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B'NAI B'RITH IN YOUR COMMUNITY AND AROUND THE GLOBE

Summer 2022

COLUMNS
Andrea Cure
Director of Development, B’nai B’rith International

Dear Friends,

Much of what is on my mind these days is our incredible work helping the people of Ukraine. We have provided a vital aid to those in need in the wake of disasters since 1865.

Of course, our work goes on supporting Israel and seniors, and you can read in this issue about many of these efforts. But for me, the war in Ukraine has been perspective altering. Click here to read about my time in Poland on the border with Ukraine, along with my B’nai B’rith colleagues, helping refugees.

​​Kind regards,

Andrea

Report from the Ground: Ukraine Aid Mission

By Andrea Cure, B’nai B’rith Director of Development
March 2022

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, B’nai B’rith jumped into action. From our international headquarters in Washington, D.C. to our members and supporters around the world, we raised funds and sent food, blankets, warm coats and hygiene items to Ukrainians fleeing the war across borders in Poland and Romania as well as to people sheltering inside Ukraine, in ever-harsher conditions.

But we also wanted to bear witness to this human rights atrocity. And to provide a human connection to people in unfathomable circumstances. So, we went to the border in Poland.

Edyta Szemiel, B’nai B’rith’s controller, Alina Bricman, our director of EU Affairs and I spent nine days in Poland delivering aid in various capacities in several areas around the country. We arrived first in Warsaw, where we saw the refugee situation in the main train station. Whole families were sleeping on the floor, their baby carriages lined up neatly against the wall. Local volunteers were working tirelessly to help, providing what information they could. There were tents set up outside to supply food and other services. Seeing this firsthand hit home just how real, and close we were to war. 

B’nai B’rith staff Andrea Cure, director of Development (left), Edyta Szemiel, controller and Alina Bricman director of EU Affairs (not shown) supplied relief aid to Ukrainian victims of war in Romania and Poland, where they volunteered in shelters and refugee camps during their nine-day trip in March.

Our first day started with a meeting with Dr. Andrezj Friedman, B’nai B’rith Warsaw Lodge president, who personally showed us all the medical supplies B’nai B’rith had procured, ready to go to Lviv. Dr. Friedman was also kind enough to facilitate a connection for us to the crisis center being run by the Jewish Community in Warsaw. We had been working remotely with the group before our arrival to send supplies via contacts in Poland. We traveled with an assortment of goods to bring to the center—tote bags, teddy bears to comfort children and children’s activity packs were brought and distributed to refugees, as well as a variety of essential items the center outlined. Our goal here was to meet with community leaders, understand needs and go out to get or deliver items locally to minimize costs and maximize impact. So, whether it was shampoo, razors, warm clothing, lip balm or homeopathic anxiety meds, we provided it.

At one point, I saw two little boys come outside the center with our totes and bears—as I snapped a picture, I smiled. They were happy and playing with the items we brought. While this is seemingly a very small thing—kids playing and me smiling—it was an important “normal” moment in a setting that is anything but. 

From Warsaw we took a train to Przemysl, the city most central to Medyka, the Polish village near Ukraine’s border. We spent a day volunteering in “Tesco,” a former superstore which had been converted into a refugee center and aid warehouse. We were assigned to the group responsible for cleaning the site and our first job was cleaning the restrooms. This site was completely volunteer driven, and we quickly determined there were not adequate supplies for such a sizable operation. We ran out to a nearby home center and to a supermarket to get whatever supplies we could, anything that could disinfect surfaces, and instituted a protocol to better keep areas clean. 

At the time, there were 1,500 to 2,000 people flowing through the center each day. By the time we got back from buying the cleaning supplies we learned of a stomach virus situation and a potential lice outbreak. These health situations brought us face-to-face with the sobering realities of life as a refugee.

Ukrainian men, women and children camped in Warsaw’s Central Station.
Bricman, Cure and Szemiel purchased necessities and restocked supplies for the refugee facilities at local supermarkets and convenience stores in the cities of Warsaw and Przemysl and in Medyka, a village near the Ukrainian border.

The next day we volunteered in the Przemysl train station. To see the throngs of weary travelers, women, children, young, old, their pets—following what we witnessed at “Tesco”—we really began to understand the precarious situation of those forced to flee from their homes. At the train station Edyta, a native Pole, was able to provide tremendous assistance due to her Russian language skills. Alina and I worked in the mother and child room, where we organized and distributed supplies. We served snacks, coffee and tea, and just pitched in however we could, and again, provided needed supplies. 

We were able to connect with a staff member from Israel’s embassy in Kyiv, who met us the next day at Medyka. She walked us through the expansive set-up at the border crossing, a tent city referred to as a “festival” which really was a remarkable collage of volunteers and non-governmental organizations from around the globe, set up to aid the refugees flowing over the border. We were connected with Israel’s medical aid organization, Rescuers Without Borders, which was running a mother and child center in the rear of the United Sikhs tent. We went out and purchased baby food and diapers, and coffee, hot chocolate and milk, chocolates for kids and more. We also supplied duffle bags for refugees who were carrying their belongings in plastic bags and made sure the tent had access to diesel needed to provide heat through the night. 

Words cannot express how moving it was to work with volunteers from Israel, the United Kingdom and Japan, and alongside a young Ukrainian woman who walked over the border every day to volunteer, as well as a burly guy from Texas who stood guard outside of the tent to make sure it remained a safe space for the women and children it housed.

B’nai B’rith EU Affairs Director Alina Bricman (left) and a volunteer from the European Union of Jewish Students (right) traveled to Romania, where they helped out at a refugee camp in Siret, on the border near Ukraine. The little girls, who evacuated from Kharkiv with their mother, now live in Israel.

I recall a particularly moving experience that Edyta and I had. The owner of the hotel we stayed at introduced us to a mom, dad and their little boy. I understood we were being introduced as American aid workers. The mom was crying, the little boy looked so sad, and the father was trying to convey their dilemma to Edyta in Russian. They had escaped Mariupol in their car, which was now leaking fluid. He shared that it took 35 hours to get out of the city, riddled with landmines. The father had been in Odessa with his mother when the war broke out. He was able to reunite with his wife and son to flee to Poland.  

The car was very old, but they did not want to leave it behind. We offered to pay for their hotel stay, but they declined.

The father was adamant—he wanted to find a service station and wanted his wife and son to go to the “Tesco” refugee site. Edyta’s friend loaded the little boy and his mother, Edyta and me into her own car and led the father, following in his car, to a service station. 

I was in back with the mom and little boy, who started to feel more comfortable and was chatting. I showed him pictures of my own boys, my dogs and even Oreo, my family’s guinea pig, whose species I translated for him via Google Translate. 

He took his mom’s phone and showed me pictures of his friends—class pictures from what looked to be a holiday pageant. He spoke in Ukrainian; his mom spoke in Russian to Edyta and Edyta translated for me. He pointed out his friends and I smiled while thinking to myself: Will he ever see his friends again? 

When we arrived at the service station, and we were waiting, the mom said to me in halting English: “I am sorry.” I said: “No, I am sorry. I am sorry you are going through this.” Those words have echoed in my head ever since. I am sorry that millions of people are displaced, that they must flee with what they can carry in a plastic bag, clutching documents. Never in my life did I think I would see this in Europe. 

Without a doubt this was the most moving experience of my professional life: seeing the impact we were able to make and helping during such a dire humanitarian crisis—the likes of which not seen in Europe since the World War II. The entire B’nai B’rith family, all those who supported our Ukraine Relief Fund, should be tremendously proud and know they made a difference, that they had an impact.

FROM THE PRESIDENT

Our Worldwide Footprint

Seth J. Riklin
President, B’nai B’rith International

B’nai B’rith has a bigger footprint than any other Jewish organization. Despite decades of involvement in this organization, I still marvel at how many things we do and do so well.

Allow me to share with you three nearly simultaneous efforts undertaken during this spring to bring the breadth of our footprint more into focus. 

At the end of March and into early April, we had a refugee relief mission and a diplomatic mission accomplishing important tasks in two different parts of the world, while other members of our team led a senior housing conference. 

We had a team on the ground in Poland, aiding Ukrainian refugees and delivering much needed supplies. We also organized a diplomatic mission to Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, in support of their roles as the two initial signatories of the landmark 2020 Abraham Accords. These accords, which are the first Arab-Israel normalization agreements signed in decades, have provided a reset of sorts, for the Arab world to engage with Israel. With B’nai B’rith’s long history in the realm of international diplomacy, we are encouraged by the positive diplomatic ties and feel it is important for our organization to provide all the support we can.

I am immensely proud of our aid work, helping refugees escaping the carnage that resulted from the brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine. Our Director of Development Andrea Cure travelled from New York, our Controller Edyta Szemiel from Washington, D.C. and our Director of EU Affairs Alina Bricman from Brussels. Together they stopped at multiple sites in Poland to provide desperately needed aid to refugees from Ukraine. 

With ample support from our staff and volunteers back home, our team worked at multiple refugee centers, offering the most basic of human comfort to people who had seen the worst that humanity can do. Our team scrubbed bathrooms, bought cleaning supplies, poured tea and provided activity packs and B’nai B’rith “buddy bears” to comfort children. At aid sites in Poland, B’nai B’rith provided warm clothes and hygiene items. Our team members were the smiling, welcoming faces at a train station as rattled Ukrainian citizens, often with no more than the clothes they were wearing, disembarked from trains and wondered where they would go next. We know that escaping war is a first step on a precarious and uncertain path forward to an unexpected new future.

As it so often does, our internationality had important benefits as well: Edyta, who grew up in Poland, used her knowledge of Polish and Russian to provide much needed language translation on site. 

Our efforts were joined by fundraising and other aid from across B’nai B’rith locations including B’nai B’rith Europe, B’nai B’rith UK and B’nai B’rith Italy. B’nai B’rith in Germany, including the B’nai B’rith lodges in Frankfort and Munich worked directly with our lodge in Ukraine to determine needs for the community staying behind in difficult conditions in their homes. We funded aid projects in Moldova and in Romania. Our volunteers in Chicago put together a significant delivery of medicines and other supplies. And countless members and supporters of our organization sustained these efforts.

We continue to offer aid to Ukrainian refugees and to those who stayed behind in Ukraine. Our Disaster and Emergency Relief Fund also continues to support the efforts of our members on the ground in Poland. This global mobilization of our members and supporters shows the depth and breadth of our work, of our caring. I encourage you to read Andrea’s first-person account in this issue of IMPACT here.

While Andrea, Edyta and Alina were making a difference in people’s lives in Poland, 3,400 miles south, I led our diplomatic delegation, along with our CEO Dan Mariaschin. The growing ties between Arab nations, including Bahrain and the UAE, with Israel demonstrate to the world that forward-thinking is the way of the future. Our discussions highlighted the interests shared by the Gulf nations and Israel, as well as the common birth of Judaism and Islam. In truth, we are simply cousins who want to live in peace. We encouraged the development and deepening of the relationships. There are so many paths for engagement, with shared efforts in energy and defense taking center stage, while common interests in environmental, agricultural, technological and medical efforts will directly benefit the citizens of each country. This remarkable global shift has the potential to create an economic powerhouse in the region, while impeding the efforts of Iran to sow discord through terrorism. 

Of course, that worldwide footprint I mentioned is not limited to diplomacy and disaster and emergency relief. What led me to B’nai B’rith decades ago was the organization’s commitment to honoring our parents—our senior housing program, which provides affordable housing to older adults across the country. 

Around the same time as the Poland aid trip and the diplomatic mission to Bahrain and UAE, our senior housing network held its annual spring training conference for housing professionals and volunteers. For two days, our housing experts Mark Olshan, director of the B’nai B’rith Center for Senior Services; Janel Doughten, associate director of the Center for Senior Services; and Evan Carmen, legislative director for Aging Policy, led our building board members, management staff and service coordinators in vital discussions on topics such as older adults and technology and lessons learned from the pandemic, and discussed how those lessons can be applied in a meaningful and practical way to enhance the lives of our building residents.

I had the honor of Zooming into the housing conference to welcome everyone. I stayed to hear Andrea join from Poland to share with the conference the incredible work that she, Edyta and Alina were doing, and to bring us all stories from the frontlines.

I have always been proud of the positive difference B’nai B’rith has made in so many lives by sending disaster relief where and when it is needed, by providing affordable housing to our seniors who would have nowhere to go without our help, and by bridging diplomatic differences in the world by fighting anti-Semitism and hate that endanger Jews. I have never been more emotionally moved by our efforts than when I sat in my hotel room in Bahrain, listening to Andrea talk to our senior housing conference professionals and volunteers in the United States via Zoom about what she was seeing and experiencing while helping Ukrainian refugees who needed all the support we could provide. 

It is inspiring to be in the president’s seat of this nearly 179-year-old organization at a defining moment of our activities as we meet the challenges and needs of this war catastrophe. Our footprint is big, but our impact can often be felt at the most personal level in the most needed places in our world. 

I invite you to learn more about our work by visiting www.bnaibrith.org. I hope that you will join me in providing monetary support for our efforts by regularly hitting the “Donate” button on our website. Thank you for your membership in, and support of, our great organization.

FROM THE CEO

Three B’nai B’rith Leaders: Monsky, Korey, Schoenberg

Daniel S. Mariaschin
CEO, B’nai B’rith International

You’ve often heard us say or read about B’nai B’rith’s distinction of being only one of two Jewish organizations present at the creation of the United Nations, in San Francisco, in 1945. Our organization’s then-president, Henry Monsky (1890-1947) was elected to head the delegation of the Jewish umbrella group, the American Jewish Conference. There were solid reasons for the choice: since 1938, Monsky, one of the most recognized and respected American Jewish leaders in the world, had overseen an international organization with thousands of members in pre-War Europe, most of whom were killed in the Holocaust. He continued to do so as the world began to pick up the pieces after six years of destruction brought on by Hitler’s megalomaniacal regime.


In 1947, we were officially accredited at the U.N., and ever since, have taken our role seriously  as an NGO dedicated to advancing human rights and to advocating for a safe and secure Israel. In 1960, we opened the first full-time office for U.N. Affairs in the Jewish community, led for many years by two standout champions of human rights: Dr. William Korey (1922-2009) and Dr. Harris Schoenberg (1942-2022).


B’nai B’rith’s then-president Henry Monsky (right), pictured after World War II with Rabbi Leo Baeck, former head of the German lodges. Monsky advocated for the rights of Jews who had survived the Holocaust at the first planning meetings of the United Nations in San Francisco.

Bill Korey was one of the world’s leading advocates for free emigration for Soviet Jewry, a cause he eloquently presented in his landmark book, “The Soviet Cage.” Before his death in 2009, Korey was working on a book about Raphael Lemkin (1900-1959), another great human rights leader, and the man who introduced the word “genocide” into the public lexicon.



Harris Schoenberg, who passed away this year, directed our efforts at the U.N. during the tumultuous period following the Yom Kippur War, when in 1975, the U.N. General Assembly adopted it infamous, malevolent “Zionism=Racism” resolution. His book, “Mandate for Terror: The United Nations and the PLO,” is still must-reading to understand the grip that the Palestinian narrative has on the world body.


I had the great privilege of working with both men. When I joined the Anti-Defamation League as Middle East Affairs Director in 1977, both were working out of B’nai B’rith’s U.N. office, in the same building which served as ADL’s national headquarters and which also housed B’nai B’rith’s New York offices. 



Bill was one of my most cherished mentors. I spent hours on end in his office, discussing all aspects of the Soviet Jewry issue and USSR foreign policy. I never left without learning something new. He was a master wordsmith; indeed, one of the best writers on foreign affairs I’ve ever known.



Harris Schoenberg knew the ins and outs of the arcane U.N. bureaucracy like no other. He, like Henry Monsky and Bill Korey, was a fearless defender of Israel and the Jewish people. His intellect and his knowledge of the organization’s inner workings brought him the respect of friends—and foes—alike.


Today, both men would be on the front line of the battle against the double standards and bias to which Israel is subjected at the U.N. in New York, at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, at UNESCO in Paris and other agencies in its vast global system. While some incremental progress in voting patterns on Israel-related issues is evident here and there, the bias against Israel continues unabated.


 

Dr. William Korey (far left), who for many years worked for international implementation of the UN Genocide Pact was invited to the White House on the day that President Ronald Reagan signed a bill that ratified the treaty in 1988. Appointed in 1960 as B’nai B’rith’s first director of United Nations Affairs, Korey spent many years fighting for the rights of Soviet Jews, who had been denied the right to emigrate by their government.


Only a little more than a year ago, the Human Rights Council created a “Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel.” The commission is chaired by Navi Pillay, who served as the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights and whose career has been marked by outright hostility to Israel, and two others equally biased against the Jewish State: former U.N. Rapporteur Miloon Kothari and Chris Sidoti, described as a “human rights law expert.”



This commission has no shelf life. It can carry out its work without end and will be staffed by nearly 20 persons, at a cost of millions of dollars. Its mandate is “to investigate all underlying root causes of recurrent tensions, instability and protraction of conflict, including systematic discrimination and repression, based on ethnic, racial or religious identity.”


Dr. Harris Schoenberg, B’nai B’rith director of United Nations Affairs from 1978-1993, dedicated his life to the cause of human rights. A recipient of many awards, he authored several books about the UN’s connection to the PLO’s terrorist activities.
Photo credit: courtesy of Daniel Schoenberg

In other words, the world body, created on the ashes of World War II and the Holocaust, will now feature a permanent Star Chamber proceeding against the one and only state of the Jewish people. As we say, the Commission’s reports “are already written.”



Why does the U.N. persist is its perverse focus of Israel? 

Bill Korey and Harris Schoenberg would undoubtedly say a combination of factors are at play: ideological affinity of many member states for the Palestinian narrative, the U.N.’s famous “go-along-to-get-along” way of horse-trading votes, and—for sure—a heavy dose of anti-Semitism. The COI represents a 21st century version of the old blood libel against the Jews in medieval Europe and later in the Middle East: the Jews (in this case, the Israelis) are responsible for the worst possible crimes against the Palestinians, who get an immediate and forever pass on acts of terror, rocket attacks and calls for Israel’s destruction and demise.


What stands out starkly in this picture is how anachronistic it is. The Abraham Accords and the normalization of relations among the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Israel have been a clear demonstration of how Arabs and Israelis can not only get along but can build an infrastructure of meaningful people-to-people relationships that can benefit all of their populations.


 

The U.N. is the last redoubt of the rejectionists. It continues to play an enabling role for the sour, angry and zero-sum narrative of the Palestinians. It is living in 1975. The world has clearly moved on: Israel has much to offer its neighbors, and beyond that, civilization as we know it, with its start-up, innovation driven energy and contributions to science, medicine, technology and agriculture. Many countries that know better, but still vote against Israel in U.N. venues, are seeking out Israeli expertise in a wide variety of fields. Hopefully, one day soon, that interest in Israeli ingenuity will translate into more votes against the rote resolutions which continually excoriate Israel.



In the meantime, the Palestinians, living as they do in a nihilistic cul-de-sac, continue to hammer away at Israel, always sure they can attract enough of a crowd of followers in the halls and corridors of the U.N. to join them in ganging up on Israel. That the Palestinian emperor has no clothes, though, is becoming increasingly apparent. The Palestinians don’t seem to feel they are missing the boat to normalization; they revel, instead, on hatred and the glorification of violence.



In the face of the persistent, malign motives of the COI, and of all the other anti-Israel measures adopted each year at the United Nations, B’nai B’rith carries on the work and perpetuates the legacy of three outstanding figures in the fight for Jewish dignity and the rightful place for Israel in the world. 



We salute the memories of Henry Monsky, Bill Korey and Harris Schoenberg and honor their vital roles in the history of our organization.



Project to Address Charges of Apartheid Against Israel includes Discussion series and Online Publication

Two legal experts who contributed to a B’nai B’rith report on anti-Israel bias were the featured speakers during an online discussion addressing accusations of apartheid against Israel by the United Nations, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Special Advisor on Latin American and United Nations Affairs Adriana Camisar and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin served as moderators. Mariaschin cited these “outrageous and dangerous” claims as “libelous” and as “threatening to criminalize Israel’s very existence.” 

The first part of the report, “The Apartheid Slander Against Israel and the Ideological Distortion of Human Rights” was published online on May 19 and includes detailed reports from two internationally acclaimed scholars. The conversation with the experts aired on Facebook on May 24.

Professor Eugene Kontorovich, director of George Mason University’s Scalia Center for Middle East and International Law, delineated the history of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379, passed in 1975 and revoked in 1991, to reveal that this rhetoric is familiar, but is now ramped up, and still fails to convince. “The headlines have not worked.” Kontorovich is the author of the section of the report titled “Israel Apartheid is the New Zionism=Racism.”

Supplying evidence of Israel’s egalitarian practices and governance, he stated that facts are irrelevant to people and groups opposing a Jewish state. Noting the irony of the charges in light of brutal human rights crimes that are ignored or rationalized elsewhere, Kontorovich noted that social media hate groups recruit followers though trigger point epithets like “apartheid” and “occupation.” He concluded that the Palestinian leaders who continually reject statehood have no concern for the suffering of their own people, who they will continue to exploit.

Journalist and legal analyst Thane Rosenberg, distinguished university law professor at Touro College, wrote the report essay “The Terrorism of Untruths.” During the discussion, he cited Israel’s historical narrative as typical of many other countries, noting that the legitimization of the Jewish homeland by the British occurred more than a century ago, after World War I. Noting in his essay that the reports from human rights groups are “fascinating in what they deliberately omit,” Rosenbaum observed that the derisive Amnesty International findings make no mention of the fact that Israel has made numerous attempts at extending statehood to the Palestinians, a fact that negates any accusations of oppression on the part of Israel.

Kontorovich noted that anyone who can, should defend Israel, but admitted that rational arguments are meaningless to those whose goal is to have “more dead Jews.” On campus, where attacks against Israel are weaponized to discredit Jewish students, Kontorovich said it is important to hold formal discussions about human rights abuses by Palestinians. Rosenbaum advocated for educational programs aimed at Jews who are not often conversant on the issues. 

He also said that educational institutions and other organizations must apply the definition of anti-Semitism as formulated by the International Alliance of Holocaust Remembrance Association (IRHA)—including the denial of the right of the Jewish people to self-determination or holding the Jews to a higher standard than that of other peoples—to community members who engage in anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist activities or be denied federal funding.

Yom Ha Shoah Commemoration Events Acknowledge Holocaust Victims

B’nai B’rith conducted virtual and in-person programs in commemoration of Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day), a solemn observance which began in Israel after World War II and is now held internationally. Since 1989, B’nai B’rith has been the North American sponsor of “Unto Every Person There is A Name,” a reading of names, ages and birthplaces of Shoah victims, coordinated by its Center for Jewish Identity. Now totaling 4,800,000 individuals, the list is compiled by Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Center— Yad Vashem, organizer of the events worldwide.

B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider serves on the Yad Vashem committee that plans Yom HaShoah programming.

During the first part of B’nai B’rith’s online “Unto” program, B’nai B’rith President Seth Riklin read Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s message, which emphasized the need to personalize the Holocaust as the only means of comprehending its unimaginable history. 

Noting this year’s theme, “Transports to Extinction: The Deportation of Jews during the Holocaust,” CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin observed that as survivors die, the next generations must never forget the victims: ”By reading their names, ages and places of death we keep their memory alive, reminding the world of what the Jewish people have lost.” He indicated that among the six million dead were 1.5 million children, a reality made more poignant as the ages of the very young were spoken aloud. 

B’nai B’rith Center for Jewish Identity Chair Sheila Mostyn recited the poem, “Unto Every Person There is A Name.” Recitations of the names were introduced by brief, heartbreaking descriptions of the transits to the camps by Elie Wiesel and others. Participating B’nai B’rith and Jewish communal leaders included: Riklin; Vice Chair Brad Adolph; Josh Sushan, chair of Connect, B’nai B’rith’s young leadership group; and Rob Derdiger, CEO of AEPi, the fraternity which organizes “Unto Every Person” readings and the “We Walk to Remember” program in partnership with B’nai B’rith on 119 college campuses.

The ceremony was followed by a screening of two B’nai B’rith online interviews moderated by Mariaschin: a conversation with Beryl Lieff Benderly, speaking about her B’nai B’rith Magazine feature on the Warsaw Ghetto, “How the Oyneg Shabes Hid an Astonishing Archive,” and a discussion with Lucy Adlington, author of the book, “The Dressmakers of Auschwitz: the Women who Sewed to Survive.”

Connect Members Honor Babyn Yar Victims

B’nai B’rith’s Connect young leadership members honored Yom HaShoah by reading from lists that contained the names of those massacred at Babyn Yar in Kyiv in Ukraine in September 1941. The names were to be recited “over a candle, before bed, with your loved ones or whenever you can spare a few minutes.” 

Commemorating Yom HaShoah, Atlanta’s B’nai B’rith Achim/Gate City Lodge organized an online and in-person ceremony on April 29, when attendees reading from the list of names of Holocaust victims were able to add those of their own family lost during the Shoah.
B’nai B’rith member Ari Ackerman, whose family is Ukrainian, read the names with his young daughter. He wrote that “As Jews around the world face rampant anti-Semitism—including Holocaust denial—it is more important than ever that we ensure the next generation continues the vital legacy to never forget!”
B’nai B’rith and Jewish communal leaders taking part in the Unto Every Person There is A Name Yom HaShoah observance on April 28 included (top row, left to right): CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin, who introduced the ceremony and provided closing remarks; and readers President Seth J. Riklin and Sheila Mostyn, chair of the B’nai B’rith Center for Jewish Identity. Name readers (bottom row, left to right:) Brad Adolph, B’nai B’rith International vice chair; Josh Sushan, Connect chair; Rob Derdiger, CEO of AEPi fraternity, a B’nai B’rith partner for on-campus readings.

Mariaschin speaks in Cyprus

In his April 27 Holocaust commemoration speech at the site of a former detention camp in Cyprus, Mariaschin said that local residents gave food and other items to the camp’s Jewish inmates. “Conditions were difficult. People who had just endured the worst catastrophe known to humankind” were waiting to immigrate to pre-state Israel after World War II. The camp visit occurred as part of a bi-annual mission sponsored by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, B’nai B’rith, the American Hellenic Progressive Association (Order of AHEPA) and the American-Hellenic Institute.

B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin signs the guest book at a former detention camp in Nicosia, Cyprus, where he spoke on April 27. Mariaschin was one of the leaders of the mission to Cyprus, Greece and Israel conducted bi-annually by the Conference of Presidents, B’nai B’rith, the American Hellenic Institute and the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (Order of AHEPA).

A tribute to heroes in Israel 

Thirteen Jewish rescuers who saved people of their own faith in occupied countries before and during World War II were honored by Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-JNF) and B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem at the Martyrs Forest on April 28. More than six hundred men and women have been recognized for their heroism since 2011, when Schneider and the Committee to Recognize Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust (JRJ) launched the program.

Among the posthumous awardees were Chaviva Raick and Raphael Reisz, British army paratroopers from pre-state Israel, who provided food, clothing and medical assistance to Jews in liberated Slovakia and who helped to establish safehouses where Allied pilots and escaped prisoners were smuggled out of enemy territory. They were executed in Slovakia on Nov. 20, 1944.

B’nai B’rith’s World Center-Jerusalem and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-JNF) honored Jews who often sacrificed their own lives to save other Jews before and during the Holocaust at an in-person and live-streamed Yom HaShoah ceremony held at the Martyrs Forest on April 28. Director Alan Schneider joined the speakers and the families of the late honorees.
Photo credit: Amos Luzon Photographers
Dutch Ambassador to Israel Hans Doctor, one of the speakers, commented: "Here, at the Forest of the Martyrs, 6 million trees were planted in memory of the innocent Jewish lives that were destroyed. It is our responsibility to keep these six million memories alive and to say today, and every day, ‘Never Again.’”

In addition to Schneider, speakers included: Sar-Shalom Jerbi, director, Education and Community Division, KKL-JNF; Brig. Gen. Kobi Karni, commander, Border Guard Combat Training Center; and Hans Docter, Dutch ambassador to Israel.

Connect: Young Leaders Program Update

Joshua Sushan Appointed Chair of B’nai B’rith Connect

Joshua Sushan is the 2022 chair of B’nai B’rith’s young leadership group, Connect.

In March Joshua Sushan of Washington, D.C. was appointed chair of B’nai B’rith Connect. As chair, Sushan is leading Connect’s efforts to bring together and mentor up-and-coming leaders through networking opportunities, events with diplomats and other global figures, international missions, disaster relief, advocacy, projects, fundraisers and more.

Sushan previously served as vice chair of Connect and has represented B’nai B’rith on numerous occasions, including the 2018 Kakehashi Project—Japan’s Friendship Ties program, which brings American Jews to Japan, as a delegate on the Israel, Cyprus, Greece Diaspora Trilateral mission in 2019 and as a delegate to the World Zionist Congress in 2020.

Sushan succeeded Scott D. Knapp, who previously served as Connect chair and as a B’nai B’rith senior vice president. Knapp currently serves  as president-elect of AEPi International. 

 

Both Sushan and Knapp are winners of the B’nai B’rith Label A. Katz Award, presented to individuals under 45 who have demonstrated outstanding service to the totality of B’nai B’rith and have worked to achieve the goals of B’nai B’rith Connect. Knapp was recognized in 2018 and Sushan in 2021.

Connect Members Help Raise Funds for Ukraine Aid Shipment

B’nai B’rith Vice Chair Brad Adolph and Victoria Sushan organized relief aid earmarked for transport to Ukrainian war refugees in April.

In early April B’nai B’rith Connect Chair Joshua Sushan, his mother, Victoria Sushan, and aunt, Olga Green, and B’nai B’rith Vice Chairman Brad Adolph, all from the Chicagoland area, spearheaded the collection and shipment of over 2,000 lbs. of humanitarian aid to Kharkiv, Ukraine.

Victoria Sushan, Joshua Sushan and Green organized the collection of medical supplies, wound and urgent care supplies, baby food and care products and pet food. Connect members including Joshua Sushan as chair, as well as Adolph made private donations to help cover the cost of shipping the aid to the Red Cross in Prague, which then sent it to Kharkiv.

Yom HaShoah “Unto Every Person There Is A Name” Reading

To mark Yom HaShoah, B’nai B’rith Connect organized a unique “Unto Every Person There Is A Name” event—a program to honor Holocaust victims by reading their names and where and when they were born and died.

Volunteers were sent a list of 20 names to be read at any time and from any place, on April 27 and April 28. Participants were instructed to “read them over a candle, before bed, with your loved ones or whenever you can spare a few minutes.” All names read were of those who perished at Babyn Yar in Ukraine in 1941.

“As many of you know, this hits home for me personally, as it is where I lost many of my own family,” said Connect Chair Joshua Sushan,  whose family is originally from Ukraine. 

B’nai B’rith Connect has programming geared toward young professionals ages 21 to 40 with several Connect groups across the United States.

For more information on getting involved, upcoming events, to be added to our email list or to start a Connect Chapter in your region, please contact us at BBIConnect@bnaibrith.org or (212) 405-4021.

A Memorable Papal Audience

B’nai B’rith President Seth Riklin and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin led an international delegation of B’nai B’rith officers to Rome for a papal audience at the Vatican on May 30.

In remarks delivered to the pontiff, Riklin noted that “The time that we share today can be a much-needed source of real hope, even inspiration, to people of faith around the world…we cannot but marvel at the blessed and bold transformation in Catholic-Jewish relations that has occurred in a short period of time… From clergy to laypeople to seminarians, the work of strengthening our sacred friendship continues—founded upon the indelible bonds of our two religions.”

In his message to the delegates, Pope Francis referenced Nostra aetate (In Our Time) an historic declaration issued by the Second Vatican Council on Dec. 8, 1965, which stated that the Catholic Church no longer held Jews responsible for the death of Jesus. Acknowledging its 65-year relationship with the Holy See, the pontiff lauded B’nai B’rith: “Helping the lowly, the poor, the sick: this is the most concrete way to promote greater human fraternity. Throughout these years, you have been tirelessly committed to humanitarian causes…it is my hope that you will continue to protect our sisters and brothers, especially the most vulnerable and neglected. This we can do together…”

As the Vatican conducted its first initiatives in establishing ecumenical relations between Catholics and Jews in 1958, Pope Pius XII met with B’nai B’rith leaders including President Philip M. Klutznick and former President Frank Goldman. Two years later, President Label Katz attended an audience with Pope John XXIII.

B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin (right with Pope Francis) and President Seth J. Riklin (far left) presented a silver Kiddush cup as a gift to Pope Francis. In 2012, the Pope, who then served as a cardinal in Argentina, hosted a B’nai B’rith Yom HaShoah commemoration in Buenos Aires.
B’nai B’rith’s President Label Katz (left) and Executive Secretary Maurice Bisgyer with Pope Paul VI at the Vatican in 1964.

During their time in Rome, the delegation also met with officials including Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and members of the Italian Jewish community.

Ruth Dureghello, president of the city’s Jewish Community, hosted a visit to the Great Synagogue of Rome for the B’nai B’rith mission: Left to right: Claudia Bagnarelli, Milan Lodge president; Paolo Foà, B’nai B’rith International senior vice president; Riklin; Dureghello; Mariaschin; Ariela Cassuto, president of the Livorno Lodge and B’nai B’rith Italy; Sandro Di Castro, Rome Lodge president.

B’nai B’rith Leaders Make Milestone Visit to Abraham Accords Nations​

B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin (left); Israel’s Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Housing Ze’ev Elkin (center); and Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence.
Mission members meet with Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani (center left) after his return from the historic Negev summit in Israel. B’nai B’rith Director of United Nations and Intercommunal Affairs David Michaels (black mask) and President Seth J. Riklin, at his right, are seated across the table.

A March 2022 B’nai B’rith delegation led by President Seth J. Riklin and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin that included participants from Latin America, the United States and Europe made a historic trip to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain—the first nations to sign the 2020 Abraham Accords agreements for cooperation with Israel. Mission members voiced their collective and individual endorsements for progress made through the Accords during in-depth sessions with high-ranking officials in government, diplomacy, business and finance. 

Mariaschin observed that “The importance of our mission to the UAE and Bahrain cannot be overstated. In addition to expressing our strong support for the Abraham Accords in person, we were able to engage in important meetings and discussions with policy makers, religious and cultural figures who are centrally involved  in sustaining the success of the Accords to even newer, and higher levels.”

Delegates from the mission tour a mosque in the UAE.

In the same month, further strides in relationship building in the Middle East, evidenced by the milestone B’nai B’rith mission itself, advanced in other locations. During the week the B’nai B’rith group was traveling in the UAE, an historic summit involving representatives from Israel, Egypt, the UAE, the United States, Bahrain and Morocco was convened in the Red Sea town of Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt. On March 30, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Israeli President Isaac Herzog met for what Herzog called “a people-to-people dialogue” in Amman. On April 1, the first free-trade agreement between the Emirates and Israel was signed. 

Meeting with government leaders including Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, who had attended the Negev summit, B’nai B’rith had the opportunity to exchange views on issues like the detrimental effects of Iran’s terrorist activities for all Accords members, the potential for cooperation in the public and private sectors, and possibilities for establishing interfaith ties.

From the 1890s through the years after World War II, the activities of B’nai B’rith lodges in the Near and Middle East were integral to the survival of hundreds of thousands of people of all faiths during wars and natural disasters, and included the operation of soup kitchens, organization of medical care and running of employment bureaus. Continuing to build on this narrative of accomplishments and its history of engagement with the Arab world during their mission, B’nai B’rith leaders made connections with senior government ministers and other policy-influencers, religious leaders, local Jewish community representatives and the two resident Israeli ambassadors. They also toured the exhibits on display at Dubai’s innovative Expo 2020 and visited art museums and historic sites.

Office of EU Affairs Spearheads Digital Publication About Online Anti-Semitism

In 2018 almost 90% of Jews responding to a European Union survey were distressed by an alarming increase in anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, both online and in the real world. The 2020 pandemic fueled an explosion of hatred vilifying Jews for, among other canards, spreading and profiting from COVID-19.

B’nai B’rith’s Office of European Union Affairs in Brussels, together with other expert partners, has taken the lead in responding to this crisis, which is now detailed in a new guidebook published by the organization, “aiming to build literacy among Jewish professionals, lay leaders and community members at large—as well as wider allies from across civil society to tackle anti-Semitism online.”

The Guide Partnership

Funded by a German Ministry of the Interior grant, the digital “Online Anti-Semitism: A Toolkit for Civil Society”, released on April 7, 2022, was the brainchild of Office of EU Affairs Director Alina Bricman, along with Director of United Nations and Intercommunal Affairs David Michaels and Oren Drori, program officer for U.N. Affairs. To ensure the guide’s comprehensive scope, B’nai B’rith partnered with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), a leading think tank whose staff formulates customized action plans for mitigating the spread of extremism through legislative and other engagement as well as with UNESCO—the U.N. body tasked with developing educational tools to help people “live as global citizens free of hate and intolerance.”

Bricman noted: “For a long time, online challenges were treated as secondary to physical threats—and it is urgent and essential to overcome this mindset. We’ve seen time after time that hate online can translate to harm in the physical world with lightning speed. Look no further than the Buffalo shooting. The online space provides an environment for hateful ideologies. Increasingly, radicalization is often a built-in feature and so-called lone wolf extremists find community online. Thus, the challenge is urgent and intricate.” 

Bricman added, “Through the three-fold partnership between B’nai B’rith, ISD and UNESCO we looked to tackle the challenge in a nuanced and action-oriented way. The cooperation ensured that multiple perspectives found their way into the guide. For a complex challenge such as that of hate and anti-Semitism online, only a multifaceted approach can meet the moment. Understanding the responsibilities of tech platforms and governments and the enhanced role that civil society can and should play in the field is essential.”

The publication provides a comprehensive overview of the online anti-Semitic threat landscape and includes comprehensive information surveying the shifting policies surrounding online anti-Semitism, exploring both actions taken by social media companies and emerging government approaches and offers a wide-ranging set of recommendations for effective civil-society action. 

B’nai B’rith’s outlook, history and Jewish perspective inform the guide’s overall content, which is meant to be a useful tool for a range of Jewish community and advocacy organizations, educational institutions, governmental bodies dealing with the topic at hand, and civil society allies.

Making the Guide Available

The guide will be widely distributed to Jewish community organizations, government representatives, EU agencies and other relevant bodies such as the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and the Interparliamentary Taskforce to Combat Anti-Semitism Online. 

UNESCO will publicize and distribute the guide to partners allied with its mission as well as a range of offices, government and non-government agencies based at the United Nations.

In so doing, B’nai B’rith aims to actively engage with interested organizations and bodies to work jointly on building literacy and capacity for action in the online sphere. 

Fifth Biannual Leadership Mission to Israel, Cyprus and Greece Celebrates and Strengthens Trilateral Relationship

Left to right: B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin; Israeli Ambassador to the Republic of Cyprus Oren Anolik; United States Ambassador to Cyprus Judith G. Garber at a reception held for the delegates of the tri-lateral mission. The trip was organized by B’nai B’rith, the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (Order of AHEPA), the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
Mariaschin and Israeli President Isaac Herzog.
Courtesy of the office of President Herzog.

In early May, B’nai B’rith concluded a Biannual Leadership Mission to Israel, Cyprus and Greece, along with other American Jewish and American Hellenic organizations. This is the fifth leadership mission of its kind, with the inaugural mission completed in January 2014.  

A 19-member delegation of leaders from B’nai B’rith, the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (Order of AHEPA), the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations traveled to the three countries to celebrate and strengthen the 3+1—Israel, Greece and Cyprus, and the United States—relationship; to explore major political, economic and security developments underway in the eastern Mediterranean; and to advance the interests of the U.S. in the region.

“As dedicated supporters, the American Hellenic and American Jewish communities are committed to advancing the trilateral partnership and 3+1 framework,” the groups said in a statement following the mission. “We will continue to work to foster closer cooperation with the United States and support the common efforts to achieve tangible and measurable outcomes across all areas.”

During the mission, which took place from April 26 to May 4, the delegation held meetings with more than 30 high-ranking government officials, military officers and policy analysts in the region.

B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider (far left); Mariaschin (wearing striped tie, front row, fourth from left) and tri-lateral mission members with Nikos Dendias (center, holding medallion), Greek minister of Foreign Affairs.

 

The delegation also visited historically significant sites including the Tomb of Makedonitissa, a war memorial and military cemetery in Engomi, Cyprus, near Nicosia, and the Cyprus-Israeli Monument that commemorates 2,200 Jewish children born to Jewish Holocaust survivors detained in Cyprus between 1946 and 1949. 

On April 27, the delegation took part in a Yom HaShoah commemoration event in Nicosia hosted by the Cypriot government. B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin spoke at the event, acknowledging and thanking the local citizens who assisted Jewish detainees at a British detention camp, which held survivors who had been turned away from entering pre-state Israel after World War II.

 

Mariaschin (front row, fourth from right) and delegates met with Lt. Gen. Dimokritos Zervakis, chief of the National Guard of Cyprus (in military dress) in Nicosia. Zervakis made his first visit to Israel on March 8.
Courtesy office of Lt. Gen. Zervakis

Project H.O.P.E. Thrives in 2022

Dating to the 1960s, B’nai B’rith’s Project H.O.P.E. (Help Our People Everywhere) is a community action project that annually supplies Passover food to the poor and the elderly. During the eight-day spring festival, Jews eat traditional foods and take part in ritual meals (Seders), celebrating the emancipation of the Israelites in Egypt. 

Susan Berk (left) with Gail Warrack, The Rudman Family Food Pantry director of Volunteer Services.

Before 2020, B’nai B’rith Metronorth Region—serving New York City, Rockland and Westchester counties, and Connecticut—donated Passover items directly to area seniors. Since 2021, Metronorth has partnered with The Rudman Family Food Pantry, which supervises delivery of food packages at the Mid-Island Y JCC in Plainview, New York. 

The Metronorth region’s $4,500 contribution to The Rudman Family Food Pantry covering costs for 214 packages included a gift from member Susan Berk’s foundation, the Sonnenberg Family Fund.

Thanking Berk and B’nai B’rith, Warrack acknowledged: “….your incredible generosity! Without it we would not be able to provide these wonderful Passover meal packages to our most vulnerable clients! We continue to honor the pact that the Jews leaving Egypt made: ‘We will always do acts of kindness for each other.’ They chose to do it, recognizing that strength and growth come from people who care.”

A sampling of the highly positive responses: 

“Sorry I didn’t wait for the Seder; I just ate half the food! Came just in time!”

“Kindly express my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for the beautiful Passover meal that I received yesterday! It will surely make this Passover holiday a truly special one.”

“I can’t thank you enough for all the times you were there for me. You even sent flowers!”

"I want to thank you for the lovely Passover meal. They should've catered my Bar Mitzvah!! You guys are wonderful.”

Additionally, 360 seniors in southern Connecticut enjoyed Passover treats, a donation from Joyva candy facilitated by Metronoth president, Harold Mitchel. Harold Miller, Metronorth’s Project H.O.P.E. chair, observed that the confections provided “a sweeter holiday for a lot of people!” Jennifer Bayer, Development and Community Relations director at the Towers senior apartments in New Haven commented: “…you have the gratitude of our families, volunteers and Board, administration and staff.”

Originally run from the garage of Project H.O.P.E. leader Samuel Domsky, Philadelphia’s Liberty Region now conducts operations at Temple Sinai in Dresher, Pennsylvania, where four hundred people assembled food packages for seven hundred families this spring. Domsky expressed his gratitude to those who accomplished the task: “Thank you to all the volunteers that made Project H.O.P.E. a fabulous success. We hit two milestones: 25 years and 10,000 families delivered. Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would accomplish helping so many in need. It is a testament to all of you!!!”

Learn more about Garsek Lodge’s June 2021 “Difference Maker” accomplishments here: 
B’nai B’rith Great Lakes Region partners with Yad Ezra Food Bank, which supplies kosher meals and kosher for Passover food to residents in Southeast Michigan. Great Lakes’ year-round roster of projects includes the Stephen B. Zorn Memorial Golf Outing, a scholarship fundraiser. From left: Great Lakes Region Vice President Jeffrey Tackel; Yad Ezra Director of Operations Dave Jaffee and Executive Director Daniella HarPaz Mechnikov; and Lila Zorn, Great Lakes Region president.
Isadore Garsek Lodge in Fort Worth, Texas, sponsored a ritual Seder and lunch attended by 40 guests at Congregation Beth-El. Last year, the now 147-year-old lodge was recognized by radio station KRLD as a “Difference Maker” for its delivery of hundreds of homecooked meals to fire fighters, 911 dispatchers and medical personnel during the pandemic.
Serving Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., B’nai B’rith’s Chesapeake Bay Region joined forces with the Jewish Social Service Agency to manage its Project H.O.P.E. program. Funds are donated by B’nai B’rith members and individuals who attend local synagogues. This year, the roster of volunteers preparing and delivering the food packages included the seventh-grade class from Berman Hebrew Academy in Rockville, Maryland.
Chesapeake Bay Region’s Project H.O.P.E. packages.
photo credit: Shari Barash

FROM THE VAULT

Boris Bogen and 1922 Relief Efforts in Ukraine

Before academic, author, administrator and social worker Boris Bogen (1869-1929) became B’nai B’rith’s secretary (the equivalent of today’s CEO) under President Alfred M. Cohen in 1925, he spent years risking his life assisting Jews in Eastern Europe during World War I and in the years afterward.

As a young adult in his native Russia, the B’nai B’rith leader engaged in clandestine activities enabling the immigration of Jews who were exiled from Moscow as the result of an anti-Semitic edict or who were being pursued by the police for political crimes. He himself had endured violence and hatred during his years as a student, solider and worker.

Photos of Boris Bogen included in a scrapbook illustrating Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) post-World War I relief activities, now housed in the B’nai B’rith Holocaust and Related Materials Collection at the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives.

Immigrating in 1890, Bogen completed his education in the United States, where he went on to teach at a number of Jewish institutions, including Baron de Hirsch’s agricultural school in Woodbine, New Jersey, before obtaining a leadership position at the Joint Distribution Committee, organized in 1914 to send food, medicines and supplies to Jews in war-torn Eastern Europe. From 1917, Bogen directed relief assistance initiatives for Jews residing in Poland and what was then Czechoslovakia. 

In 1920, as a terrible famine and the ravages of war continued to inflict suffering on Jews overseas. Bogen and his staff, carrying special authorizations for travel in war zones and wearing the JDC’s military-style uniforms, were based in Poland, but were frequently on the ground in remote areas of Russia and Ukraine, where the life-saving deliveries were put directly into the hands of the Jewish inhabitants, rather than corrupt officials or anti-Semitic peasants.

On a mission to help feed 9,500 Jewish children in the Ukrainian village of Kherson in the summer of 1922, Bogen was initially delighted at the prospect of taking his first long-distance trip by “machine” (automobile). His travel experiences were recorded for posterity in a letter to a New York colleague: The eight-hour ordeal included a stop, when men who were guarding prisoners laboring on nearby farms drew their revolvers on the vehicle’s passengers, and a nocturnal drive taken “at the highest speed” over what passed for rudimentary roads during good weather, but which had turned into deep ribbons of slippery mud, as a torrential storm rained down. 

The “Joint” volunteer staff, young men mostly in their twenties, faced perils associated with their duties; at least one of them was murdered during the course of these humanitarian endeavors.

Given his history, during his years at B’nai B’rith, Bogen was, in the words of his friend, writer Alfred Segal, “no secretary in a swivel chair.” A tireless advocate for the future of Jewish education, he was on the move making speeches at lodges across the country, where he was remembered as “no gloomy prophet but a charming one.” A beloved boss, Bogen was known as a teller of funny stories, which always (so it was said) contained a valuable lesson.

Bogen died suddenly in 1929 during a homecoming party at his residence in California. His autobiography, “Born a Jew,” was published posthumously a few weeks later. 

New Virtual Series Highlights B’nai B’rith in Latin America

B’nai B’rith launched a new virtual program series, “Lens on Latin America” (“Con El Lente En Latinoamerica”) which will focus on issues of interest to B’nai B’rith as they relate to the region. 

“This new series will highlight B’nai B’rith’s long connection and presence in Latin America. We plan to discuss a broad range of issues, from Jewish life and relations with Israel, to cultural and educational themes,” said Adriana Camisar, B’nai B’rith special advisor on Latin American and United Nations Affairs, who initiated the series along with Eduardo Kohn, B’nai B’rith director of Latin American Affairs.

The plan for the series is to air an episode every one to two months, with the first four episodes focusing on relationas with Israel.

The first episode aired on March 31 and featured a discussion with Kohn and Camisar on the new political map of Latin America and how the shifting landscape could affect Latin American countries’ relationship with Israel.

“It is important to try to understand the political, economic and social process in all Latin American regions—South, Central and North—and its impact on their relationship with Israel,” Kohn said. “Through the eyes of experts who work in the field, B’nai B’rith is giving serious insight into such relevant issues.”

Episode two featured Jonathan Peled, deputy director general for Latin America at the Israeli Foreign Ministry, who broke down the relations between Israel and countries in the region. 

The episodes are in Spanish in order to reach a wider audience in the region but include  English subtitles, so the discussions are accessible to B’nai B’rith’s global audience. 

“We have so many members and friends in Latin America and thought that this could really interest them,” Camisar said. 

Watch the series here.

B’nai B’rith “None Shall Be Afraid” Essay Contest 2022

The 2022 None Shall Be Afraid Essay Contest is now accepting applications. Students between the ages of 18 and 22 are invited to present their thoughts for meaningful approaches to combat the alarming spike in attacks on Jews in the United States, Israel and around the world, online and in person.

Winners will earn scholarship funds and have the opportunity to have their essays published. Essays are due by July 10, 2022. For complete details, please refer to the information contained in this flyer.

B’nai B’rith Extra

Policy experts, diplomats, historians, authors, chefs, actors, athletes, tech experts, scholars, musicians and more—who have we talked with recently?

  • Former Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon on his new book, “In the Lion’s Den”
  • The new president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Josh Rawitch, who told us the story of this iconic American institution and the role Judaism has played in his life and baseball career
  • The head of a Holocaust museum using Virtual Reality technology in its groundbreaking approach to Holocaust education
  • The rabbi behind the exhibit, “On Jews and Chocolate: Semite Sweet”

Check out B’nai B’rith’s virtual content for meaningful discussions on today’s most pressing and interesting issues.

Mariaschin Discusses “Reckonings” at Documentary’s Premiere

B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin was interviewed by journalist and JxJ Council member Dina Gold at the Edlavitch Washington Jewish Community Center’s JxJ Washington Jewish Film Festival following the premiere of the documentary “Reckonings” on May 19. During the conversation, Mariaschin shared his historical knowledge and insights about the subject of the film—restitution efforts conducted on behalf of Holocaust survivors in the years following World War II.

Produced by Roberta Grossman and featuring the participation of scholars and eyewitnesses, “Reckonings” delineates the history of the fraught negotiations that occurred between Jewish and German leaders as part of the series of events culminating in the founding of The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (known today as the Claims Conference) by Jewish organizations including B’nai B’rith in 1951. Mariaschin sits on the Claims Conference board and is a member of its leadership council.

 

B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin and journalist and JxJ Council member Dina Gold participated in a post-screening discussion of “Reckonings” following its May 19 screening at the Edlavitch Jewish Community Center’s JxJ Film Festival in Washington, D.C.
The documentary, which premiered at the festival, details the history of the founding of the Claims Conference by B’nai B’rith and other Jewish organizations in 1951. This photo of then-president Frank Goldman (standing at left) and the other signatories of the restitution agreements appeared on the cover of B’nai B’rith’s national magazine

Mariaschin interviewed Grossman in 2020 for B’nai B’rith’s Conversations series. They talked about her films, including “Above and Beyond,” and about the role cinema plays in Jewish memory, among other topics.

Find that interview here.

 

Disaster Relief Update: B’nai B’rith Donates to Hurricane Ida Rebuilding Efforts

B’nai B’rith Board Executive Board member and immediate past chair of Disaster & Emergency Relief Committee Rebecca Saltzman and Eric Steinberg, a member of New Orleans unit 182, present B’nai B’rith’s $3,000 check donated to the Hurricane Ida Relief Fund of Jewish Children’s Regional Service (JCRS) to Executive Director Mark Rubin (right) at its March 27 gala. Eric’s father, Harold (Hesch) Steinberg also serves on the Disaster & Emergency Relief Committee.
Credit: Jeff Strout/ Strout Photography

In March, B’nai B’rith donated $3,000 raised for its Hurricane Ida Relief Fund to Jewish Children’s Regional Services (JCRS) in New Orleans—a Jewish agency that provides assistance in a variety of areas for Jewish children and families in the Mid-South region—to help fund its rebuilding efforts.

“We were delighted to present the donation from the Disaster and Emergency Relief Fund to assist victims of Hurricane Ida in Southern states,” said Rhonda Love, B’nai B’rith vice president of programming. “Jewish Children’s Regional Services is a community resource B’nai B’rith has had a long and strong relationship with.”

Rebecca Saltzman, B’nai B’rith Executive Board member and immediate past chair of the Disaster & Emergency Relief Committee, attended a JCRS gala to present the check in person.

“It was a joy to be able to act on behalf of B’nai B’rith in person after a pandemic that left a void for many of us in the nonprofit/volunteer world that fuels our desire for human interaction and acts of service. It was exciting to go beyond the Zoom and interact with people again and feeling the difference we our making in the lives of others firsthand,” Saltzman said.

After the devastating Category 4 hurricane struck the region in August 2021, bringing high-speed winds, rising sea levels, significant flooding and widespread power outages across several states, the B’nai B’rith Disaster & Emergency Relief Committee opened a relief fund for donations. B’nai B’rith and JCRS also provided aid in the region 16 years earlier after Hurricane Katrina overwhelmed the region.

B’nai B’rith Australia Hosts the “Kabbalah Exhibition”

Exhibit curator Dovi Seldowitz is flanked by B’nai B’rith NSW Past Presidents Anna Marks (left) and Diana Laufer. Sponsored by the organization and featuring special lectures and classes, “Kabbalah Exhibition” ran from March 13 through April 3, 2022, at B’nai B’rith’s Kensington, Australia headquarters.

After several postponements due to the uptick in COVID-19 cases in Australia, the “Kabbalah Exhibition,” a B’nai B’rith NSW display devoted to the history and relevance of Jewish mysticism and Kabbalistic practice, finally opened at the B’nai B’rith Centre near Sydney, where it was on view from March 13 until April 3, 2022. Award-winning Kabbalah scholar, theologian and sociologist Dovi Seldowitz organized the exhibit.

 

Words are used to create mystic images that possess religious and magical significance for practitioners of Kabbalah. This Italian prayerbook belonging to the Jewish Museum in Basel, Switzerland dates from 1803.
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org/LGLou

Seldowitz noted:

“’Kabbalah Exhibition’ embodies the B’nai B’rith ethos of Jewish unity, diversity and continuity, demonstrated through the broad scope of the exhibition content and the accompanying programs. In this space, the heritage of Jewish spirituality and mysticism was shared between Jews from all walks of life, backgrounds and affiliations. In the end, the greatest benefit of studying and teaching Kabbalah is the bonds it creates between Jews today, their links to the past, and their hopes for the future.”

The show is an important addition to the history of B’nai B’rith NSW’s exhibits, all of which are intended to encourage dialogue and attract community members of every faith. Through the years, these installations and public programs have highlighted a variety of subjects in Jewish history.

Designed and printed on movable panels, the exhibit included a survey of important texts, prayers and interpretive material, as well as history, which revealed that Kabbalah has often been revived through the centuries.

 

 

Until the mid-20th century, esoteric writings by visionaries including Rabbi Isaac Luria and others remained obscure, an indication that magical beliefs, prime components of Jewish mysticism, were rejected by the Jewish community. As preached in Kabbalistic texts, believers sought to attain a heightened mental and/or physical state through fervent prayer, fasting and other methods, to enable a direct physical experience of God. Tikkun Olam, the gathering of sparks of light to repair the world, is also a Kabbalistic concept. Its history documented by the well-known academic Gershom Scholem, Kabbalah is familiar to many today.

Public programs included tours, discussions, lectures and even meditation workshops.

Speakers Dr. Orna Triguboff (left) and Rabbanit Judith Levitan joined Seldowitz for a panel on Kabbalah in contemporary life March 13.

Seldowitz, Rabbi Orna Triguboff, a yoga and meditation instructor who spoke about the iconography of Jewish angels and Rabbanit Judith Levitan, an attorney, synagogue administrator and member of the Board of the National Council of Jewish Women Australia, took part in a March 13 panel discussion. All shared their unique perspectives on Jewish mysticism and its relevance, past and present.

 

On March 15, Zevi Slavin, an educator and mystic whose podcasts often address the spiritual connections in everyday life, lectured from Jerusalem, where he gave an overview of eastern and western mystic traditions from ancient and modern times.

Festivities in Frankfurt Acknowledge a Friend and Defender

Mariaschin presented his view of “Anti-Semitism in Old and New Forms,” which has escalated on social media during COVID-19 and lauded the German government’s initiatives to combat the spike in prejudice, including the compilation of a handbook for implementing change to assist agencies, philanthropies and other groups.

Celebrating his commitment to compassionate justice and to his dedicated efforts in the fight against extremism, B’nai B’rith’s Frankfurt Schönstädt Lodge awarded its Gold Medal of Honor to Frankfurt Police Chief Gerhard Bereswill, a longtime friend to the Jewish community. Two hundred eighty guests from Germany, Ukraine, Israel and the United States were there to congratulate Bereswill at the festive March 3 event, highlighted by B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin’s keynote remarks.

Other speakers included Volker Bouffier, prime minister of the State of Hesse and Charlotte Knobloch, president of the Jewish Community in Munich and Upper Bavaria and former president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. At the event, Lodge President Ralph Hofmann warmly praised Bereswill directly, observing: “In Judaism one speaks of a human being (Ein Mensch)…someone like you who does what he does from the heart…”

 

He noted: “Today, cascading events around the globe underscore the urgency of continuing to fight this persistent social illness in all of its forms and mutations. To do so, we must commit ourselves to the resolute defiance against hatred that animated the Berlin Conference in 2004. Such moral clarity is needed now more than ever.”

 

Honoree, Police Chief Gerhard Bereswill (center) displays his award alongside Volker Bouffier, prime minister of the State of Hesse (left) and Frankfurt Lodge President Ralph Hoffmann. Bereswill’s acknowledgment of the actions of Frankfurt’s police force during the Nazi era led to the publication of a book by the city’s history foundation.
Left to right: Commander Dror Assaraf, of INTERPOL’s National Central Bureau (NCB) Jerusalem, Israel Special Operations Division, one of the evening’s speakers, and Rabbi Avichal Apel, who delivered the opening prayer.

 

Supporting the needs of the poor and elderly in Israel, Eastern Europe and Germany, the 130-year-old Frankfurt Lodge is collaborating with B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem to assist children whose lives have been impacted by terrorism. In partnership with Poland’s Lviv Lodge, the Frankfurt Schönstädt Lodge supplied hundreds of boxes of matzoh and Passover items to Ukrainian Jewish communities in Lviv and Ternopil (formerly Tarnopol) during the holiday.

Moledet B’nai B’rith

Published in 1948-49 by the Youth Department of the Zionist Organization, pamphlets in the B’nai B’rith Collection at the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives hailed Moledet B’nai B’rith as a “a new adventure in living.” They are distinguished by their bold graphic covers, which illustrate a storybook home in close proximity to farmland, orchards and gardens (right) and a futuristic rendering of the community’s grain silo towering high above the sunlit desert landscape.
A 1945 photo of the Moledet B’nai B’rith grain silo. The colony, which still is in operation, is today known as “Moledet.”
Photo credit: commons.wikimedia.org /Jewish National Fund Archive

By the mid-1930s, the large influx of German Jewish refugees escaping Nazi persecution precipitated a housing shortage in pre-state Israel. At the request of Israel’s future president, Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann, B’nai B’rith raised the staggering sum of $100,000 (over $2 million today), donated in honor of President Alfred M. Cohen (1859-1949) to purchase land for an agricultural colony, which was founded in 1936. A few years later, another $100,000 gift was made to establish an adjacent community, built in honor of President Henry Monsky (1890-1947).

Located in Lower Galilee, Moledet (or Moledeth) B’nai B’rith was a “moshav,” a collective settlement similar to a kibbutz, but families stayed together in private homes with gardens for raising their own produce. Modern equipment and advanced farming techniques for growing grains, citrus fruit and vegetables were in evidence from its inception.

Moledet, meaning homeland, was also the name of a Zionist club whose members—probably the majority of the colony’s approximately 100 residents—were German immigrants. By 1944, 170 adults and children were living there.