For an overview on our Israel efforts: listen to our podcast here.
In June, the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem hosted the recently-appointed U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman for his first public address, as keynote speaker at the B’nai B’rith World Center’s 25th annual Award for Journalism Recognizing Excellence in Diaspora Reportage. The award was presented to Ynet Jewish World writer Yaniv Pohoryles and a special citation for fostering Israel-Diaspora relations through the arts was conferred on singer/songwriter David Broza.
Global leaders too often have a singular focus on Israel and ascribe so many of the world’s problems to the Jewish state. We write extensively of the false narrative at play. In a December Jerusalem op-ed, we wrote: “For nearly 70 years, the State of Israel, admitted to the United Nations in 1949, has been the only country whose designated capital is not recognized by the international community. Never mind the more than 3,000 years of Jewish history there or, since the founding of the modern State of Israel, it is the seat of its government, parliament and other state institutions. Even recognizing the western part of Jerusalem, where most of Israel’s government institutions sit, was off limits to nearly all of the international community.” The full op-ed can be found here.
B’nai B’rith Canada undertook an effort to teach Canadians about the bigoted nature of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. As anti-Israel activist Roger Waters embarked on a Canadian tour, B’nai B’rith Canada launched a nationwide film tour with award-winning filmmaker Ian Halperin to educate the public about the anti-Semitism inherent in BDS. B’nai B’rith Canada screened “Wish You Weren’t Here,” which includes interviews with Pope Francis, Alan Dershowitz, Ronald Lauder and Tony Blair, in six cities across Canada.
The World Center hosted Dutch Holocaust historian Bert Jan Flim for a series of lectures in Israel in April.
The World Center and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust presented the Jewish Rescuers Citation in acknowledgement of nine French Jews who risked their lives to rescue fellow Jews, at a ceremony organized by B’nai B’rith France in Paris.
In May, the World Center hosted noted Uruguayan scientist and ecologist professor Nestor Mazzeo Beyhaut, winner of the B’nai B’rith Uruguay “luz y Verdad” (Light and Truth) Award, for an extensive visit to Israel that included professional encounters at leading Israeli research and teaching institutions and touring.
When 70 countries planned to gather to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the likely effort to impose a solution on Israel, met with our swift reaction. Read our op-ed at FoxNews.com.
B’nai B’rith Canada defended Israel and the Jewish People in the political arena during 2017. After appearing at a rally in support of Palestinian terrorists, B’nai B’rith Canada strongly denounced NDP MP Niki Ashton and successfully urged her to distance herself from a known Holocaust denier who supported her. B’nai B’rith Canada also condemned several taxpayer-funded events where participants openly promoted anti-Israel hatred, as well as a Quebec politician who used anti-Semitic tropes in a documentary.
Earlier this year, as a result of B’nai B’rith Canada’s advocacy, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency rescinded its discriminatory decision to remove two Israeli wines from store shelves.
Diplomats: Up Close
B’nai B’rith International continues to interact formally and informally with diplomats, to help our members and supporters understand some of the biggest geo-political issues.
At our diplomatic encounter series, hosted in our Washington, D.C. headquarters, guests hear from an ambassador about his or her country’s interactions with Israel and the United States.
Marks recounted that the recent trip by the Jamaican prime minister to Israel was in the interest of expanding and deepening bilateral relations between the two countries. “Jamaica is very strongly supporting the peace process Israel is pursuing.” The ambassador talked about shared technological interests and partnerships, and commended Israel’s ingenuity: “There is so much Jamaica can learn from Israel.”
During a question and answer session, Jamaica was praised for refusing to support an anti-Israel resolution at UNESCO (the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization) last year, which denied Jewish historical claims to the Temple Mount.
Latin America: A Vital Partner
B’nai B’rith International has long had a strong presence throughout Latin America, unique among Jewish organizations. Our first lodge in Latin America dates to 1926, when B’nai B’rith founded a lodge in Panama City, Panama. Our presence across Latin America allows us to closely follow the most important developments in the region and advocate for policies and programs that positively impact the local Jewish population and Israel. We partner with other organizations to ensure that anti-Semitism and Holocaust education, for instance, are a focus at the governmental and local agency levels.
In the fall, we welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s historic visit to Argentina. Netanyahu is the first sitting Israeli prime minister to visit the country, where he stopped at the Israeli embassy, the site of the 1994 Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) building bombing and met with Jewish leaders and other Latin America government officials, including Argentine President Mauricio Macri. The Israeli and Argentine leaders have demonstrated a solid partnership, with economic and technological agreements signed by both, as well as making joint forceful public statements against terrorism. Our op-ed in the Jerusalem Post provided analysis on the 33-year-old crime.
For more than two decades, B’nai B’rith in Argentina has organized and led Kristallnacht memorial events. Since that launch, we have added events in Chile, Costa Rica, Venezuela and Uruguay. This year marked the 79th anniversary of Kristallnacht, which took place Nov. 9 and Nov. 10, 1938, when Nazis terrorized Jewish neighborhoods throughout Germany, Austria and parts of Czechoslovakia by vandalizing thousands of Jewish businesses and burning and destroying more than a thousand synagogues. Jews were rounded up and sent for execution.
This year, B’nai B’rith Argentina held two Kristallnacht commemorations. First in the capital city, Buenos Aires, where Christians and Jews shared a solemn interfaith and remembrance event. And also in the Province of Parana, where the government, represented by the Secretary of Human Rights Claudio Avruj and the Minister of Education Rosario Romero, together with B´nai B´rith and local authorities, joined in a huge event in the main square of the capital city and inaugurated a special plaque for the remembrance of Kristallnacht.
B’nai B’rith Uruguay hosted 600 people on Nov. 16 for its memorial ceremony. The keynote speaker was the former Vice President of Costa Rica Rebeca Grynspan who is the secretary general of the Ibero American Conference, an international multilateral institution which brings together the 19 Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries of Latin America plus Spain, Andorra and Portugal. The event was attended by the acting president of the country, Lucía Topolansky, former presidents Julio Sanguinetti and Luis Lacalle, among other dignitaries.
B’nai B’rith Chile and the Jewish Christian Confraternity organized a ceremony at the main Lutheran church in Chile. Another commemoration was held at the local Hebrew school, with several diplomats in attendance. The Israeli Ambassador Eldad Hayat was keynote speaker both times.
B’nai B’rith Costa Rica held a Kristallnacht commemoration ceremony at a huge theater and showed a screening of the documentary “The Night of the Broken Glass.”
Also this year, we attended the 47th Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly in Cancun, Mexico. We met with a number of high-level leaders, including OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. Our team also met with foreign ministers from Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay to discuss issues of human rights, terrorism and the dangerous situation in Venezuela.
B’nai B’rith International is an accredited civil society organization at the OAS.
The B’nai B’rith Cuban Jewish Relief Project sent two missions to Cuba in the spring, including the first partnership with a Jewish day school. Fifteen students from the Pelham Jewish Center Hebrew High School took part in a week-long intensive exchange and service mission with the youth group at the Patronato in Havana.
Our Cuban Jewish Relief Project has provided vital aid to the small Jewish community in Cuba since 1995. Learn more about this program from our podcast.
Our annual Leadership Forum, in Prague this fall, offered B’nai B’rith International leaders, members and supporters from the world over the chance to come together for meaningful educational events and conversations.
B’nai B’rith International/B’nai B’rith Europe members and supporters from around the world gathered in Prague, Czech Republic, Oct. 29 to Nov. 1 to learn how B’nai B’rith is at the forefront of today’s most pressing issues; engaging with high-level speakers on topics such as leadership development in today’s busy world, anti-Semitism in Europe, Israel on the global stage, terrorism and radicalization in Europe and the future of minority communities in western societies; and making their voices heard on all things related to B’nai B’rith’s global agenda.
Speakers at the forum included: Czech Republic Minister of Culture Daniel Herman; former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic Karel Schwarzenberg; Czech Republic Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Michaela Marksova; Director of the Transatlantic Relations Center and member of the Board of Directors of the 2000 Foundation Alexandr Vondra; and Director of the Institute of Empirical Research STEM and presidential candidate Pavel Fischer.
Attendees engaged in an in-depth and fascinating panel led by European Commissioner for Justice, Consumer Protection and Gender Equality Věra Jourová and the Coordinator of the European Commission on Combating anti-Semitism Katharina von Schnurbein.
Having government positions that focus on anti-Semitism is vital. Learn more at our podcast with former U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat anti-Semitism Ira Forman.
In conjunction with the forum, B’nai B’rith Europe held its triennial convention. The new president of B’nai B’rith Europe is Serge Dahan of Paris, who previously served as president of B’nai B’rith France.
The Young Leadership Network gathered for a pre-leadership forum weekend. The group toured the city’s Jewish and local historical sites as well as the Terezin concentration camp.
Young leaders attended Shabbat services and enjoyed a Shabbat dinner. They also had the opportunity to learn more about the biggest issues facing Jews around the world and shared insights into engaging young professionals during round table discussions.
B’nai B’rith International has advocated for global Jewry and championed the cause of human rights since 1843. B’nai B’rith is recognized as a vital voice in promoting Jewish unity and continuity, a staunch defender of the State of Israel, a tireless advocate on behalf of senior citizens and a leader in disaster relief. With a presence around the world, we are the Global Voice of the Jewish Community.
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