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One-hundred-seventy-five years of action, advocacy and service were on full display during the B’nai B’rith International Leadership Forum in New York. Over three days, leaders, members, supporters and donors looked back at the indelible history of the organization that traces its founding to the Lower East Side of New York, on Oct. 13, 1843.

At this year’s forum, Charles O. Kaufman of Austin, Texas was elected president for a three year term. Kaufman, with decades of service to B’nai B’rith at the local, national and international levels, noted:  “Organizations that celebrate 175 years — and there aren’t that many of them — have a strong mission, great resolve for success and an impressive ability to innovate. B’nai B’rith has built a proud history because we’ve shown that being nimble, bold and committed are keys to longevity.”

Seth J. Riklin of Sugar Land, Texas was appointed Chairman of the Executive. B’nai B’rith also installed new senior vice presidents: Brad Adolph, Hawthorn Woods, Illinois; Scott D. Knapp, Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Roberto M. Nul, Buenos Aires, Argentina; Rebecca Anne Saltzman, Centennial, Colorado; Stéphane Teicher, Paris, France; Morris Tobias, Melbourne, Australia; re-elected Treasurer A. Michael Gellman, Potomac, Maryland; re-elected Chief Justice William K. Peirez, Great Neck, New York. Gary P. Saltzman, the outgoing president who chaired the forum, was elected Honorary President.

A featured event of the celebration was a gala dinner held on Oct. 15 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. There, B’nai B’rith honored pillars of the Jewish community and celebrated our dedication and commitment to the community at the grassroots and global levels over the last 175 years.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres sent special greetings to the gala: “Thank you for being such strong and long-standing supporters of the United Nations. You were present at the San Francisco conference in 1945; you have been an accredited non-governmental organization since 1947; and today you remain a dynamic presence as we strive to build a world of peace, prosperity and dignity for all.” And the secretary-general later noted: “Often been called ‘the oldest hatred’ anti-Semitism should have no place in the 21st century. Indeed, the origins of the United Nations itself are rooted in the need to learn the lessons of the Holocaust. Being true to our Charter means combatting anti-Semitism across the world, and I am strongly committed to being in the forefront of the fight against it and against all forms of discrimination.”

Corporate and community leaders honored with the Jewish Heritage Award during the gala, were prominent attorney Kenneth J. Bialkin; Andrew Borans, former executive director of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity and executive vice president of the Alpha Epsilon Pi Foundation; Susan Goldberg, editorial director of National Geographic Partners and editor in chief of National Geographic Magazine; Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman and CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; active philanthropists and community leaders Adam and Gila Milstein; and David Yarus, founder of mllnnl and JSwipe.

Chip Kahn, president and CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals and the recipient of B’nai B’rith’s  2016 National Healthcare Award, which has recognized exceptional trailblazers in the health care industry for more than 30 years, was the evening’s emcee.

The evening examined B’nai B’rith’s founding 175 years ago, and showcased how the organization was an incubator for many of today’s Jewish communal groups.

“B’nai B’rith is a unique and pivotal organization,” B’nai B’rith CEO and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin, who also delivered a key note address during the forum, said. “We meet with leaders in the fields of diplomacy and religion, at the U.N. and elsewhere around the world. We’ve evolved and expanded our mission over our 17-and-a-half decades, but our founders would still recognize our commitment to Tikkun Olam — making the world a better place.”

B’nai B’rith also hosted a conversation with Ambassador Dani Dayan, the Consul General of Israel in New York, at a luncheon discussion, part of our on-going Diplomatic Encounter Series. “Israel is stronger, more prosperous and has a better relationship with the world than we’ve ever had,” Dayan said. He went on, “Strength is a necessity,” but noted it isn’t an Israeli aspiration.

At the same diplomatic encounter event, we conferred an award for Outstanding Contributions to Holocaust Memory upon Kimberly Mann, chief of the Education Outreach Section of the United Nations Department of Public Information.

A panel discussion on The Crisis of Zionism in “Progressive Spaces” looked at the challenges facing Zionists today, where too often, they are denied a voice on issues of equality and justice. Panelists Ann Lewis, Democratic Party strategist; Amanda Berman, President/CEO, Zioness; and Emily Shire, journalist, talked about how we can work to overcome those who seek to dehumanize and alienate Zionists. “The word ‘Zionist’ is so sullied we have to reclaim it,” Berman said. “If we had challenged the narrative all along, we wouldn’t be so far behind.”

B’nai B’rith also recognized the incredible energy of top young leaders who have demonstrated exceptional dedication and commitment to the work of B’nai B’rith. Five outstanding individuals received the Label A. Katz Award, given to exemplary individuals under the age of 45 who have demonstrated exceptional service to the totality of B’nai B’rith and have worked to achieve the goals of the B’nai B’rith Young Leadership program. Frank Goldman, Denver, Colorado; Scott D. Knapp, Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Jessica Kreger, Plantation, Florida; Roni Sarfati, Petah Tikvah, Israel and Tali Schwartz, New York City, were recognized for their leadership skills and dedication to the organization.

With a depth of expertise and knowledge, B’nai B’rith Subject Matter Experts held an interactive dialogue on some of B’nai B’rith’s top advocacy efforts: fighting for global human rights; advocating for Israel; promoting tolerance, finding inter-religious commonalities; combating anti-Semitism and the odious BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions) movement; supporting seniors; and providing humanitarian aid around the world.

To view a photo album from the 2018 Leadership Forum, click this link.