B’nai B’rith World Center Pays Tribute to Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
On the occasion of the Shloshim (30th day) after the untimely passing of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, renowned scholar, author, teacher and former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, the B’nai B’rith World Center released an audio recording and transcript of the 12th B’nai B’rith World Center “Jerusalem Address” delivered by Sacks on June 17, 2010.
In the address, entitled “Torah V’ Chochma: Judaism in the World,” Sacks presented a brilliant exploration of the dichotomy between Torah and secular knowledge and argued eloquently for the necessity to promote both in contemporary Jewish life.
Download the recorded Address here. See the printed Addresshere.
The event was held in partnership with the Jerusalem Great Synagogue with a crowd of more than 1,000 packing the synagogue hall. Drawing a connection between Sacks and B’nai B’rith, the late Fred Simon Worms, OBE, chairman of the B’nai B’rith World Center International Board of Trustees, noted in his introduction that Sacks committed himself to a life in the rabbinate while on a trip to New York on a B’nai B’rith scholarship. On that trip, during a visit with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Rebbe told the young Sacks that he should become a rabbi.
Commenting on the loss of Sacks, B’nai B’rith World Center Chairman Dr. Haim V. Katz said that “Rabbi Sacks’ towering intellect, so extraordinarily articulated in his Jerusalem Address, was a source of great Jewish pride. Rabbi Sacks was a strong defender of the Jewish faith – as reflected in his many books and lectures – but was also a fearless defender of Jews, as seen in his courageous stance against anti-Semitism in the Labor Party that he addressed forcefully in the House of Lords. He will be sorely missed by Jews and non-Jews alike who appreciated his sharp intellect and deep moral conviction.”
The “Jerusalem Address” was established by the B’nai B’rith World Center in 1985 as its most prestigious forum for addressing fundamental issues pertaining to Israel and the Jewish people. The Jerusalem Address has consistently hosted some of the most outstanding minds of our times including: Abba Eban: Reflection on Heritage (1985); Professor George Steiner: The Dissent from Reason (1986); Rabbi Dr. Lord Immanuel Jakobovits: Religious Responses to the Holocaust (1987); Professor Shlomo Avineri: Glasnost, the Jews and Soviet Policy in the Middle East (1988); Seymour D. Reich: The Challenge of Jewish Unity (1989); Bernard-Henri Levy: The Intellectual and the Struggle for Liberty (1991); Amb. Dr. Max M. Kampelman: Negotiating Toward a New World: The Art of Conflict Resolution Through Diplomacy (1993); Harvey M. Krueger: Israel in a Global Economy as a Foundation of a Transfigured World (1995); Professor Bernard Lewis: The Middle East Toward the Year 2000 – Patterns of Change (1996); Jack J. Spitzer, Naphtali Lau-Lavie, Professor Yehezkel Dror: Redressing the Past: Chapters in Jewish Restitution and Material Claims (1997); Professor Edward N. Luttwak: The Future of Israel-U.S. Relations (1999); Melanie Phillips: The War Against Israel: the Defining Issue of our Time (2011); Howard Jacobson: When will Jews be forgiven the Holocaust (2013).
Minister of Aliya and Integration Addresses B’nai B’rith World Center Award For Journalism
Minister of Aliyah and Integration Pnina Tameno Shete was the keynote speaker at B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem Award for Journalism Recognizing Excellence in Diaspora Reportage in Memory of Wolf and Hilda Matsdorf for 2020 on Nov. 25.
The ceremony took place at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem. Due to COVID-19 regulations, the ceremony was held with a limited participation and streamed live on various social media platforms. You can watch the ceremony with English subtitles here.
Winners of the Award for 2020 are: Branu Tegene and Danny Kushmaro of Channel 12 News and former Haaretz correspondent Dina Kraft. Tegene, a correspondent, and news anchor Kushmaro received the award in the broadcast media category for a five-part series entitled "Mefotzalim" (Split Up: The Story of the Ethiopian Jewish Community) that follows the lives of Jewish Ethiopians left behind after the community's mass immigration to Israel, members of their family in Israel and their reunion in Ethiopia. Kraft received the award for print media in memory of Luis and Trudi Schydlowsky for articles on Jewish communities in the United States and Great Britain.
A special citation for Fostering Israel-Diaspora Relations through the Arts was presented to Shalva Band, which rose to fame after entering the finals on the Israeli TV show, "Rising Star." The program determined the act that will represent Israel in the Eurovision song competition, held in Israel in 2019. The band’s inspiring guest performance at the Eurovision semi-finals brought them international acclaim and invitations to perform around the world and in Jewish communities. The special citation was established in 2014. Former winners are singers and songwriters Nurit Hirsh, David D’Or, Idan Raichel, David Broza and Yehoram Gaon.
In her address Minister of Aliya and Integration Pnina Tameno Shete stressed how important it is that the story of the Jewish people and the Jewish communities around the world will be told and will have a presence in Israeli society. She said “The vision as I see it is to know that there is a covenant between us as a Jewish people, and this is not dependent on where we live and where we are. As it says ‘All of Israel are responsible for one another.’”
The minister added, “For the Jewish story to be complete it must be told more in the press, in the school system and beyond. We have the obligation and the responsibility to place this at the front of the stage, exactly like this award by B’nai B’rith—an organization that does holy work in strengthening the connection between the Jews of Israel and the Diaspora.” The minister told that “This Saturday night—in line with the series ‘Split Up’ for which journalists Dany Kushmaro and Brano Tegene won the award—I will fly to Ethiopia and begin the implementation of one of the national tasks that I have set for myself—the immigration of those waiting in Ethiopia. In about a week I will return to Israel with two planeloads of Olim—this is the realization of the Zionist dream in its purest sense.”
CEO of B'nai B'rith International Daniel S. Mariaschin, and the Chairman of the B'nai B'rith World Center Dr. Haim Katz, delivered videotaped greetings on the importance of the Journalism Award, presented for the 28th year, in strengthening the connection between Israel and Diaspora Jewry. Alan Schneider, director of the B'nai B'rith World Center initiated and moderated the event.
News of the award ceremony was carried in multiple print and electronic media as well as on four news programs broadcast on Channel 12 television.
Since its establishment in 1992, the B’nai B’rith World Center Award for Journalism has recognized excellence in reporting on contemporary Diaspora Jewish communities and on the state of Israel-Diaspora relations in the Israeli print, broadcast and online media. The award is widely recognized as the most prestigious prize in the Israeli media industry for Diaspora reportage and was established to help strengthen the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora. The award highlights the important contributions the media can make toward strengthening the relationship between Israel and world Jewry by encouraging quality reporting on Diaspora communities and Israel-Diaspora relations.
The distinguished members of the award jury are: Ya'akov Ahimeir, past editor and anchor, Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation and Lifetime Achievement Award winner for 2016; Professor Yehudith Auerbach, School of Communication, Bar Ilan University; Professor Sergio Della Pergola, The Institute of Contemporary Jewry, Hebrew University; Sallai Meridor, former Israeli ambassador to the United States and former chairman of the Zionist Executive and Jewish Agency for Israel; Professor Gabriela Shalev, Higher Academic Council, Ono Academic College and former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations; journalist Yair Sheleg; Asher Weill, publisher and editor of “Ariel” The Israel Review of Arts and Letters (1981-2003).
The awards are presented in memory of the late Wolf Matsdorf, editor of the World Center-Jerusalem’s journal “Leadership Briefing” and a journalist in Israel and Australia, and his wife, Hilda, a pioneer in social work in both Australia and Israel, and in memory of Luis and Trudi Schydlowsky. The award is made possible through donations from the Matsdorf family and B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem board member Daniel Schydlowsky.
Israeli Orphans Supported by B’nai B’rith Gift
Rabbi Shai Ohayon
B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider presented on Nov. 18 a donation from the B’nai B’rith Edith “Pat” Wolfson Endowment in support of Israeli orphans to the children of Rabbi Shai Ohayon (39): Tohar (13), Hallel (11), Shilo (9) and Malachi (4). Ohayon was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist on August 26 while on the way to collect his children from educational institutions. The attacker, Khalil Doikat (46), held an Israeli work permit and was employed at a construction site. The Palestinian Authority has begun to rebuild his home in the village of Rujib near Nablus, which the IDF demolished on Nov. 2 as a deterrent measure.
The donation was made as part of the World Center’s project to support Israeli children who have lost a parent or both parents to terror and disease.
The presentation was made to Ohayon’s widow, Sivan, in the family home in Petach Tikva near the Segula Junction where Doikat stabbed her husband to death. Ohayon, a full-time student at a religious institution (kollel) in the nearby town of Kfar Saba, was a respected and prominent figure in his neighborhood and teacher of Torah lessons. Sivan Ohayon described her husband as a man of “truth, simplicity, joyousness and faith” who was intimately involved with the rearing of their children.
The World Center has been charged with administering the Edith “Pat” Wolfson Endowment grant since its inception in 2005. The following previous grants have been made:
2006 – To Salomon (14) and Channan (13) Yaakobov, whose father Yaacov was killed in 2006 by a Kassam rocket fired from Gaza to Sderot that penetrated the roof of the factory where he worked.
2007 – To Sara (10), Rivka (9) and Devorah (8) Ben-David whose mother, Hadassah (Yelena), was murdered on Nov. 21, 2002 by a Palestinian who detonated a bomb aboard a crowded morning rush hour Egged commuter bus. Hadassah (32), a first-year math teacher, died along with 10 other civilians on their way to work and school, including Hodaya Asraf (13); Marina Bazarski (46); Sima Novak (56), Kira Perlman (67), and her grandson Ilan Perlman (8) Yafit Ravivo (14); Ella Sharshevsky (44) and her son Michael (16); Mircea Varga (25), a tourist from Romania; and Dikla Zino (22). Fifty people were wounded in this Hamas-perpetrated attack that occurred on Mexico Street in Jerusalem's Kiryat Menahem working-class neighborhood.
2009 – To the seven children of Meir Avshalom Hai, murdered in December in a drive-by terrorist shooting on the road from his home in Shavei Shomron to Einav in Samaria.
2010 – To the six orphans of Yitzhak and Talya Ames who were murdered by Palestinian terrorists on August 31, alongwith two other residents of Beit Hagai: Kohava Even Hen (37), mother of a 10-year-old daughter and newly-married Yeshiva student Avishai Shindler (24) at the Bani Na’im junction between Hebron and Beit Hagai.
2011 – To Tamar (12) ,Roi (8) and Yishai (2) Fogel whose parents Udi (36) and Ruth (35) and three siblings Yoav (11), Elad (4) and Hadas (3) were brutally stabbed to death in their beds on March 11 by two Palestinian terrorists who infiltrated their home in the northern Samarian community of Itamar.
2012 – To Lior (7), Lihi (4) and Itamar (8 months) Shushan whose father, Yossi was killed on August 20, by a Grad rocket fired from Gaza.
2013 – To Liron (12) and twins Guy and Agam (4) whose mother Anat Even Haim (34) was murdered by gunman Itamar Alon in a shooting attack at a branch of Bank Hapoalim in Beer Sheva on May 20.
2014 – To the four children of Sergeant Major Bayhesain Kshaun. Kshaun was killed by an anti-tank missile fired at an IDF force responding to a terrorist infiltration on July 21, as part of Operation Protective Edge. A career tracker for 21 years, Kshaun made Aliya from Gundar Province in Ethiopia in 1988 and served in the opening days of the operation with the Givati Brigade. His widow Galitu gave birth to their youngest daughter Tal Or, 10 days after her husband was killed.
2015 – To Laren Sayif, the infant daughter of Israeli police officer Sgt. Zidan Sayif who was killed in November 2014 as he confronted two Palestinian terrorists who were engaged in a gruesome attack on the Kehilat B'nai Torah synagogue. Four rabbis were murdered in the attack – leaving 24 children fatherless - and eight other worshipers were wounded – four of them seriously. Sayif and another officer managed to kill the two terrorists, but Sayif was killed in the exchange of fire. A second distribution from the fund was made to the five children of Rabbi Aryeh Kupinsky, one of the four victims in the attack.
2016 – To Yael Weissman for the benefit of her 7-month-old daughter, Neta. Their husband and father, St.-Sgt. Tuvia Yanai Weissman (21) was murdered on Feb. 18 while trying to protect fellow shoppers from two 14-year-old knife-wielding terrorists at the Rami Levy supermarket branch at Sha’ar Benjamin. Weissman, a combat sergeant in the IDF’s Nahal Brigade on a week-long leave, was shopping prior to Shabbat with Yael and Neta when he heard screams from a different aisle. Realizing immediately that a terrorist attack was in progress, Weissman, even though he was unarmed, ran to confront the terrorists as other shoppers fled the supermarket. He was the first to reach the terrorists who had begun their stabbing spree and was the only victim to die of his wounds in the attack. In recognition of his heroism, the IDF submitted to Yael Weissman’s appeal that his tombstone state that he “fell in battle” rather than “fell while on duty.” The supermarket where he was killed employs both Israelis and Palestinians and is popular with both Israeli and Palestinian shoppers. The store has become a symbol of coexistence, though it has been targeted several times.
2017 – To Irin Satawi to benefit her infant child Ramos whose father, Druze police officer Advanced Staff Sgt. Maj. Hayil Satawi (30), was murdered on July 14th by three Israeli Arabs at the Temple Mount along with his partner First Sergeant Kamil Shanan (22), just two weeks after the child – his first – was born. The presentation was made in the family home in the northern Druze village of Mrar (Maghar).
The B’nai B’rith England First Lodge donation went to the five children of Elad Solomon: Avinoam (11), Reut (9), Amitai (5) and one-year-old twins Ariel and Avishai - murdered on July 21 at his parents’ home in Neve Tzuf along with his sister and mother. The presentation was made to their mother Michal who valiantly rescued the children by barricading herself with them in an upstairs room while a Palestinian infiltrator murdered her husband and family during Friday night dinner.
2018 – To Yael Shevach to benefit her six children: Renana (11), Neomi (9), Miriam (7), Milka (5), Ovadia (4) and Benayahu (1) - whose husband and father, Rabbi Raziel Shevach (35), was murdered on Jan. 9, in a drive-by terrorist attack near their home in the settlement of Havat Gilad. Shevach was a religious educator and a mohel who helped save lives in his volunteer work with the Magen David Adom national rescue organization. Ahmad Nassar Jarrar, the 22-year-old head of the terror cell responsible for Shevach’s murder, was shot dead by security forces in a raid in the village of Yamoun, near Jenin, on Feb. 6. The presentation was made in the family’s home in northern Samaria.
A second donation was made to the four children of Rabbi Itamar Ben Gal (29), a teacher at Bnei Akiva Yeshiva in Givat Shmuel, who was murdered in a stabbing attack near the entrance of Ariel on Feb. 5 while on his way to a family event. His children are Avital (6), Daniel (5), Roni (3) and Avraham (1). The presentation was made to their mother, Miriam, also a teacher, who continues to live in the family’s apartment in the Har Bracha settlement. Ben Gal’s assailant was a 19-year-old Israeli-Arab resident of Jaffa, Abed al-Karim Adel Assi, the son of an Israeli mother and Palestinian father from Nablus. Al-Karimi arrived at the Ariel Junction bus stop and stabbed Ben Gal from behind. Ben Gal ran to a bus that had stopped at a nearby station while his assailant gave chase. Reaching the bus, the rabbi knocked on its door for help before collapsing. The terrorist then fled the scene. An off-duty Israel Defense Forces officer who witnessed the attack then chased the assailant in his car and rammed him. Despite being hit, al-Karim was able to escape with the help of an unidentified driver who picked him up near the scene of the incident. On March 18 he was captured in Nablus with several other suspects who had helped him hide.
2019 - A gift from the B’nai B’rith First Lodge in England was made on Succoth eve to the 12 children of Rabbi Achiad Ettinger (47): Moriah (22), Efrat (21), Eliashiv (20), Harel (18), Eliasaf (16), Yehuda (14), twins Tehiya and Tzofia (12), Benia (10), twins Eliav and Hadas (8) and Roni (2). The presentation was made to Ettinger’s widow, Tamar, in the family home in the town of Eli, in the Binyamin Regional Council. Ettinger was murdered in a terrorist attack at the Ariel Junction on March 17. Despite being shot in the neck and head, Ettinger turned his car around and pursued Palestinian terrorist Omar Abu Laila (19) who had stolen a gun from soldier Gal Keidan who he shot and killed before firing on passing cars and pedestrians. Ettinger managed to fire four shots at Abu Laila before succumbing to his wounds, dying a day later despite efforts at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva to save his life. The family donated his organs.
Ettinger had dedicated most of his efforts to supporting Jewish life in several south Tel Aviv neighborhoods. He was the head of the Oz V'Emmunah yeshiva that he established in a boarded-up synagogue in the Neve Sha’anan neighborhood, once home to a thriving religious community.
Ettinger was described as a hero for his courageous effort to confront the terrorist despite his egregious wounds, a selfless act performed without consideration for the personal price he would pay. Rabbi Achiad’s sister Rachel is the widow of Yosef Tuito, a member of the emergency response team in Itamar, who was killed during a terrorist infiltration in 2002. Tuito was shot dead in a gun battle with terrorists after they entered the home of the Shabo family murdering the mother and three sons.
B’nai B’rith World Center Publishes Monograph on Jews Who Rescued Jews During the Holocaust
The B’nai B’rith World Center and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust have released a new 40-page monograph on the phenomenon of Jews who endangered their lives in Germany and occupied Europe to rescue fellow Jews from the rise of Nazism until VE Day, or risked their lives to rescue Jewish children in Europe immediately after the war. The publication includes an extensive introductory chapter, chapters on the extensive Jewish rescue networks that operated in Hungary, France and Belgium and individual accounts of heroism by 12 recipients of the Jewish Rescuers Citation, awarded since 2011 to 334 individuals.
The publication, compiled and edited by World Center director Alan Schneider and Committee members Yuval Alpan, Noa Gidron and Chana Arnon, opens with the following paragraph:
“For many years, the historiography of the Holocaust tended to present Jews only as victims. This trend began to change some two decades ago, and many studies have since examined the daily lives of Jews during the Holocaust as they grappled with the deteriorating reality around them, and different types of Jewish resistance. While the Germans and their collaborators attempted to methodically annihilate European Jewry, many Jews resisted the grim fate that awaited them. Hundreds of thousands of Jews fought in the Allied armies and in the ranks of the partisans, revolted in ghettos and led uprisings in extermination camps.
"One largely downplayed phenomenon of Jewish heroism in the Holocaust is that of Jews who rescued fellow Jews while exposing themselves to great danger. Recent research shows that the rescue of Jews by Jews during the Holocaust had been a much wider phenomenon than what was known until now.”
The World Center undertakes many activities to memorialize the Jewish rescuers, including a unique annual event on Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day in partnership with the Jewish National Fund, held at the B’nai B’rith Martyrs forest.
Carmel Lodge, Sofia and B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem Host Meeting on Abraham Accords
At the initiative of B’nai B’rith Carmel Lodge in Sofia, Bulgaria, the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem hosted a virtual briefing on the Abraham Accords entitled “Warming up the relations between the State of Israel and the Arab countries - what is happening, why now, what are the perspectives for the future?”
The briefing featured Dr. Eran Lerman, vice president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, former deputy director for foreign policy and international affairs at the National Security Council in the Israeli Prime Minister’s office, and a former senior office in IDF Military Intelligence. The meeting was chaired by Carmel Lodge President Jossif Assa and B’nai B’rith Europe Vice President Solomon Bali. The briefing was moderated by B’nai B’rith World Center Director Alan Schneider.
B’nai B’rith members from Bulgaria, Germany, Turkey, Romania and Greece participated in the wide-ranging discussion that touched on the reasons behind the timing of the diplomatic accords signed by Israel with the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan (coming 25 years after the last peace agreement was signed between Israel and an Arab country), the survivability of the accords considering internal and external pressures, how the results of the agreements might differ from those signed with Egypt and Jordan and the prospects for additional agreements being reached in the foreseeable future. Additional briefings will be announced. You can watch a recording of the Zoom meeting here or below.
Israel-Hellenic Forum Convenes to Discuss Regional Implications of the Abraham Accords
The Israel-Hellenic Forum convened by Zoom on September 8 to discuss the Regional Implications of the recently-announced Abraham Accord that envisions mutual recognition and the signing of formal diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
Opening speakers on the consultation were Dr. Jonathan Spyer, founder and executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis, and research fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security; Prof. Hillel Frisch, Professor in Departments of Political Studies and Middle East Studies in Bar-Ilan University, and senior research associate at the BESA Center for Strategic Studies; Angelos Athanasopoulos, Editor-in-Chief for Politics and Senior Diplomatic, Defense and EU affairs Editor at “To Vima”; and Col. (res). Dr. Eran Lerman - Vice President of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security and former deputy director for foreign policy and international affairs at the Israel’s National Security Council. The hour and a half session moderated by Forum co-conveners Dan Mariaschin and Dr. George Tzogopoulos, included an in-depth discussion on immediate and long-term military, economic and geo-political impact of the surprise accord.
The Israel-Hellenic Forum was launched by the B’nai B’rith World Center in November 2019 at a founding conference in Jerusalem with the participation of some 65 Greek, Cypriot and Israeli academics, elected and government officials for the purpose of promoting the broad scope of relationships between the three democratic countries in the eastern Mediterranean. Plans for a second conference in Athens have been postponed for the meantime due to Coronavirus restrictions, but other projects inspired by the Forum – including cooperation between universities in Israel, Greece and Cyprus – are moving forward.
KKL-JNF and B'nai B'rith World Center Honor Holocaust-era Educator Samuel (Sally) Bein Who Was Murdered in Sobibor
The B'nai B'rith World Center-Jerusalem and the Jewish National Fund unveiled a plaque at a ceremony on June 17 honoring Samuel (Sally) Bein, outstanding educator and founding principal of the first boarding school for Jewish children with special needs in Germany. The ceremony took place at the B’nai B’rith Cave at the B’nai B’rith Martyrs Forest.
In his remarks at the event, Director of the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem Alan Schneider said, “The innovative and dedicated principal Sally Bein opened the doors of the first boarding school for Jewish children in Germany – established by B’nai B’rith and the German-Israelite Community in 1908 – and shut them on June 13, 1942, when he, his wife and daughter and the last 47 wards and staff were deported to the Sobibor death camp in German-occupied Poland via Berlin, and murdered. The school was just one of hundreds of charitable projects undertaken by the 100 B’nai B’rith lodges in pre-war Germany [and] was the first Jewish organization targeted by the Nazis. This explains why B’nai B’rith together with the Jewish National Fund established the first Holocaust commemoration site in Israel – the Martyrs Forest – where the Bein family and the staff and students of the school are now being memorialized, for the first time in Israel."
During the ceremony, David Etzioni, vice chairman of KKL-JNF, also spoke: “In his death as in his life, Sally Bein served as an example to the students he believed in and with whom he marched to their bitter end. The commemoration of Sally Bein, his family, students and staff here in the Martyrs Forest established by B’nai B’rith that was partner to the founding of the boarding school in Germany, is the least we can do for them,”. “The historical thread that connects the boarding school, the Martyrs Forest, the Scroll of Fire at the crest of the mountain and many other projects in Israel, is B’nai B’rith. B’nai B’rith has marched with KKL-JNF since before the establishment of Israel, when land was acquired on which two communities were established under the Tower and Stockade method – Moledet B’nai B’rith and Ramat Zvi, named for B’nai B’rith President Henry Zvi Monsky.
KKL-JNF is honored to partner with the B’nai B’rith World Center in commemorating Jews who rescued fellow Jews during the Holocaust in a joint annual event that has taken place for the past 18 years. I am happy to announce that to mark 70 years since the founding of the Martyrs Forest, we will continue our cooperation with B’nai B’rith and begin a process of turning the forest into a source of knowledge about the Holocaust for youth. In the spirit of Sally Bein’s legacy we will make the forest accessible, through technological means, also for children with special needs, so that they will be equals among equals."
Other speakers at the event included: Ronny Dotan, researcher and initiator of the memorial; Lihi Lapid, author; Shay Cucuy, representative of the families; Major General (Res.) Doron Almog, chairman, Aleh Negev-Nahalat Eran; Holocaust survivor Major General (Res.) Yossi Peled; and Amikam Raz, representative of Akim Israel.
B'nai B'rith has partnered with JNF on many projects, beginning with land acquisition in the 1930s, on which two collective communities - Moledet B'nai B'rith and Ramat Zvi (named for B'nai B'rith President Henry Zvi Monsky) - were established. The largest joint project is the Martyrs Forest, which dates from the early 1950s and was the first site built in Israel to commemorate the six million Holocaust victims. For the past 18 years, KKL and the B'nai B'rith World Center have partnered in a Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day ceremony – the only annual event dedicated to honor the heroism of Jewish rescuers during the Holocaust.
B’nai B’rith has been active in Germany since 1882. It was the first Jewish organization targeted by the Nazis, who obliterated 100 active lodges in Germany alone and some 100 more across vanquished Europe. B’nai B’rith is represented today again in Germany and throughout western and eastern Europe.
Israel’s Premier Performer Yehoram Gaon Receives Special B’nai B’rith World Center Citation for Fostering Israel-Diaspora Relations Through the Arts
Singer, actor and Israel Prize laureate for Hebrew Song for 2004 Yehoram Gaon received the B’nai B’rith World Center’s Special Citation for Fostering Israel-Diaspora Relations through the Arts at a conference held at Bar Ilan University on March 5 in honor of his late father, legendary historian of the Sephardi Jewish community in the Land of Israel Moshe David Gaon.
Addressing the conference, B’nai B’rith World Center Director Alan Schneider said that the occasion was a fitting one, since the B’nai B’rith Jerusalem Lodge – established in 1888 in Jerusalem – was the first institution in which Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews collaborated to advance the interests of the Jewish community in Ottoman-era Palestine. He added that the history of the Jerusalem Lodge and the Sephardi community in Eretz Israel were intertwined and that some of its most prominent sons were members of the Jerusalem Lodge and other early lodges. Hebrew was set as the language of the lodge meetings because it was the only common language of its Ashkenazi and Sephardi members, and members of the lodge went on dangerous, clandestine missions across the Levant, establishing B’nai B’rith lodges in Damascus, Alexandria, Beirut, Plovdiv, Izmir, Constantinople and elsewhere in order to awaken those communities to support the establishment of a Jewish homeland in the Land of Israel.
Schneider also noted that the elder Gaon’s career included a four-year stint as the first teacher in Motsa, founded by the B’nai B’rith Jerusalem Lodge as the first Jewish settlement established in the modern era. He added that like the history of the Sephardi community in Eretz Israel, which is not known by the Israeli general public – a fact decried by many speakers at the conference - the major contributions by B’nai B’rith to the establishment of the “state in the waiting” are not well known.
The Special Citation - initially set to be presented last July at the 27th annual B’nai B’rith World Center Award for Journalism ceremony – was postponed due to Gaon's last-minute illness. Established in 2014, the citation has been presented in the past to singer/songwriters Nurit Hersh, David D’Or, Idan Raichel and David Broza.
Yehoram Gaon is an iconic Israeli singer, actor, producer, TV and radio host and public figure. Throughout a career that has spanned six decades, Gaon has been responsible for countless hit songs, plays and movies that have become woven into the common culture of Israel and Diaspora Jewry. Gaon has taken profound interest in promoting Jewish historical themes and in engaging with Jewish audiences around the world. His civic career also shows a profound dedication to Sephardic and Ladino heritage.
B’nai B’rith World Center Chairman Haim Katz said that the citation is a fitting recognition to mark Gaon’s 80th birthday.
B’nai B’rith Represented at World Holocaust Forum
B’nai B’rith World Center Director Alan Schneider represented B’nai B’rith at the fifth World Holocaust Forum 2020: “Remembering the Holocaust; Fighting Antisemitism” that convened at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem on Jan. 23. The unprecedented event brought together some 50 foreign delegations, headed by kings, princes, presidents and prime ministers. The gathering marked 75 years since the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.
Featured presentations were made by Israel president Reuven Ruvi Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Russian President Vladimir Putin, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Prince Charles of England, President Emmanuel Macron of France and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Rivlin said that the State of Israel is not compensation for the Holocaust, but the home of the Jewish people, to whom it was returned. Netanyahu vowed that the Jewish people would not suffer another Holocaust and drew comparisons between the condition of Jews during the Holocaust (“Auschwitz”) and today (“Jerusalem”): “from bones to independence, from independence to strength.” He called on all states to join the fight against Iran. Putin noted that "the memory of the war falls prey to short term political considerations; we all bear to preserve world peace; such a meeting would be an apt way to mark 75 years since the defeat of Nazi Germany and the creation of the U.N.” Pence called on the nations of the world to stand strong against the main state purveyor of anti-Semitism today – the Islamic Republic of Iran. “We must have the courage to recognize that today we have the responsibility and power to ensure that what we remember at this gathering can never happen again…We remember the triumph of freedom; a people restored to their rightful place among the nations.” Macron said that the lesson of the Holocaust was that Europe must stay united to face adversity together; international law was trampled upon by the Nazis and today we must insist on the respect of law and human dignity. Using Hebrew terminology, Prince Charles said that we must never forget that every human being is created in the image of god and that each is an entire world. “The universal tragedy of the Holocaust would be compounded if we do not remember and recommit ourselves” he said. Steinmeier accepted the responsibility of Germany for the Holocaust saying, “I stand before you, 75 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, laden with the heavy burden of guilt. At the same time, I feel gratitude for the outstretched hand of survivors and for the trust of the state of Israel and the flourishing Jewish community in Germany today. None of these can be taken for granted. Germany's responsibility does not expire.”
Schneider also participated in two other events on the sidelines of the forum: the presentation of an honorary doctorate to the President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades and a reception for Georgian president Salome Zourabichvili.
B’nai B’rith Represented at JAFI Board and WZO Expanded Executive Meetings
B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem director Alan Schneider represented B’nai B’rith at meetings of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel and the World Zionist Organization’s Expanded Executive in Tel Aviv from Feb. 25-27.
The BOG passed a new vision and mission under which the Jewish Agency will strive for a “secure, diverse and thriving Jewish People, united by our heritage and by our commitment to Israel, the homeland of the Jewish People and all of its citizens” and will “provide the global framework for Aliya, ensure global Jewish safety, strengthen Jewish identity and connect Jews to Israel and one another, and convey the voice of the Jewish People to the State of Israel to help shape its society”. The revised program and budget, which envisions concentrating the agency’s activities on four main “Impact Areas” – Aliya, Ensuring Global Jewish Safety, Connecting Jews Worldwide to One Another and to Israel and Advocacy and Impact on Israeli Society on Behalf of World Jewry - while terminating the agency’s activities in other areas (some of which it has been involved in since its founding 90 years ago), will be hashed out for approval at the board’s next meeting in November.
The WZO Expanded Executive meeting focused on departmental committee reviews and preparations for the Zionist Congress that will take place from Oct. 20-22 in Jerusalem.
B’nai B’rith Fetes Holocaust-era Chief Rabbi of Athens
The B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem presented its “Jewish Rescuers Citation,” a joint project with the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers during the Holocaust to the grandchildren of Rabbi Eliyahu Pinchas Barzilai, Holocaust-era chief rabbi of Athens. The citation was presented at the annual memorial ceremony for Barzilai held at the Beit Shalom synagogue in Athens on Feb. 23 with the participation of representatives of the Greek government, the Jewish community, the press, the B’nai B’rith Philon Lodge and the Israel-Hellenic Forum, founded in November by the World Center.
The event was organized this year in conjunction with the B’nai B’rith Philon Lodge. Speakers included H Rabbi Gabriel Negrin, rabbi of Athens; Philon Lodge President Victor Batis; Efstathios Lantis, special secretary for religious and cultural diplomacy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece; Alberto Tarabolos, president, Jewish Community of Athens; Lilian Kapon; and Nissim Benmayor, Barzilai’s grandson.
In his speech, World Center Director Alan Schneider noted that Barzilai took courageous actions to foil the German intention to arrest, despoil, deport and murder the Jews of Athens, as they were doing to Jews in other parts of Greece. On Sept. 21, 1943, at great personal risk, Barzilai succeeded in denying the Germans access to the Jewish community membership lists. He faced down and outwitted SS Captain Dieter Wisliceny, who ordered him to produce a list of all Jews in the city, including their addresses and assets. Instead, Barzilai burned the community’s new membership rolls (the old ones had been destroyed in an ESPO attack on the Jewish community’s office in July 1942). He also convened a meeting of all Jews at the synagogue, during which he urged them to abandon their homes immediately and secretly get as far away as possible; those who did not attend the meeting received a telephone call from the rabbi, who encouraged them, using coded metaphor, to leave the city for the mountains. Rather than compiling a new list, as he had promised the German he would, the rabbi went from the Gestapo headquarters directly to Archbishop Damaskinos (who was recognized posthumously as Righteous Among the Nations for his many courageous actions to rescue Jews) and to Prime Minister Ioannis Rallis to ask for their assistance. He also appealed to the resistance and as a result of his intervention, the National Liberation Front undertook to help those Jews who would flee to the mountains. His “kidnapping” was orchestrated on Sept. 22, giving the signal to the Jewish of Athens to flee. Through his actions and those of many courageous Christians, 66% of Jews living then in Athens, including thousands who had fled from Thessaloniki and other regions, survived, whereas some 80% of all Greek Jewry perished.
Schneider ended his presentation expressing the belief that Barzilai would have been proud of the progress made in Israel-Greek relations, including the establishment of the Israel-Hellenic Forum, and would have seen in it a continuation of his own legacy of friendship, mutual respect and identification with the Greek people, exemplified by joint efforts to rescue persecuted Jews.
Earlier in the day, Schneider participated in a special tour of the Jewish Museum of Athens for members of the Israel-Hellenic Forum, organized by the B’nai B’rith Philon Lodge and led by museum curator and archaeologist Anastasia Loudarou. While in Athens, Schneider also met with MP Dimitris Keridis, chairman of the Greece-Israel Friendship Committee in Greece's parliament and professor of international relations at Panteion University, to discuss developments in the eastern Mediterranean and plans for the next meeting of the Israel-Hellenic Forum, planned for Athens.
B’nai B’rith Attends Annual CoP Israel Mission
B’nai B’rith International was well represented at the annual Israel Mission conducted by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Organizations in Jerusalem on Feb. 16-21. Highlights of the intensive program included speeches by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog, Diaspora Minister Tzipi Hotovely, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion, Meretz Chairman MK Nitzan Horowitz, Opposition Head Lt. Gen. (Res.) MK Benjamin “Benny” Gantz, U.S. Ambassador David Friedman, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director General Yuval Rotem and U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Elan Carr (in order of appearance). The group also visited the headquarters of Mobileye in Jerusalem’s Har Hotzvim Hi-Tech Park and the Western Wall Tunnels and traveled to Israel’s border with Lebanon, where they visited an infiltration tunnel dug into Israel by the Hezbollah Lebanese Iranian proxy terrorist organization that was discovered and decommissioned by the IDF last year.
Other speakers included Mario Bucaro and Lasha Zhvania, the ambassadors of Guatemala and Georgia, respectively, to Israel; Lt. Col Jonathan Conricus, IDF international spokesman; Brig. Gen. Shlomi Binder, commander, 91st IDF Division; and Maj. Gen. Tamir Heyman, head of military intelligence. Other sessions of the mission program included expert panels on the seismic changes in the region and prospects for peace, the changing landscape of higher education in Israel, the threat of advanced missiles on Israel, trends in Israel-Diaspora relations and the challenges and responses to global anti-Semitism.
B’nai B’rith was represented by CEO Daniel Mariaschin, Center for Human Rights and Public Policy Chair Millie Magid and Larry Magid and World Center Director Alan Schneider. Also participating were honorary B’nai B’rith Presidents Seymour Reich and Richard Heideman and Phyllis Heideman.
International Conference in Kigali, Rwanda
Marking 75 years since the end of the Holocaust and 25 years since the Rwanda massacre, during which three quarters of the Tutsi tribe in Rwanda was murdered, B'nai B'rith held an international conference in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, entitled: "Incitement and Dehumanization as Precursors to Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity". The conference was held with the support of the new Israeli embassy in Rwanda and in cooperation with the Aegis Trust, which operates the Kigali Genocide Memorial. The World Center initiated the conference and organized the program together with David Michaels, B’nai B’rith International director for U.N. and inter-communal affairs and the Aegis Trust team. Six experts from Israel participated in the conference, along with Rwandan government officials, academics and local activists. The conference was aimed at deepening the relationship between Israel and Rwanda in particular and between Israel and Africa in general.
Participants in the conference included Rwandan Chief Justice Faustin Ntezilyayo, Minister of Justice and General Prosecutor Johnston Busingye, President of the Genocide Survivors Association Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu, Israeli Ambassador to Rwanda Ron Adam, U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda Peter Vrooman and Executive Secretary of the National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide Jean Damascène Bizimana. The Israeli delegation included Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch; Rabbi Seth Mandell, founder and president of the Koby Mandell Foundation; Charles Small, founder and president of the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Senior Researcher at the Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University; Naftali Halberstadt, academic director at the Y.N.R Center; and Roni Stauber, academic director of the Wiener Library for the Study of the Nazi Era and the Holocaust at Tel Aviv University. French intellectual Bernard Henri Lévy, former Canadian Minister of Justice and General Attorney Irwin Cotler and former Chief Rabbi of Britain Jonathan Sacks delivered video lectures.
Following the conference, discussions ensued regarding future Israel-led humanitarian activities in Rwanda in cooperation with the Aegis Trust.
Following the international conference in Kigali, World Center Director Alan Schneider and B’nai B’rith Director of United Nations and Intercommunal Affairs David Michaels traveled to Uganda, Zambia and Ethiopia to advocate for closer Israel-Africa relations. They met with Ugandan Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, Zambian Foreign Minister Joseph Malanji and Minister for Presidential Affairs Freedom Chomba Sikazwe, and with Ethiopian Foreign Ministry officials including Birhanu Gibril, acting director-general for Middle East affairs, and Endaweke Tesfaye, acting director-general for public diplomacy affairs. Issues raised included ensuring equality for Israel in multilateral organizations such as the U.N. and the African Union, which just concluded its annual high-level summit that provided a public platform for Palestinian, but not Israeli, leaders. They also met with Abune Mathias, patriarch and catholicos of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, with prominent Christian Zionists and members of the parliamentary pro-Israel caucus in Zambia, and with key journalists, local rabbis and high-ranking American and Israeli diplomats. Schneider and Michaels also held discussions with senior Rwandan officials.
Biennial Jewish-Greek Leadership Mission
The fourth biennial Jewish-Greek Leadership Mission to Israel, Cyprus and Greece, led jointly by B'nai B'rith International, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the American Hellenic Institute and the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association took place in January. The 22-member delegation included heads of the four diaspora organizations, among them B'nai B'rith International President Charles Kaufman and CEO Daniel Mariaschin. The Israel leg of the mission, which launched the trip from Jan. 11-13, was organized by the World Center. The delegation continued to Cyprus and Greece for a series of meetings with government and military officials. The delegation met with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Reuven Azar, deputy head of the National Security Council and political adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, among others. They also toured the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem and visited a special army forces base in Greece. The purpose of the missions is to deepen relations between the Jewish and Greek diasporas in the US and advocate for even stronger cooperation between Israel, Cyprus, Greece and the U.S. in order to promote stability and peace in the volatile Eastern Mediterranean.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day Commemoration at the Balai Quezon in Israel
The B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem teamed up with the Philippine Embassy to hold an event on Jan. 27 - International Holocaust Remembrance Day - entitled “Safe Haven: Jewish Refugees in the Philippines”. The event spotlighed the “Open Door” policy pursued by Holocaust-era Philippines president Manuel Quezon and was held at the Balai Quezon, or Quezon House, at the Philippine embassy in Tel Aviv.
At the event – attended by members of the Southeast Asian diplomatic corps in Israel, among others - B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider said: “The ‘Open Door’ policy was pursued by President Quezon out of a deep sense of outrage at the violence and dispossession visited upon German Jews from the moment the Nazis came to power – until it was stopped by the outbreak of WWII. He did so with determination and in the face of voices in the U.S. administration and in his own government that objected to the large-scale immigration Quezon envisioned. For this we honor him today.”
One of the Jews who found refuge in the Philippines and who now lives in Israel, Max Weissler, attended the event. Ambassador 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 1,300 refugees, who went on to marry and have children and grandchildren. That is the true weight and worth of Quezon, US High Commissioner to the Philippines Paul McNutt’s 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.”
The event featured a panel discussion with Imperial and Professor Robert Rockaway of Tel Aviv University, as well as screenings of excerpts from two films about the refugee policy, “The Last Manilaners” and “Quezon’s Game.”
At the initiative of the World Center, B’nai B’rith International and the Philippine Permanent Mission to the United Nations, in cooperation with the U.S.-Philippines Society, held a joint Holocaust commemoration event at the UN focused on the “Open Door” policy, in tandem with the event at Balai Quezon.
The B'nai B'rith World Center in Jerusalem is the hub of B'nai B'rith International activities in Israel. The Center serves as the key link between Israel and B'nai B'rith members and supporters around the world.