A periodic e-newsletter from the B’nai B’rith World Center – Jerusalem, September 2016
B’nai B’rith World Center Hosts Uruguayan Artists in Israel
B'nai B'rith World Center in Jerusalem hosted three leading Uruguayan artists in Israel this month: dancer/choreographer Federica Folco, actress/singer Alicia Alfonso (winners of the B'nai B'rith Uruguay "Premio Fraternidad" for 2012 and 2015, respectively) and actor Massimo Tenuta. The September 4-13 visit was their first to the country and provided a wide range of experiences and encounters for the guests.
"Premio Fraternidad" (Fraternity Award) has been presented by B'nai B'rith Uruguay for the last 30 years to acclaimed artists at events held at the B'nai B'rith Hall in Montevideo, with government ministers, artistic luminaries, civic leaders and hundreds of members in attendance.
Federica Folco is a dancer, choreographer and dance teacher. Her work focuses on tango as a social phenomenon and on the relationship between mind, body and movement. She has been the director of the Periferico Dance Company since 2009, and has created routines by herself and in collaboration with local and international artists. Folco has participated in international festivals in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Germany, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Spain and Venezuela. As a teacher, she promotes experimentation and reflection on creative energy, and has conducted workshops in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and Spain.
Alicia Alfonso graduated from Mario Galup Acting School in 1993, and has 30 years of experience in dramatic arts. She is a company member of "Teatro El Galpon," a historic theater in Montevideo, Uruguay founded in 1949. She was nominated five times for the Florencio Award—a prestigious artistic award in Uruguay—and won it twice: in 2010 for supporting actress in "Agosto," and in 2015 for her lead role in "Horror en Coronel Suarez." Alfonso appeared in about 40 plays for adults and children throughout Uruguay, and in international festivals in Bolivia, Brazil, Guatemala and the United States.
The principal prize in the "Premio Fraternidad" is an all-expense paid trip to Israel, where the B'nai B'rith World Center is responsible for crafting and executing an intensive program of professional encounters and touring. In the course of their visit, Folco, Alfonso and Tenuta met with principals of the Suzanne Dellal Centre for Dance and Theatre and Habima, Cameri, Gesher and Haifa theatres. They viewed performances or rehearsals by the Bat Sheva, Inbal, Nehara and SOL Dance Companies. They also visited Kelim Center and conferred with the director of the Institute of Israeli Drama. They toured Jerusalem, Masada, the Dead Sea and Galilee. At its conclusion the guests said that the visit was highly emotional experience and that they felt that they made many friends and professional contacts in the course of the visit.
B’nai B’rith World Center Holds Meetings with B’nai B’rith Mexico and Guatemala Leadership
Ambassador of Israel to the United States Ron Dermer Delivers Keynote Address at B'nai B'rith World Center Award for Journalism Ceremony
Ron Dermer, ambassador of Israel to the United States, presented the keynote address on U.S.-Israel relations at the B’nai B’rith World Center Award for Journalism ceremony on July 7 in Jerusalem. Dermer has served in Washington, D.C. since October 2013, and from 2009-2013 he served as senior advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Dermer spoke of his long-standing personal and professional relationship with B’nai B’rith before honoring the winners. Check out the video below see Dermer’s remarks and the rest of the ceremony
Winners of the award which recognizes excellence in Diaspora reportage in Israel print, broadcast and digital media were Amanda Borschel-Dan, the Times of Israel’s Jewish World editor and Allison Kaplan Sommer, staff writer at Haaretz. Both journalists submitted an impressive array of articles on Diaspora communities and Israel-Diaspora relations published during 2015.
Additionally, a Lifetime Achievement Award in memory of Luis and Trudi Schydlowsky was conferred upon senior Israel Broadcasting Authority journalist Ya’akov Ahimeir, editor and presenter of the Saturday night foreign news and culture magazine show "Ro'im Olam" (Seeing the World), on Channel 1 Television. Ahimeir also appears on the Voice of Israel’s daily radio news program “HaBoker HaZeh” (This Morning). In the course of the event a special citation for fostering Israel-Diaspora relations through the arts was presented to Idan Raichel. The special citation was established by the B'nai B'rith World Center in 2014. To date, these citations have been conferred upon singer/songwriters Nurit Hirsh (2014) and David D'or (2015).
From the Jury considerations:
Amanda Borschel-Dan: "In her writing, as in her position as editor, Amanda Borschel-Dan strives to augment mutual understanding and the process of familiarity between Israel and Diaspora Jews. Borschel-Dan understands the singular importance of the topic she specializes in and she engages in it with intensivity and true dedication. Her writing is articulate, she delves into research and her professional scope in wide"
Allison Kaplan-Sommer: " Allison Kaplan-Sommer has specialized in writing about Israeli and American politics with an emphasis on the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora, on a wide variety of topics from an overall general perspective as well as personal stories. During the year 2015, she wrote some 34 articles for Ha’aretz on Israel and the Diaspora – in itself a most impressive body of work. Her writing is both incisive and personal, revealing a broad fund of knowledge about the Israeli and Diaspora Jewish communities – what separates them and what unites them. She sees the battleground of ideas and ideologies as important, but chooses to describe them within the context of the people and personalities involved – their stories and their lives."
Ya'akov Ahimeir: "Ya'akov Ahimeir is one of the most senior journalists in Israel who is among those who layed the foundations of the Israel broadcast and print media. The many awards he has received are an indication of the consistent and overwhelming appreciation that exists for the outstanding brilliance of his long career. Ya'akov Ahimeir is blessed with the essential attributes for a journalist: inquisitiveness, a keen eye, the ability to recognize the essence of the story, broad education, caring, accuracy, thoroughness, fairness, courage and particularly the rare ability to be objective while not being neutral. A profound personal interest is evident in all of his reports on the Jewish world and their lives, empathy and sympathy towards his fellow Jew and real concern for Jewish communities in the Diaspora".
Idan Raichel: "Idan Raichel is a meteor in the expanse of Israeli art. In a relatively short period of 15 years this multi-talented artist has become one of the leading musicians in Israel and one of the most successful Israeli musicians internationally. He created a unique stage presence heretofore unknown on the Israeli stage. The international musical cooperations that Raichel has created throughout his career have turned him into a cultural ambassador for millions of fans, representing a world full of hope in which musical collaborations remove boundaries between people coming from different backgrounds and cultures. His music is the beating drum of a troubled region that serves as a source of inspiration for a young generation for the promise of a better future."
Since its establishment in 1992 to help strengthen the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora, 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 Israeli media. The award is widely recognized as a prestigious prize by the Israeli media industry as the most prestigious prize in its field.
The distinguished members of the award jury are: Asher Weill, chair, publisher and editor of ARIEL- The Israel Review of Arts and Letters from 1981-2003; Yehudith Auerbach, professor in the School of Communication at Bar Ilan University; Gabriela Shalev, former Israel ambassador to the United Nations and professor at Ono Academic College; Bambi Sheleg, founder of Eretz Acheret, a staff member at Mandel School for Educational Leadership and a 2011 award winner; Shalom Kital, former general director for News Company, Channel 2; and Eytan Bentsur, former Ministry of Foreign Affairs director general.The B’nai B’rith World Center Award for Journalism is named for the late Wolf Matsdorf and his wife Hilda. Wolf was an editor of the B’nai B’rith World Center Journal “Leadership Briefing” and a journalist in Israel and Australia. Hilda was a pioneer in social work in both Australia and Israel.
The award is made possible through donations from Daniel Schydlowsky, a professor and a member of the B’nai B’rith World Center International Board of Governors (Lima, Peru and Washington D.C.), and the Matsdorf family.
Jewish Rescuers Citation Presented Posthumously to Wilfrid Israel
B’nai B’rith World Center Director Alan Schneider and Haim Roet, chairman of the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust, presented the Jewish Rescuers Citation posthumously to Wilfrid Israel, the last heir of the Berlin Jewish business dynasty of Israel’s Department Store—one of the largest retail establishments in Europe in the 1930’s—and grandson of the British Chief Rabbi Nathan Marcus Adler.
A friend of both Albert Einstein and Chaim Weizmann and an ardent pacifist in his youth, Israel became one of the leading figures in the rescue of Jewish children and youngsters from Nazi persecution before and during the Second World War. He was a key link in the famous ‘Kindertransport’ in which 10,000 German Jewish children found refuge in Britain in l938. Internment camps in Britain for young German Jewish men released from Nazi imprisonment, which he proposed, saved another 8,000 lives. It was only after ensuring the safety of his 2,000 employees, and paying ransom to save many Jewish friends, that Wilfrid Israel left Germany for England, days before the outbreak of war in 1939. Although he avoided public office and shunned publicity—leading to the fact that his rescue efforts remain largely unknown—Israel maintained links with leading figures in British politics and society that were vital to his work. His dual (British-German) nationality did not protect him, and he was constantly under surveillance by the Gestapo.
His work with intelligence agent Frank Foley in the British Consulate in Berlin—who was chief passport officer—also helped save many lives. Israel’s report on the pre-war concentration camps, the first of its kind to reach British politicians, was smuggled out to Lord Herbert Samuel, head of the Anglo-Jewish delegation to the Home Office, which authorized the Kindertransport. Once in Britain, Wilfrid Israel worked for a research team in Oxford, providing background information on German politics to government ministries and also served as an advisor to the Foreign Office refugee department. He became the intermediary between anti-Nazi German exiles and the British government and argued for British recognition of resistance groups within Germany.
At the same time, Wilfrid Israel maintained close ties with the Jewish Agency, and was busy in Lisbon planning the rescue of children from Nazi occupied Europe to pre-state Israel through Spain when his plane was downed by the Luftwaffe in the Bay of Biscay, along with British actor and intelligence officer Leslie Howard on June 1, 1943. Wilfrid Israel’s rescue efforts are credited with saving over 50,000 Jewish lives. The ceremony was held on June 1 at the Wilfrid Israel Museum in Kibbutz Hazorea in the Lower Galilee, to which Israel had bequeathed his priceless collection of Asian Art—73 years to the day that he was killed. His relative, David Hashavit, received the certificate on behalf of the Israel family.
Speaking to the audience of about 100 people, Roet said that it was time Jewish rescuers during the Holocaust were given the same recognition accorded Righteous Among the Nations. Schneider noted that since its establishment in 2011, the Jewish Rescuers Citation has been presented to 140 heroes for rescue activities in Germany and across Nazi-occupied Europe during the Holocaust. “The citation is not meant to cast aspersions on those Jews who were not in a position to engage in rescue efforts but to recognize those who took advantage of unique circumstances and personality to assist others while they themselves faced grave dangers.”
B’nai B’rith Hosts Second MEP Mission to Israel
B’nai B’rith International hosted a mission to Israel by Members of the European Parliament (MEP) on May 15-19 – the second such mission held within three months. Participants in the mission were Doru-Claudian Frunzulica (Romania), a member on the parliament's delegation for relations with the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and former deputy government minister and Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar (Spain), chairman of the EU Parliament Working Group against Anti-Semitism and former minister of justice in Spain. Both MEPs are members of the Group of Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament. They were joined by B’nai B’rith International EU Affairs Director Benjamin Naegele and B'nai B'rith World Center Director Alan Schneider.
The mission program, developed by the World Center, included extensive consultations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on EU-Israel relations, anti-Semitism, fundamental changes in the Middle East and incitement by the Palestinian Authority. The mission visited the Gaza periphery community of Netiv Ha'asara where they met with residents living under the threat of Hamas rocket and tunnel attacks and heard an IDF security briefing. Meetings were held with MK and former government minister Benjamin (Ze'ev) Begin (Likud), Labor Party Secretary General MK Hilik Bar, human rights lawyer and professor, and former Canadian Attorney General Irwin Cotler, Israel Police spokesman Superintendent Micky Rosenfeld, head of the Counterterrorism Bureau at Israel's National Security Council Eitan Ben David and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Senior Advisor on International Affairs Jonathan Schachter. The group also held an in-depth discussion on illegal EU-funded Palestinian building in Area C with Meir Deutsch, director of policy and government relations for Regavim (National Land Protection Trust) and on legal aspects of the Israel-Palestinian conflict with former Ministry of Foreign Affairs legal advisor Prof. Robbie Sabel—both with the participation of the Ambassador of Spain to Israel Fernando Carderera and the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Romanian Embassy Gabriel Sopanda.
On his additional day in Israel, MEP Aguilar met with anti-Semitism expert Manfred Gerstenfeld, conferred with Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer together with World Center Chairman Haim Katz, and traveled to Alfei Menashe in Samaria for a meeting with Dani Dayan, incoming Israel consul general in New York and former chairman of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria. While in Jerusalem, the group was guided in the Western Wall Tunnel by Chief Archeologist Avi Solomon and also visited the Israel Museum. Both MEPs expressed gratitude for the extensive program that provided new insights into the complex challenges facing the State of Israel. Schneider noted that the mission provided an important opportunity to present to the participants the Israeli perspective on such issues as the two-state solution, terrorism, demography and double-standards that are largely drowned out in the propaganda onslaught conducted by anti-Israeli forces in Europe in general and at international bodies — such as the European Parliament — in particular.
The outcomes of the missions were significant and multi-layered and included a conference entitled "The Fight Against Terrorism: The Need for Cooperation" incited by MEP Frunzulica in cooperation with B'nai B'rith and the Israel Mission to the EU with the participation of two renowned Israeli intelligence experts.
B’nai B’rith World Center and Keren Kayemeth Leisrael Hold Unique Holocaust Day Ceremony Marking the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers
The B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-JNF) held, for the 14th consecutive year, a unique joint Holocaust commemoration ceremony on Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day).This is the only event dedicated annually to commemorating the heroism of Jews who rescued fellow Jews during the Holocaust. More than 850 people attended the event, including about 200 Border Patrol Cadets who provided an honor guard and 200 high school students, along with Jewish rescuers and survivors. The ceremony was held at the B’nai B’rith Martyr’s Forest “Scroll of Fire” Plaza.
This years' event memorialized the rescue efforts of Jewish educator and Leningrad resident Shmuil Markowitz Pevzner (1912 –1991). According to survivors' testimonies Pevzner served as the director of the Polish troupe in the Soviet Pioneers Camp in Druskeninkai, Lithuania when on June 22, 1941, the Nazis launched “Operation Barbarossa” and attacked the area. Pevzner succeeded in rescuing all 300 children from the camp, including about 140 Jewish children from Bialystok, Poland, and the surrounding region, and retreating with them by train to the safety of the Soviet Far East. For the 12 day journey, they were under repeated German aerial attack. Pevzner established a home for the children in the Udmurtia Republic under the Soviet government’s patronage, caring for them through extreme weather conditions and shortages until World War II ended. The children—only four of whom found any surviving parents after the war—were repatriated to Poland in 1946, and most immigrated to Israel. Pevzner was decorated by Poland and the Soviet Union for his rescue of the children. The director of the Lithuanian troupe at the camp, Stasys Sviderskis, was recognized in 1997 by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations for his role in the rescue.
"It is appropriate that these days when divisions among us are escalating and dialogue between various groups in society has become polarized, that we remember the spirit of solidarity represented by Shmuel Markowitz Pevsner. That spirit kept Jews safe even in the most difficult times, lifted us out of the crematorium and ashes and led us to fulfill the Zionist dream of a State of Israel," KKL-JNF Chairman Danny Atar said.
The Kaddish at the ceremony was read by Ofer Cohen, father of Border Cadet Cpl. Hadar Cohen who was 19 years old when he was killed in a terror attack at the Damascus Gate on Feb. 3.
"The pledge 'We will not be led like sheep to the slaughter' turned a gentle and smiley girl into a brave warrior. I ask the military commanders of the Israel Defense Forces to educate new generations of fighters in Hadar's image," Cohen said.
Pevzner was represented at the ceremony by his son Dr. Mark Pevzner and grandson Boris Pevzner, both residents of Udmurtia.
"Today we make historic justice with Samuel Markowitz Pevzner. We as representatives of the Jewish people- praise his accomplishments and commemorate his memory by awarding him posthumously our "Jewish Rescuers Citation," B’nai B’rith World Center Chairman Haim V. Katz said.
Russian Ambassador to Israel Alexander Shein was the guest of honor at the ceremony. He noted that Pevzner's exploits were one of the most outstanding heroic acts undertaken during WWII by any Soviet citizen. The ambassador noted that the train he commanded was dubbed "Pevzner's Ark" by the survivors, and that a division of Soviet tanks were annihilated when they refused an order to retreat in order to defend the train from German attack. Noting the 10 million Soviet military casualties during the war—among a total of 28 million Soviet citizens who died—the ambassador warned against ongoing attempts in some countries to falsify history by equating between the Soviet Union and the Nazis and erase the heroic record of Russians, Jews and others who contributed to the victory over the Nazis.
During the ceremony a “Jewish Rescuers Citation” was posthumously conferred on Pevzner by the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust (JRJ) and the B’nai B’rith World Center and on six other Jewish rescuers from Greece, Poland and Hungary. Since the establishment of the Jewish Rescuers Citation in 2011, honors have been awarded to about 100 rescuers who operated in France, Germany, Holland and Hungary.
"Through the ceremony and citation, the organizers seek to right the historical record by giving due recognition to Shmuil Markowitz Pevzner for rescuing these vulnerable children, some as young as seven, and all but four of whom where orphaned by the war's end. We salute his dedication to the children, supporting them through emotional and physical hardships' to become upstanding youngsters and adults," B'nai B'rith World Center director Alan Schneider said.
The event was held at the Martyr's Forest—a joint Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-JNF) and B’nai B’rith project which memorializes the victims of the Holocaust with six million trees planted in the picturesque Jerusalem mountains near Moshav Kesalon. At the pinnacle of the forest stands the “Scroll of Fire” by the renowned sculptor Nathan Rappaport, which invokes the destruction of the Jewish people in the Holocaust and their redemption in the State of Israel. The event will commence with personal testimonies by Holocaust survivors to classes of soldiers.
The phenomena of Jewish rescue and the instructive stories of thousands of Jews who labored to save their endangered brethren throughout Europe have yet to receive appropriate public recognition and resonance. Many who could have tried to flee preferred to stay and rescue others; some paid for it with their lives. With great heroism Jews in every country in occupied Europe employed subterfuge, forgery, smuggling, concealment and other methods to ensure that some Jews survived the Holocaust there or assisted them in escaping to a safe haven and in doing so foiled the Nazi goal of total genocide against the Jews. The organizers of the ceremony view it as especially important to expose Jewish youth to Jewish rescue during the Holocaust as a model for Jewish solidarity and courage.
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B'nai B'rith World Center
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.