B'NAI B'RITH IN YOUR COMMUNITY AND AROUND THE GLOBE
FROM THE PRESIDENT
Another New Export for Israel: The Truth
Israel, Cyprus and Greece are countries comprising an effective, even crucial, trilateral relationship with the United States.
B’nai B’rith International is fully engaged in this 3+1 trilateral relationship and, for the fourth time in eight years, converged with partners the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) and the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (Order of AHEPA) to engage in high-level meetings in the capitals of each country — Jerusalem, Nicosia and Athens. B’nai B’rith International manages the Israel segment of this diaspora grouping, and AHI and AHEPA handle the diasporas of the Hellenic countries. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations is a key player in this effort, working in tandem with B’nai B’rith.
The 2020 tour was no simple junket. It focused on complementary economic, defense and diplomatic partnerships with the 3+1. For Greece and Cyprus, Turkey poses the greatest challenge in the region. For Israel, Iran constitutes its major threat.
Israel, Cyprus and Greece are galvanized with mutual interests in defense, security, economic development and cooperation in so many cultural areas as well. They are also connected by the potential of a natural gas pipeline that promises to pump energy not only through the Eastern Mediterranean, but potentially through other parts of Europe. Natural gas is not the only energy that may be flowing from Israel. The proposed pipeline is symbolic of so much more political and economic energy — and tourism, of course — that may flow in and out of the land of milk and honey.
This enormous discovery expands this hemisphere’s interest in Israel innovation in such areas as technology, agriculture, hydrology, cyber and military equipment and so much more. Tiny Israel is an economic powerhouse. Countries around the world are also discovering that Israel is a far different country from what its adversaries want the world to believe. In fact, one of the great new exports that is and will be coming out of the Jewish State is not only energy but also something more powerful — the truth.
Aside from the intense focus on the defensive preparedness of all three Western countries, one clear message that Greece and Cyprus promote: opportunities in business. During our recent visit, everyone from ambassadors and foreign ministers to presidents and prime ministers said loudly, consistently and clearly that their countries are open for business. Greece, racked a decade ago with economic turmoil, was particularly eager for our groups to sell the region to constituencies that we influence. Greece’s gross domestic product precipitously dropped more than 25 percent a decade ago. It has been slowly crawling back to regain economic muscle. As Greece has reined in elements that have severely harmed the country, Israel and the United States have become positioned to become valuable partners to this rich civilization.
Israel is well established as the most innovative country in the region. Each of the three countries has signed defense agreements with the others. The U.S. is currently a crucial partner that cements security and strength in the region.
Our 2020 visit began in Israel just days after the United States eliminated Iranian terror boss Qasem Soleimani in Afghanistan, on neutral territory. In response, Iran launched a bombing spree against U.S. positions, though the missiles purposely struck areas with little consequence. Politics dictated that Iran had to respond, but it did so in a way that would not provoke a full-scale war. Such is the military posturing in the regional chess game. All countries agreed that the net result of eliminating Soleimani was very positive and a very significant setback for Iran and its regional meddling. American prudence showed in the fact that the strike occurred on the soil of a third country, a perfect strike.
The synergy among Israel, Cyprus and Greece and the United States is working so well that the countries are looking to expand this trilateral relationship with additional countries in the region. The thinking is to attract Jordan and Egypt as well, to build an alignment of stability that can promote energy resources and predictability in strategic affairs.
Last year, a group of young entrepreneurs representing each grouping visited the three countries with help of the Jewish Agency of Israel. Another group of young entrepreneurs will visit the three countries again this summer. The experience of both missions equips B’nai B’rith’s leaders with the knowledge to educate and influence others about the region’s realities. It is a marvelous example of how B’nai B’rith International is having an impact in the world.
FROM THE CEO
75 Years: To Remember, and to Protect
This year marks a symbolically important date on the international and Jewish calendars: the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II and the end of the Holocaust.
A special ceremony was held in Jerusalem, attended by more than 40 world leaders, including U.S. Vice President Mike Pence; Russian President Vladimir Putin; German President Frank-Walter Steinmaier; Prince Charles of Great Britain; and French President Emmanuel Macron, to commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz.
A major commemoration also took place at Auschwitz itself on the anniversary of its liberation, which included survivors of the death camp where the Nazis took the lives of nearly 1 million Jews in its infamous crematoria.
For B’nai B’rith, which had established a continent-wide network from France in the west, to Poland and the Balkans in the east, the Holocaust meant the destruction of hundreds of lodges and many thousands of members in Nazi-occupied Europe. Indeed, the dissolution of B’nai B’rith in Germany was presented as a “gift” to Adolph Hitler on his birthday in 1937 (in 1933, the year Hitler came to power, there were more than 100 operating B’nai B’rith lodges, with more than 15,000 members, in the country).
Following the war, the re-building of lives understandably took precedence over everything else. It would be years—in many cases until the 1960s—for our organization to re-establish itself in places like Germany and Italy. Thousands of survivors made their way to Israel, and to North and South America. Many of them became active members in lodges in cities big and small.
In 1951, B’nai B’rith established, in cooperation with the Jewish National Fund, a Martyrs’ Forest in Jerusalem in memory of those who perished in the Holocaust. Each year, the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem organizes a Holocaust remembrance observance event at the monument. The centerpiece of the forest is the sculptor Nathan Rapoport’s Scroll of Fire monument, on which are depictions of Jewish suffering over the centuries, and others focusing on the building of the modern Jewish State.
The memory of the Holocaust and seeking justice for survivors have always been high on our agenda. In 1952, B’nai B’rith was a founding member of the Conference on Material Claims Against Germany, better known as the Claims Conference, which has negotiated with Germany and other countries in order to provide compensation to survivors living around the world. Those negotiations continue to this day, with the objective of making available home care for tens of thousands of survivors now in their later years.
The Holocaust, it is said, was not only the greatest murder in history, but also the greatest robbery. In country after country, thousands of Jewish homes, offices, shops, factories, community buildings and cemeteries were destroyed, or turned over to either the state or to private individuals during the more than seven decades since the end of the war.
Two years later, in 1947, we received our first NGO (non-governmental organization) credentials, and in 1959, we opened the first dedicated office of United Nations Affairs in the Jewish community.
The original mission, and the great promise, of the United Nations has long been lost, as Israel repeatedly receives biased treatment in New York and at U.N. agencies around the world.
The U.N. came late to commemorating the Holocaust, only establishing an international day of remembrance in 2005. Each year in the U.N. General Assembly Hall, there is a program of remembrance, and on that day, also in the organization’s headquarters in New York, B’nai B’rith has conducted its own program, each time in conjunction with a U.N. member state. In recent years, we’ve focused on those countries in which there were efforts to save Jews. This year, we honored the Philippines, whose president, Manual Quezon, opened the door to nearly 1300 Jews—largely from Germany and Austria—-fleeing Nazi persecution.
B’nai B’rith is also the official North American sponsor of “Unto Every Person There is a Name,” administered by Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust museum and research center in Jerusalem. During these public observances held each year on Holocaust Remembrance Day, participants gather to read out loud the name of a victim of the Shoah, acknowledging the tragedy on a personal as well as a collective, basis.
In Israel, our B’nai B’rith World Center was instrumental in organizing the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jews Who Rescued Fellow Jews During the Holocaust (JRJ). Over the past few years, and with the survivor population rapidly dwindling, the committee has recognized dozens of Jews who went to extraordinary lengths to courageously save their Jewish brothers and sisters. A few years ago, I had the privilege of participating in one such ceremony in the Bronx, in which the rescuer, then in her nineties, and one of the children she rescued, then in his late seventies, were present.
This year, B’nai B’rith organized a conference in Kigali, Rwanda marking 75 years since the Holocaust and the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. The gathering “Incitement + Dehumanization as Precursors to Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity” brought together senior government officials, scholars, human rights activists and others to discuss the causes and implications of genocide and mass atrocities and what can be done to prevent them in the future.
This summer, our Jewish Heritage Cities leadership mission will convene in Kyiv, Ukraine. Over three full days, we’ll hold panel discussions, meetings, and site visits to commemorate the hundreds of thousands of Jews killed in Ukraine, focusing on the 33,000 who were shot and dumped in ravines over two days at Babi Yar, inside Kyiv’s city limits.
After 75 years, these efforts become ever-more-important. At some point in the lifetimes of many of us, the last of those who bore witness to history’s most barbarous era will no longer be here to say, “we experienced this; we witnessed this.” There will be no more to show their camp tattoos on their arms or to give first person testimonies to the brutality of the Nazis and their many willing collaborators. And we are now at a point where the children of those witnesses are elderly themselves.
Who will carry on the task of remembering, of educating, of commemorating?
As the years pass, memories fade, and the impulse to remember wanes. We mustn’t let that happen. Be it continued emphasis on providing some small measure of justice to survivors when it comes to compensation over stolen properties, or honoring those who saved Jews, or meetings to commemorate the slaughter of millions of innocents, B’nai B’rith has been, and will be, there.
We consider this to be a sacred duty—to the last survivor, and beyond.
B’nai B’rith ICHRPP: A Snapshot
The first in a series of features on our organization and its achievements to be published in 2020 issues of B’nai B’rith Impact.
Headed by CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin, B’nai B’rith’s International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy (ICHRPP) is B’nai B’rith’s global advocacy arm, building diplomatic ties and partnering with governments, businesses, organizations and individuals to benefit the Jewish community and work for global human rights. We have helped to establish innovative collaborations between Israel and global partners that have delivered beneficial results for all involved.
Here are highlights of ICHRPP’s major accomplishments over the last year:
MAKING AN IMPACT ABROAD
Formulating ICHRPP’s overseas programs, Mariaschin notes that “Missions, geared to advance our agenda through public diplomacy are an excellent way to demonstrate, in real time, the important work we do to fight bias at the United Nations, combat anti-Semitism and to help strengthen Israel’s place in the world.”
During its April 2019 mission to China and Japan, B’nai B’rith advanced Israel’s cause in Shanghai and Tokyo, where we met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
B’nai B’rith delegates who participated in the May 2019 China and Japan mission met with Terry Brandstad, U.S. ambassador to China at the American Embassy in Beijing. L-R: Senior Vice President Eric Engelmayer; Director of U.N. and Intercommunal Affairs David Michaels; Vonne Kaufman; President Charles O. Kaufman; Brandstad; CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin; Mazal Mariaschin; and Center for Community Action Chair Ira Bartfield.
B’nai B’rith leaders participated in an annual advocacy mission in March, 2019 at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris, and then traveled to Geneva to meet with diplomats during the U.N. Human Rights Council's main session. In discussions with representatives in both cities, we broke new ground in conveying an accurate picture of Israel’s values.
In January 2020, we spoke with government ministers and entrepreneurs during our fourth annual mission to Israel, Greece and Cyprus. Mariaschin has described this trip as “One of our most exciting programs. Organized with our partners, the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, its purpose is to support and further the growing trilateral relationship of the three countries.”
Throughout the year, B’nai B’rith enjoys collegial relations with these Hellenic philanthropies and their guests. In November 2019, for example, Greece’s Minister of Tourism Harry Theoharis sought our advice about Jewish heritage travel during a consultation at our headquarters in Washington, D.C.
DIPLOMACY AT HOME
Meeting privately with delegates during the 74th United Nations General Assembly last fall, B’nai B’rith International President Charles O. Kaufman and Mariaschin discussed Iran’s support of terrorist groups, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the spread of anti-Semitism around the world, among other issues.
Each month, Mariaschin and ICHRPP staff met with diplomats from Europe, Asia and Latin America in New York and Washington, D.C. We also welcomed a diverse array of educators, government personnel and philanthropic administrators seeking our expertise in various areas.
Through one-to-one discussions and official correspondence with members of Congress on Capitol Hill B'nai B'rith urged legislation to fight the spread of anti-Semitism and the pernicious BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, and to support restitution for Holocaust survivors and Middle Eastern Jewish refugees and foreign aid.
Dating from the founding of our first lodge in Panama in 1926, B’nai B’rith has exerted a strong presence in Latin America, allowing us to monitor conditions and advocate for policies and programs that affect Jewish communities and Israel. Partnering with other organizations, ICHRPP personnel ensure that the fight against anti-Semitism and Holocaust education are prioritized by national and local legislative bodies. Our ICHRPP staff and volunteers across Latin America are also a vital force monitoring Iran’s infiltration in the region.
ISRAEL: JEWISH RESCUERS RECOGNIZED
In the fall The Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jews who Rescued Fellow Jews during the Holocaust and B'nai B'rith World Center–Jerusalem honored two people active in the Florentine Jewish underground, Rabbi Nathan Cassuto and Matilda Cassin. Risking their lives in the underground, Jews and Christians worked together to save hundreds of Jewish people from the concentration camps, hiding them in convents and Catholic schools. Presented posthumously, the awards were accepted by the recipients’ children.
The International Council of B’nai B’rith was in Lisbon in June 2019 for a meeting and Jewish heritage tours of historically significant neighborhoods and synagogues. Council members heard a presentation about Aristides de Sousa Mendes, a heroic Portuguese diplomat who defied government orders, issuing visas which allowed Jews to escape France. Speakers included Gabriel Steinhardt, Lisbon’s Jewish community president. The schedule is now being finalized for the next heritage trip in Kyiv this summer.
B’nai B’rith Commemorates Holocaust with Events in New York, Israel
Those who attended the International Holocaust Remembrance Day events at the United Nations on January 27 heard a panel discussion on the Philippines’ “Open Door” policy moderated by B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin. The panel featured speakers Bonnie Harris, a lecturer at the San Diego State University Department of History; Ralph Preiss, a Holocaust survivor whose family was taken in by the Philippines; and Hank Hendrickson, the executive director of the U.S.-Philippines Society.
B’nai B’rith commemorated International Holocaust Remembrance Day (held annually on Jan. 27), this year marking the date of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, with events in Israel and at the United Nations in New York. Both programs focused on the lesser-known story of the Philippines’ role in saving Jews from the Holocaust. Then-president of the Philippines, Manuel Quezon welcomed almost 1300 Jewish refugees from Europe under his country’s “Open Door Policy.”
In Israel, the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem and the Philippine Embassy held an event entitled “Safe Haven: Jewish Refugees in the Philippines” spotlighting the “Open Door Policy.” Ambassador of the Philippines Neal Imperial delivered opening remarks: “Each person that managed to reach Manila was a life saved, a life allowed to reach its full potential, a life continued through the next generations. Quezon offered a new home and hope to 1300 refugees, who went on to marry and have children and grandchildren. That is the true weight and worth of Quezon, Paul McNutt’s [U.S. High Commissioner to the Philippines from 1937-1939] [actions] and the Jewish network in Manila’s legacy.”
The ambassador quoted Quezon’s speech before the Jewish refugees at the inauguration of Marikina Hall, the Jewish shelter he had built on 7.5 acres of land he personally donated: “It is my hope, and indeed my expectation, that the people of the Philippines will have in the future every reason to be glad that when the time of need came, their country was willing to extend a hand of welcome.”
To watch the archived video of our event at the United Nations New York City headquarters, visit this link.
FROM THE VAULT
B'nai B'rith and Hank Greenberg
Greenberg made a difficult choice during 1934 late season games. To help win the pennant, support the team and the community, he played on Sept. 10, Rosh Hashanah, hitting two home runs acknowledged by the Detroit Free Press’ Yiddish front-page headline, “Happy New Year Hank.” Sitting out the Sept. 17 game that fell on Yom Kippur, Greenberg acquired a new fan base. Popular poet Edgar Guest’s “Speaking of Greenberg” concludes with a benediction intoned by an Irish-Catholic Tigers fan:
Said Murphy to Mulrooney, “We shall lose the game today!
We shall miss him on the infield and shall miss him at the bat
But he’s true to his religion—and I honor him for that!”
The verses were recited in the Greenberg home every Yom Kippur.
Drafted by the U.S. Army in spring 1941, Greenberg subsequently re-enlisted after his first tour, serving as an officer in China during World War II. Relinquishing baseball for a greater cause, he told reporters, “...all of us are confronted with a terrible task – the defense of our country and the fight for our lives.”
After baseball and after the War, Greenberg became a success in business; he died in 1986. He is remembered for the public encouragement and support he gave his friend, baseball champion and ground-breaker Jackie Robinson, who observed “Mr. Greenberg is a man of class—it stands out all over him.”
B’nai B’rith has made a tradition of honoring sports figures of all faiths for their accomplishments and humanitarian values. In June 2013, Jackie Robinson’s daughter, Sharon, and baseball executive Joe Torre were at the podium to present former Major League Baseball Commissioner Allan “Bud” Selig with our organization’s Distinguished Humanitarian Award. Selig noted B’nai B’rith’s is a “mission I have always admired and whose ideals are shared by so many of the men and women who are fortunate enough to work in the game of baseball.”
Day of Service: Center for Senior Services Inspired to Give Back to Local Communities Struggling After Local Disasters
B’nai B’rith International’s Center for Senior Services is now incorporating a Day of Service component into all future Managers and Service Coordinators annual meetings.
Inspired by its volunteer activity in Puerto Rico in 2019, this Day of Service program will team up with our Disaster and Emergency Relief Committee to take on projects that will benefit the local community.
In May of 2019, during our Managers and Service Coordinators meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico, a team of our participant volunteers – in partnership with chef José Andrés’s charity, World Central Kitchen – worked on a farm outside San Juan, mulching plant beds and planting seedlings. In a few hours of toil, our team saved the local farm’s crew many days of work.
Projects such as this enable our Center for Senior Services to expand beyond serving solely as a housing provider to also serving communities that have experienced a disaster in the United States. This teamwork enables B’nai B’rith to focus on a situation in a holistic way.
“Thanks to the donations by our supporters, the B’nai B’rith Disaster Relief Fund is able to make a difference in the lives of people recovering from disaster. We have been happy to fund various assistance projects that help seniors be prepared if a disaster strikes their area. Seniors are a vulnerable population and they often suffer disproportionally during a disaster. We were proud to count the many volunteer hours provided by the managers of B’nai B’rith senior housing buildings as part of our contribution to the World Central Kitchen in Puerto Rico. Their work at a community farm had a positive impact on the community recovery,” said Rhonda Love, B’nai B’rith Programming vice president.
For many years, residents living in our B’nai B’rith network of senior housing have contributed to our aid efforts, providing items of need or holding fundraising campaigns. When we bring staff training meetings or the annual Conference on Senior Housing to recovering communities, we help long-term recovery there by supporting the local tourism industry, as well as providing needed training for other local housing providers. In addition, we have provided unique emergency training to our personnel at local housing programs, teaching our on-site staff to prepare their residents and buildings for potential emergencies in their own communities.
In past years, the two annual Center for Senior Services meetings have included service components, including stuffing and delivering emergency preparedness kits for senior housing buildings that were impacted by disasters. We have held meetings in conjunction with Day of Service programs in New Orleans; Houston; New York City; Los Angeles; Hot Springs, Arkansas; and, as noted already, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
“Uniting the work of our Center for Senior Services with our disaster relief efforts strengthens the goals and the mission of B’nai B’rith International: to improve the quality of life for people around the globe,” said Janel Doughten, associate director, Center for Senior Services.
B'nai B'rith Across the Globe
B’nai B’rith International works around the world to fight for the Jewish people, combat anti-Semitism and promote Israel’s interests abroad. Here are a few highlights from the past few months.
In Rwanda, B’nai B’rith marked the 75th anniversary of the Holocaust with a conference exploring the root causes of mass atrocities. The conference, which also fell on the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, was entitled “Incitement + Dehumanization as Precursors to Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity.” The Israeli Embassy to Rwanda and the Aegis Trust, which oversees the Kigali Genocide Memorial, co-convened the conference. On the sidelines, B’nai B’rith met with Ugandan Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda and senior Zambian officials, including Foreign Minister Joseph Malanji and Minister for Presidential Affairs Chomba Freedom Sikazwe.
Produced by the Aegis Trust, a video about “Incitement + Dehumanization” and its message can be viewed by clicking below on the icon:
In addition to B’nai B’rith’s Holocaust Remembrance Day programs in Israel and New York, which are covered in a separate article in this newsletter, B’nai B’rith partnered with local Jewish communities to coordinate events in Latin America. Argentine Foreign Minister Felipe Solá, Chilean Foreign Minister Teodoro Ribera and Governor of São Paulo, Brazil, João Doria spoke at the commemorations in their respective countries. Events honored Holocaust survivors and reiterated countries’ commitments to fighting anti-Semitism. Solá noted that Argentina is the only full Latin American member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), while the Uruguayan government adopted the internationally accepted IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism the same day.
Also in Porto, to mark the strength of the diaspora and the power of learning Torah, B'nai B'rith President Charles O. Kaufman joined rabbis and students from the Far East, the Middle East and South America in January to celebrate Judaism and Jewish life in a place that 500 years ago lost a large part of its identity. Rabbis from Amsterdam to Thailand offered insights and interpretations of Torah in a Shabbaton that attracted about 400 Jews. On Erev Shabbat, days before International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Kaufman addressed the gathering: "Precious Israel is merely the root to Jews living freely anywhere. The seeds of our Torah, our aytz chaim, can blow anywhere, in all hemispheres. . . .Our biggest enemy today is not only the ignorance of those who wish to destroy us, but the ignorance of those who fail to learn history, our liturgy, our customs.”
B’nai B’rith Impact connects you to what B’nai B’rith is doing in your community and around the globe. Read on to see all the ways B’nai B’rith is impacting your world.