B'NAI B'RITH IN YOUR COMMUNITY AND AROUND THE GLOBE
FROM THE CEO
Bringing the Conversation to You
I confess to having a special interest in the genre: when I was in high school and college, I worked as a disc jockey and news announcer at a 5000-watt radio station in my hometown in New Hampshire. I worked weekends and summers, and in addition to news programs, I hosted twice daily, 15-minute interview programs: “Coffee at the Crystal” in the morning, done live from a local restaurant, and “Monadnock Scrapbook,” from the studio.
The guest lists were filled with everyone from authors, to those organizing church suppers, to folks promoting athletic or community events, to students who had just returned from a year abroad in Europe. It was interesting subject matter — and it was fun to do.
Today, the guests and subject matter have changed, but the format is essentially the same. In radio, we were mostly confined to about thirteen-and-a-half minutes of interview per program, allowing for a minute-and-a-half of commercials. One great benefit of podcasts is that the time is your own: they can run as long or as short as the host wishes. Ours usually run 25-30 minutes.
We think these quick but meaningful policy discussions are a perfect way to digest some of the biggest issues of the day, as well as some of the more fun topics. Our guests have covered the gamut but tend largely to subjects that focus on areas of interest to the Jewish community and which might be on the B’nai B’rith agenda. Among the more than 70 podcasts in our library are interviews with the United States Special Envoy on Combating anti-Semitism, Elan Carr, and Israeli entrepreneur and author Irina Nevzlin. Author interviews are among my favorites: we've covered sports (Jane Leavy, author of a biography of Babe Ruth); music (James Kaplan, who has written a new biography of Irving Berlin); and the presidency (Professor Jonathan Sarna, of Brandeis University on President Ulysses S. Grant and the Jews).
We’ve even had Broadway come to us: one of our guests last year was the much-lauded Israeli actor Sasson Gabai, who starred in the Tony-award winning musical The Band’s Visit when it played at Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center. Acclaimed documentary maker Aviva Kempner came by to discuss her film about Jewish Major League Baseball player and spy, Moe Berg.
And of course, we’ve not neglected the important public policy issues that rate high on B’nai B’rith’s agenda featuring my B’nai B’rith colleagues. We’ve discussed bias against Israel at the United Nations, the Israeli elections, anti-Semitism in Europe and around the globe and issues affecting the Jewish communities of Latin America.
There are believed to be about 115,000 podcasts available in the United States today. You can find us wherever you get your podcasts, or right on our website.
For now, of course, we cannot have the in-person diplomacy meetings, which are such an important part of our work. But we have expanded our program options to include on-screen interviews, in our One-On-One format as well as live webinars. We have hosted Ambassador of Uzbekistan to the U.S. Javlon Vakhabov and Katharina von Schnurbein, European Commission Coordinator on Combating Antisemitism on our webinars, and Israel's Minister of Regional Cooperation Tzachi Hanegbi as well as MEP Sergey Lagodinsky, a member of the European Parliament for Germany since 2019.
With seniors so hard-hit by the coronavirus, our Center for Senior Services has shed light on some of the biggest issues facing seniors right now. Our senior housing program, which provides affordable, non-sectarian housing to seniors in communities around the United States, has been featured a number of times in our new programming formats. I am especially proud of our senior housing staff, whom I have interviewed during the COVID-19 crisis, who work with our building managers to provide a safe and healthy living environment for thousands of senior residents of our properties. Visit our Extra page to watch some of these conversations.
B’nai B’rith has always been an organization that views Jewish life through a multitude of lenses. To some, Jewish life means culture; to others, politics, and to others still, volunteerism and helping those less fortunate. In other words: The totality of the Jewish world, and worldview. The use of myriad platforms, to inform discussions about these and so many other interests and issues, is another way of connecting to us.
As we say at the end of our podcasts: “Like what you hear so far? Make sure you never miss a show by clicking the “subscribe” button wherever you get your podcasts.”
Remember the old expression, “we’ll see you on the radio”? These days, we’ve made a slight amendment, but the idea is the same: “See you on our podcasts, our webinars and our One-On-One video interviews.” A world of information awaits.
Snapshot: B’nai B’rith Center for Senior Services and Senior Residences Overcome Fallout of Coronavirus Isolation
When life is normal, B’nai B’rith’s Center for Senior Services works to protect the wellbeing of and advocate for the interests of our most vulnerable citizens – older adults.
In the face of an emergency, the center ramps into high gear, evidenced during the beginning months of the coronavirus pandemic, as life dramatically changed for inhabitants of B’nai B’rith’s senior independent living apartments.
Together, B’nai B’rith and residence management teams not only ensured that members of the buildings were given optimal support both physically and emotionally but maintained the preservation of community values. Mark D. Olshan, director of B’nai B’rith’s Center for Senior Services emphasized that residents’ quality of life is what keeps everyone involved motivated: “We developed a real understanding of what works. These facilities are not just brick and mortar; they are more than that.”
Responding to management needs, B’nai B’rith has led emergency training workshops for building administrators, and has also addressed preparedness issues with residents who participate in its bi-annual summer camp retreat focusing on individual and community empowerment.
Many who live and work at the properties had participated in these workshops, preparing them for action when local earthquakes, tornadoes and floods could result in a total breakdown of services. But the COVID-19 pandemic raised new issues: With forced confinement, the closing of communal rooms, the limitation of regular maintenance and the necessary elimination of face to face interaction with employees, many family members and neighbors, how could personnel meet residents’ increased needs, while mitigating a sense of loneliness and isolation? That this task was met is reflected in the words of Jeff Cottingham, the property manager for a company which oversees the Sam J. Stone B’nai B’rith Apartments in Peoria, Illinois, who observed during a One On One program interview, which can be viewed below or on the B’nai B’rith Extra webpage:
“We tried to keep residents involved in day to day communication and the decision-making process as much as possible. Even in this difficult time, we have the residents expressing appreciation, and we have a wonderful board who has constantly given us words of encouragement.”
Cottingham described as “invaluable” the Center’s frequent zoom meetings that networked management from multiple buildings, when B’nai B’rith became the conduit for airing problems and sharing ideas. These discussions resulted in action that involved caring individuals who rallied as volunteers, as well as community partners who were able to help with food, medication and paper product deliveries. Board members often paid for catered meals, while they and others stepped up to make daily wellness phone calls to residents. Communication was opened through “old fashion” methods including the generation of paper newsletters and flyers, posted on apartment doors. Additionally, collaborations were fostered with new vendors for the purchasing of more affordable cleaning products and protective gear.
Forging deeper links among employees nationwide via these B’nai B’rith teleconferences, as well as developing innovative ways of “being there” for residents, has led to the perception that distancing has brought those separated by location and circumstance closer.
Through direct contact with residents, the Center for Senior Services oriented them to new technology, a lifeline for keeping up with friends, family and building administration, while board members were on hand offering support as needed.
The safety of dedicated personnel and their families was not neglected. Many also volunteered their time running errands for those unable to do so. Relationships with first responders such as the police and fire departments underscored during B’nai B’rith emergency training made employees and residents feel secure.
During this time Center for Senior Services staff talked and wrote to senators and congressmen to advocate for an increase in senior housing funding in the Coronavirus Stimulus Package, needed to meet the additional expenses of cleaning supplies and protective garments.
FROM THE PRESIDENT
Hate Art Movement
One might consider the birthplace of Hate-ism is Iran, where in 2006 the International Holocaust Cartoon Competition began. From a country in which little free speech is expressed and created ironically in the name of free speech, the mission in this competition was to create anti-Semitic cartoons using the Holocaust as the sole impetus for creating the State of Israel.
Anti-Semites have long looked for compelling ways to package their hate. When haters expose themselves in words, deeds or even through artwork, B’nai B’rith quickly strikes back, with direct and clear tactics to condemn such efforts. We expose such vile attempts through widespread use of social and traditional media, including podcasts, webinars and other online programing, or protest directly from our offices in Washington, D.C., New York, Brussels, London, Montevideo, Paris, Geneva and, of course, our World Center in Jerusalem. Among many notable, ongoing activities in the fight against anti-Semitism in the world is our constant vigilance from Brussels, sometimes partnering with Katharina von Schnurbein, director of the European Commission on Combatting Anti-Semitism. Not forgotten is old fashioned, direct correspondence, which remains a proven mode of impact as well. B’nai B’rith makes the world remember because we never forget . . . and never will.
Why I’m Involved: Millie Magid, Chair for U.N. Affairs
In Profile: U.N. Affairs Chair Millie Magid
Millie Magid has served as B’nai B’rith International’s U.N. Affairs Chair since spring 2019. Millie and her husband, Larry, are active lay leaders who currently split their time between New York City, Florida and Jerusalem. Both are devoted philanthropists and passionate activists, involved with a myriad of humanitarian, educational and cultural causes.
For Millie Magid, the volunteer work she does with B’nai B’rith is rewarding and inspiring. She finds the internationality of the organization offers a unique chance to truly have an impact in how Israel is viewed on the world stage, and on Jewish identity and community.
Millie became involved with B’nai B’rith after traveling with the organization, recalling that CEO Dan Mariaschin invited her to join a B’nai B’rith Latin American Leaders Seminar in 2011. “I was extremely impressed by how active B’nai B’rith was in Latin America, and how this big international organization worked to build relationships around the globe and in their local communities.” Mille continued, “I was excited by the experiences offered by the organization: The exchanging and sharing of ideas, meeting with Jewish leaders and government officials and creating wonderful new friendships around the globe – this is all something I really enjoy.”
And a global perspective is something that came naturally to her.
“Millie is an outstanding leader, caring about the issues on the Jewish agenda, giving of her time, always engaged, well-prepared and well spoken,” Mariaschin said. “B’nai B’rith is indeed fortunate to have her as our U.N. Affairs Chair, focusing on so many issues of importance to Israel and the Jewish people.”
The role of B’nai B’rith’s U.N. Affairs Chair aligns well with the hands-on relationship and dialogue-building opportunities she feels are so critical to educating others. As U.N. Affairs chair, Millie has met with many high-profile figures, including then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley and U.N. Secretary General António Guterres.
Each September B’nai B’rith arranges high-level meetings on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. Even before she assumed her current chair role, Millie was an active and engaged participant, where she made her mark during marathon meetings with heads of state and government officials. She credits face-to-face meetings for amplifying B’nai B’rith’s advocacy for fair treatment for Israel within the U.N. system, and as a vital tool in fighting the rise of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism around the globe as well as other issues affecting Israel and the Jewish people. “It is easier to tell Israel’s story, represent the voice of the Jewish community and build consensus in one-on-one interactions.”
Millie describes herself as a “Jew by choice” noting “I grew up in Peru going to Catholic school. When I met Larry, I was exposed to Judaism, and when I traveled to Israel for the first time on our honeymoon, I was so moved by what I saw, and felt fulfilled by the experience. I also saw how young people my age needed to serve in military and carry weapons. I looked into it, I learned about the responsibility of being a Jew, I learned about Zionism, and while I knew I could not serve in military, I could serve the community, and I felt a sense of responsibility to do so.” Millie and Larry both credit “a sense of responsibility” for motivation to stay involved with pro-Israel causes, she says. “A sense of responsibility was part of our identity. If we don’t do it, who else will do it? Who else will be there for us? We probably saw it in our parents, and also we wanted to make sure that our kids continue [our tradition of philanthropy] and have the same responsibility.”
Millie brings an extraordinary mix of talents to her role in B’nai B’rith. “Millie is a leader whose passion for the Jewish people, their wellbeing and their contributions to the world is inspiring,” said B’nai B’rith Director of U.N. and Intercommunal Affairs David Michaels. “We’re fortunate to have her playing a key role in B’nai B’rith’s singular U.N. work. Her international knowledge, commitment to Israel and gift at engaging with people of diverse backgrounds make her a real asset.”
When asked what impresses her most about B’nai B’rith International, Millie responded “From the beginning, B’nai B’rith was founded to help those in need, and this continues to this day both locally and around the globe. These relationships – assuming responsibility to advocate for those in need, social services, senior housing – it is all true to its mission from the beginning. This vision has served as the incubator for some of the most important Jewish communal institutions – ADL, Hillel, BBYO. B’nai B’rith was there with them, from the start.” Millie continued “now, more than ever, we need an organization that thrives in challenging times and environments, and throughout history, B’nai B’rith has proven that it does just that – B’nai B’rith has always been there to help, and to allow others to help."
Helping Hands: How we are helping those in need during Coronavirus Crisis
In addition to facilitating the distribution of medical supplies, we identified vulnerable populations experiencing food insecurity in the crisis and have been working to ensure that no one goes hungry because of the pandemic. In Uruguay, we donated one thousand food baskets to a charity run by Uruguayan First Lady Lorena Lacalle and the National System of Emergencies. The baskets were distributed across the country.
In April, B’nai B’rith in Uruguay sent 1,000 baskets of food to two philanthropies—Sembrando (Sowing), led by Uruguay’s first lady, Lorena Lacalle, and the National System of Emergencies—that were donated to government coronavirus relief efforts. Individuals who helped with this initiative were (L-R): Leticia Delgado, wife of the chief of staff of the government; Colonel Sergio Rico, director of the National System of Emergencies; Lorena Lacalle and Andrés Yusupoff, B’nai B’rith Uruguay vice president.
We are also addressing food insecurity in the United States, including in our own senior housing network, which provides affordable housing for seniors living on limited incomes. After the 268 residents in one of our buildings in Queens, New York, expressed difficulty acquiring affordable groceries while complying with New York’s strict social distancing restrictions, we organized a building-wide food distribution.
Our response to the coronavirus crisis is evolving. The B’nai B’rith Disaster Relief Committee, chaired by Senior Vice President Rebecca Saltzman, is evaluating our response to the pandemic to make sure that we reach people who need our help the most.
Backstory: How B’nai B’rith Helped Bring Nazi Dinko Šakić to Justice
By B’nai B’rith Honorary President Tommy P. Baer
Milestones are to be celebrated and memorialized. One such milestone for B'nai B'rith and the cause of justice is July 25, 2020, when on that date 25 years ago, a delegation I led in my capacity as president of B'nai B'rith International met with Croatian President Franjo Tudjman to set in motion B'nai B'rith’s relentless pursuit of notorious World War II war criminal Dinko Šakić.
For more than three years, B'nai B'rith undertook an intensive effort to track down and expose Šakić, who, in the Panorama interview, expressed no remorse for his crimes and indeed seemed to suggest that his one regret was not having murdered more, so that there would be fewer people left to accuse him. B'nai B'rith invested considerable time, energy and expense into research and fact-finding, and I traveled to both Croatia and Argentina to meet with government officials, human rights experts, intelligence sources and potential eyewitnesses to Šakić's crimes.
On April 6, 1998, I had been attending a meeting of B'nai B'rith's Latin American section in Buenos Aires as well as meeting with high-level Argentine officials. I was interviewed by CNN-Latin America about the Šakić developments and disclosed in some detail B'nai B'rith's activities in connection with Šakić over the past three years. In that interview, I called on the Argentine government to order Šakić's arrest. The next day, the Argentine government did indeed issue an order for Šakić's arrest, pending an extradition request from Croatia.
I joined other B'nai B'rith officials to raise the case with Argentine President Carlos Menem, as well as the Argentine ministers of foreign affairs, justice and interior, urging the speedy apprehension and prompt extradition of Šakić.
On April 14, 1998, I met with Croatian Ambassador to Washington Miomir Žužul to urge his government to vigorously follow through on an extradition request to Argentina and, once Šakić was captured and sent back to Croatia, to bring him to trial in accordance with the norms of international justice.
The president was gracious but uncomfortable discussing the Šakić case. I had been warned in advance that if that case was all B'nai B'rith intended to focus on with the Croatian president, the meeting would be canceled. Before the dinner, I met privately with Tudjman and was able to obtain his assurances that he would not permit the growth of anti-Semitism in his country; that fascism would not return to Croatia in any form and that Šakić would not be allowed to return to Croatia.
At the conclusion of the 1995 Brioni dinner meeting Tudjman pledged that once the war with Serbia was over, he would prosecute Šakić and any other World War II war criminals that his government could apprehend. The meeting was an overwhelming success.
The extradition request was transmitted on April 24, 1998; Šakić was arrested on April 30, 1998; and he was extradited on June 19, 1998, to stand trial in Croatia for war crimes. I continued to travel to Croatia during the trial monitoring the proceedings, appearing on Croatian TV and meeting with Tudjman and other Croatian officials.
Šakić was convicted on Oct. 4, 1999 for crimes against humanity and sentenced to 20 years in prison (the maximum under Croatian law), where he later died.
July 25, 1995 was a good and memorable day for B'nai B'rith, and as it turned out, for the Jewish people.
Tommy P. Baer served as B’nai B’rith’s International President from 1994-1998. He is a refugee from the Nazi Holocaust in Germany. He practices law in Richmond, Virginia.
FROM THE VAULT
Helping Italy, Today and Yesterday
White also volunteered his time organizing teams for newly reconstituted Italian athletic clubs. From the item published in B’nai B’rith’s magazine, then called the National Jewish Monthly, it appears that he discovered the existence of a special club, comprised of Jewish girls and boys, most of whom had been imprisoned in the concentration camps, fought with the partisans or had been in hiding. They had no money to buy athletic gear, which at any rate was non-existent.
Jewish sports clubs, called “Maccabee Associations” were popular throughout Europe from 1900; B’nai B’rith often supported their activities.
White wrote his friend in New Haven, B’nai B’rith leader David Richman, who rallied Horeb President Lester Hershman and Vice President Charles Henchel. Within two days, the men had obtained donations to procure needed equipment. They shipped 18 boxes of basketballs, tennis and soccer balls, sneakers, special athletic shoes and more to Italy. After his return to Connecticut, White was at Horeb headquarters to brief sports writers about the gift; shortly afterward, a silver plaque arrived from Italy inscribed “To Horeb Lodge, from La Associazione Sportive Ebraica, Roma, L’Amicizia Varca L’Oceano” (the Jewish Sports Association, Your Friends Across the Ocean).
Yom Hashoah Commemorations in the Time of Coronavirus
Every year, B’nai B’rith International commemorates Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom Hashoah, with a reading of the names of victims who were murdered in the Holocaust. Since 1989, B’nai B’rith has been the official North American sponsor of the program under the auspices of Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust Museum and research center in Jerusalem.
During Unto Every Person There Is a Name, readers around the world recite the victims’ names, ages at the time of their deaths, birthplaces and the places where they were killed.
This year was no exception. However, the exceptional circumstances surrounding the coronavirus pandemic made the day very different.
In the absence of the ability to hold the customary large ceremony that accompanies the awarding of the citations, volunteers in Israel took part, via Zoom and Facebook live, reading the names and backgrounds of these newest awardees from their homes.
Director of the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem Alan Schneider led the citation ceremony from the Martyrs' Forest Scroll of Fire plaza. Normally this annual event has hundreds of attendees on the plaza. This year the imagery of Schneider standing there alone to recognize these heroes as the wind whipped around him underscored the solemnity of the occasion. You can view a recording of the awarding of citations, in Hebrew with some English, on Facebook here.
Backstory: Our response to the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake