BY ROBERT A. COHN, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus
Daniel S. Mariaschin, CEO and executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International, will be the keynote scholar at the upcoming B’nai B’rith Alfred Fleishman Institute of Judaism (see infobox for more information).
Mariaschin directs and supervises B’nai B’rith programs, activities and staff countries around the world where B’nai B’rith is organized. He also serves as director of B’nai B’rith’s Center for Human Rights and Public Policy.
Throughout his B’nai B’rith career, Mariaschin has represented the organization as part of influential delegations. He will be addressing United Nations bodies at the U.N. headquarters in New York prior to coming to St. Louis for his talk.
A native of Swanzey, N.H., Mariaschin has published numerous articles on foreign affairs and security issues for The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times and Newsday, and appears frequently as an expert on foreign policy on TV and radio shows.
Mariaschin’s last visit to St. Louis was in 2010.
In advance of his St. Louis visit, the Jewish Light caught up with Mariaschin for an interview.
Read the full interview here
Can you give readers who are less familiar with your work and history a snapshot of B’nai B’rith’s work?
B’nai B’rith enters its 175th year on Oct. 13. Our traditional mission of volunteerism in the community continues to guide our organization.
One good example of this is affordable housing for seniors. We were instrumental in pioneering affordable low-income housing for seniors in St. Louis and beyond. Partnering with the Department of Housing and Urban Development for more than 40 years, we now have more than 38 such properties around the United States, with 4,000 apartments and about 8,000 residents, enabling seniors, no matter their race or religion, to live comfortably and with dignity.
We also advocate for seniors on Social Security, Medicare and other issues. Our disaster relief programs are international, assisting victims of natural disasters in the United States, and around the world, who have seen earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and tornados bring devastation into their lives. And our support and advocacy for Israel is always at the center of our public policy programs.
B’nai B’rith was the original founder of the Anti-Defamation League to combat anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry. How have the challenges of anti-Semitism and racism changed over the years?
The challenges from anti-Semitism and racism over the years have changed in some ways, and remain the same in others. Before the advent of the internet, we probably knew less about the extent of anti-Semitic acts, and often there was a time lag between the discovery of such activity and having the public learning about it. Today, we hear about it real time. The opportunity to spread anti-Semitism has increased exponentially, with the appearance of websites that promote hate, and bloggers and those who comment free to add their own ingredients of hatred to the mix.
Decades ago, we focused largely on hate from “traditional sectors,” most of which were on the fringe right. Today, we see manifestations of it everywhere: from the extreme left, the extreme right and from the Middle East. Today, being vigilant means tracking and responding to these threats and challenges each and every day.
How can we as Jews and organizations like B’nai B’rith respond to these challenges?
Confronting anti-Semitism and racism means all of us need to be involved. In addition to responding immediately when these acts occur, we need to re-double our efforts to educate each new generation of young people about the harm inflicted on all of us by hate speech, intolerance, and surely, acts of violence that can grow out of it. Mutual respect should be a basic value stressed not only in all of our schools, but at home and in non-school activities. We need this now.
How can Jewish leaders and individuals best respond to the presidency of Donald Trump, whose policies have often been at odds with positions held by many Jewish organizations?
As with every administration, few organizations are ever completely in sync with every policy position that emanates there. An organization like ours has long-held positions on a wide range of issues, domestic and foreign, from health care to immigration to relations with Israel, our positions at the United Nations, or the best way to conduct the war on terror.
Keeping doors open is important; we always want to make sure our voice is heard and that we have the right access through which to express our views. In my more than 40 years in the Jewish communal field, I’ve found that this is the most effective way to participate in the national dialogue over any number of issues, some of them fractious, and others more subject to non-partisan consensus.