or unhealthy have insurance, costs are greater for everyone.
“This legislation is an important step forward and opens the door to insurance and health care for people in imperfect health, as well as to those with more modest incomes,” B’nai B’rith Director of Aging Policy Rachel Goldberg, Ph.D., said “Now is the time to focus on implementation to make sure that the promise of this legislation is fulfilled.”
Hannah Rosenthal, the U.S. Department of State’s special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, told the B’nai B’rith International Policy Conference that the very real challenge of her job is how to make it clear that anti-Semitism “is a disease that was not cured after World War II.”Noting that anti-Semitism is on the rise globally, she said her job monitoring and combating anti-Semitism has been integrated into all aspects of the State department’s work.
Rosenthal talked about the major trends she’s observed, noting, “We see Holocaust denial every day as an obsession.” Holocaust glorification—where images of Holocaust victims are shown while clerics say the annihilation of the Jews will be completed soon—has become rampant in some parts of the world. Something she described as “bone chilling.”
Rosenthal’s overriding theme was that diplomacy does work, albeit slowly at times.
Working at the Department of State, Rosenthal said she sees the many aspects and trends of anti-Semitism play out in the world, including how the global economic downturn could be dangerous for Jews. She told a story of an ambassador from a European country to the United States who reached out to her during recent economic problems in his country, telling Rosenthal that when there is unrest and economic insecurity, someone will be the scapegoat and it is usually the Jews. But the ambassador said his government would not tolerate anti-Semitic acts as a response to troubling times. This, she said, “is good progress.”
She said of her job the “hardest thing is to figure out what does success look like? We won’t eradicate the oldest hatred on earth.” But to Rosenthal, success is getting others—people, communities, nations—to condemn anti-Semitism. She said each voice that’s added is a step forward.
Renowned economist Dean Baker, Ph.D., co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, told B’nai B’rith International Policy Conference attendees that the chairmen of the deficit commission have focused on reducing Social Security benefits in a misplaced effort to curb the deficit.
Baker said that while the federal budget is not out of control, the long-term picture for the deficit starts and ends with how we fix health care, something he noted has not been adequately raised on the national stage. Paying it short-shrift is “a recipe for disaster,” he said. Baker noted we spend more than twice as much on health care costs per person than do many nations with a higher life expectancy. He also said we have to fix health care or we will truly face an unimaginable deficit problem.
Baker explained that the nation’s current financial problems are the result of the burst housing bubble, which sent the economy into its downturn. He painted a stark picture of how this devastated the savings rate of Americans: People who were spending money based on their housing wealth stopped spending when their houses lost value, and the savings rate fell to zero between 2002 and 2007.
More government stimulus is how to get the economy moving forward, he said.
In touting the stability and longevity of Social Security, Baker told the B’nai B’rith conference that experts agree the social program could continue to be fully funded through 2039 even if we do nothing to it. This is contrary to most Americans’ perception of the program’s solvency.
That is why Baker said the recent suggestions from the leaders of the Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to reduce Social Security benefits, something that would heavily impact near-retirees, is so damaging.
Many will not have the value of their homes to fall back on for income and Social Security could be their major, and in some cases only, source of income.