CHILE: Last week, B'nai B'rith Chile hosted 200 people in its hall to celebrate an Interfaith Seder.
Ivo Scapolo, Apostolic Nuncio in Chile, various congressmen, as well as ambassadors from Colombia, Panama,Greece, Germany, U.S., Russia, Poland and Israel were joined by representatives from Christian churches, enjoying an evening of friendship and confraternity with B'nai B'rith members.
Rabbi Shmuel Szteinhendler, a B'nai B'rith member, conducted the ceremony.
URUGUAY: This week, B'nai B'rith Uruguay hosted 250 people in its hall to celebrate the meeting of Christians and Jews in the context of an Interfaith Seder.
Cardinal Daniel Sturla, leaders of several protestant Christian confessions, priests from several churches in Montevideo, the Israeli Ambassador and other dignitaries shared in this celebration.
The ceremonies were conducted by Conservative Rabbi Ariel Kleiner and also attended by Orthodox Rabbi Ben Tzion Spitz.
The first meeting, held at 1:45PM, featured National Security Advisors Susan Rice and Colin Kahl. The organization leaders who attended include.
Conference of Presidents' Malcolm Hoenlein, AIPAC's Lee Rosenberg and Robert Cohen, ADL's Abe Foxman, OU's Allen Fagin, JCPA's Steve Gutow, Wiesenthal's Marvin Hier, URJ's Rick Jacobs, AJC's Jason Issacson, WJC's Ronald Lauder, Israel Policy Forum's Peter Joseph, NCJW's Nancy K. Kaufman, B'nai B'rith's Dan Mariaschin, NJDC's Greg Rosenbaum, Rabbinical Assembly's Julie Schonfeld, Federations' Jerry Silverman, past CoP Chair Alan Solow, J Street Vice-Chair Alexandra Stanton, and CoP's Chairman Robert Sugarman.
According to a source, the two hour long meeting, featured Potus speaking for around an hour with some time for questions and answers with the President and Rice.
The second meeting, tailored more for the President's longtime supporters in the Jewish community, was held at 4:45PM and lasted around an hour and forty minutes.
The meeting featured President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Susan Rice, Valerie Jarrett, and Robert Malley. According to two sources with knowledge of the meetings, the President began by detailing the day's previous meeting, with no notes, for around twenty minutes and then went around the room allowing each attendee to ask multiple questions on issues including Iran, Israelis and Palestinians, and the U.S. - Israel relationship.
One source told Jewish Insider that they had never seen the President as "passionate, emotional and connected to the issues" as he was [today] but added that the President was also candid and honest about expressing frustration with the way some of his views have been portrayed and attacked by others.
Project H.O.P.E. works with the community family service agencies and local Jewish social services and with B’nai B’rith members and synagogue volunteers. Jewish organizations provide the lists of people who need packages and the facilities for collecting, storing, and packing the food. B’nai B’rith volunteers assemble and deliver the packages. Begun in New York, the program has spread to Boston, Philadelphia, Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.
Last year in Philadelphia, 540 families received Passover food.
As a once a year Mitzvah Project, the Sunday before Passover, deliver Kosher for Passover food to our most needy, elderly and isolated Jews in the Philadelphia Region. The Project involves planning, fundraising, and volunteers to ensure success annually.
There are literally thousands of stories that Alan Schneider, Director of the B'nai Brith World Center in Jerusalem, has tried to bring to light for Jews in Israel and America. The trouble is choosing which stories should be the ones given particular focus for special ceremonies.
“There is in fact a lot of choice, but we're only able to tackle so many stories a year that we become aware of. So there is a process. On my desk now there are a number of stories that I have had to put aside for this year that I'll have to bring up in coming next years,” he said.
This week’s ceremony will honor Rabbi Moshe Pessach, who was instrumental in the rescue of the Volos Jewish community just days before their expected deportation by the Nazis.
It is a hard process, but the public recognition ceremonies that Schneider has initiated try to focus on Jewish heroes during World War II, awarding the Jewish Rescuers Citation in several ceremonies over the last few years. Sometimes it is a matter of how much a story can be further researched, who might represent the prospective honorees if they have passed away, or even how enveloping the story might be for listeners. In short, while Schneider says they are all worthy, he laments Bnai Brith’s resources are limited to organizing events around so many epic storytellings and presentations.
“We don't have the capacity to give each individual the attention they deserve, for us to become familiar with their story and bring it to the attention of the people.”
“We’ve recognized well over 100 individuals but we know thousands of Jews were involved in rescuing other Jews during the Holocaust. We have a database that includes some of those people. In some countries the documentation is better – France and Hungary for instance – where Jewish organizations formed after the Holocaust have done a lot of the research and brought the stories in both cases of Jews involved in the rescue of Jews.”
B'nai Brith has been running a series of special ceremonies on Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel for the last 13 years. Greece tends not to be on the radar for popular Holocaust history – unlike Poland for instance. When asked if the goal was to find more obscure chronicles and shine a light on those, Schneider says yes.
“We've tried to find also lesser known stories like Rabbi Pessach’s of Volos.”
“We're focusing on his but we are honoring others from Hungary and Greece. His story in particular is not very well-known at all (at least in Israel), so we thought it would be appropriate to focus our ceremony on him," said Schneider.
B’nai B’rith International is proud to partner with the Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) fraternity to bring Holocaust commemoration programs to college campuses nationwide.
Hundreds of people congregated at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. for the 2015 We Walk to Remember program. This event was coordinated as a Holocaust awareness and remembrance walk, and was also in direct response to anti-Semitic vandalism at the Vanderbilt AEPi house in March, 2015.
B'nai B'rith International was one of 12 American Jewish organizations in a pair of off-the-record meetings with President Barack Obama on Monday, discussing the merit of a nuclear deal with Iran.
Following the P5+1 announcement on April 2, B'nai B'rith took a skeptical approach, expressing concern over Tehran's past double-speak and anti-Israel agenda.
With a June 30 deadline set for a final deal, B’nai B’rith has been monitoring the specifics of the deal, urging all parties to carefully and stringently review the agreement during that time as well.
Read CNN's recap of the meeting, below:
A range of both liberal and conservative Jewish-American groups met with President Barack Obama and other top White House officials Monday to hear the administration's pitch on its nuclear deal with Iran.
The president spoke for 45 minutes before taking questions at the first of the two meetings. That first gathering lasted two hours, doubling its expected length of one hour.
Obama demonstrated the "depth of his commitment to Israel," said one source who is supportive of the president's efforts to constrain Iran's nuclear program. But he also heard from participants "expressing fear and anxiety in the Jewish community" about the current framework agreement announced on April 2.
According to a list of the participants obtained by CNN, Obama met with representatives from the following groups: J Street, the National Council of Jewish Women, Union for Reform Judaism, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Jewish Federations of North America, AJC, Anti Defamation League, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Conference of Major American Jewish Organizations, B'nai B'rith International, Orthodox Union, and the Rabbinical Assembly.
The European Union started Passover on a sour note, announcing that the much-anticipated upcoming conference on combating rising anti-Semitism in Europe will not share equal billing with Islamophobia.
While B'nai B'rith International has been an outspoken global advocate of diversity and worked to combat prejudice and discrimination of all kinds, the concern is that adding other issues to the discussion of anti-Semitism allows government officials to avoid real action.
B'nai B'rith International Director of Legislative Affairs Eric Fusfield spoke on behalf of the organization to the Jerusalem Post, highlights of which can be found below:
Jewish organizations worldwide expressed shock and dismay over the weekend following the announcement that the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency is planning on holding a conference that implies an equivalence between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
It will focus on the rise of anti-Jewish sentiment and violence across the continent and the “growing evidence in many European countries, especially in the past two years, of very high rates of anti-Muslim incidents, including acts of verbal and physical violence,” according to the organizers.
Jewish community leaders in Europe and elsewhere told The Jerusalem Post that despite being largely supportive of the FRA’s work, they believed it inappropriate for it to juxtapose hate directed against Muslims with anti-Semitism as if both were one and the same.
“The challenge of combating anti-Semitism would be better served by a stand-alone colloquium fully focused on the problem,” said Eric Fusfield, the legislative affairs director of the B’nai B’rith International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy.
“Opponents of anti-Semitism have tried for years to promote greater understanding of anti-Semitism as a distinct phenomenon with unique dimensions sometimes requiring unique solutions,” he said.
“It is true that some strategies for combating anti-Semitism may apply to other forms of intolerance as well, but the fact is that, for too long, the tendency of governments and international organizations to conflate anti-Semitism with other social illnesses has served as a means of avoiding the problem rather than addressing it head on, even as the crisis facing Jewish communities has intensified in Europe and elsewhere,” he added.
With contested Israeli elections, the framework of a nuclear deal in place between the west and Iran, and a tenuous peace between Israel and the Palestinians, there is much political fodder for discussion at this year's Passover Seder tables.
The International Business Times featured quotes from B'nai B'rith World Center Director Alan Schneider in an article on the topic. Read highlights from the wide-ranging piece, below:
As much as Mia Warshofsky is looking forward to spending time with her family this Passover, the Florida college student is already bracing herself for the political arguments that she knows will break out over the Seder table on Friday. The subject of Israel has become a point of contention between Warshofsky and her grandparents, following Israel’s 50-day offensive in Gaza last summer, and she anticipates that these disagreements will be further inflamed by more recent political events.
“I would like my Seder table to not be a political minefield,” said Warshofsky, 20, a sophomore at the University of Central Florida in Orlando and a critic of the Israeli government’s policies toward Palestinians. “But all of my grandparents have recently picked up this really wonderful habit of bringing up Israel every time they see me… I don’t like to start debates, but they always seem to steer the conversations toward the hot-button issues.”
Warshofsky’s family will not be the only one navigating potentially charged political discussions this year. Passover comes in the immediate aftermath of Israel’s contentious elections and just after the announcement of a preliminary agreement over Iran's nuclear program, a process Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned will endanger the Jewish state.
These sensitive issues mean that for many U.S. Jews, regardless of political or denominational affiliation, the rituals of the Passover ceremony, which commemorates the Israelites’ freedom from slavery, will be particularly charged this year.
The implications of the election, which saw the incumbent Israeli leader sweep to a landslide victory after a tightly contested campaign, will be a particularly prominent topic at Seders in Israel, said Alan Schneider, the director of the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem. However, Schneider argued that for most Israelis, intense debates about Middle East politics are nothing new and that this year’s Passover would not necessarily be a departure from previous year’s holidays.
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