Photos and report by the World Jewish Restitution Organization, in which B'nai B'rith International is a founding member.
Almost seven decades after the Holocaust, the demand for justice for Holocaust survivors has intensified. During a two day conference in Prague held this week to review progress made with respect to the restitution of property seized during the Holocaust, the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) urged East and Central European countries to do what is right and return, or pay fair compensation, to the survivors from whom it was wrongfully taken.
“While progress has taken place since the fall of Communism and subsequent breakup of the Soviet Union, there remains an urgent need to help the tens of thousands of elderly Holocaust victims and their heirs whose property claims remain unsatisfied,” said WJRO President Ronald Lauder.
In response to the ongoing Immovable Property Review Conference (IPRC), which took place at the Czernin Palace, home to the Foreign Ministry of the Czech Republic, WJRO President Ronald Lauder noted that the meeting was another reminder of the need for prompt action.
Lauder remarked that Poland, Latvia, and Romania, Lauder were particular areas of concern. After more than two decades of foot dragging, WJRO is appalled that the government in Warsaw now adamantly refuses to offer any legislative gestures to address languishing private property claims. WJRO calls for Latvia to finally enact appropriate legislation for the return of Jewish communal property, concluding many years of discussion. Meanwhile, WJRO is disappointed that Romania, which did enact restitution laws, has failed to address the bureaucratic delays that have stalled the restitution and compensation process.
Conference Co-Chairman, Czech First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Jiri Schneider, declared before all of the diplomats in attendance that “injustices have to be addressed.” What was wrongfully taken must be returned to their rightful owners. Ambassador Colette Avital, Chair, Centre of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, said, "It is long past time. Many survivors, whose property was taken from them, are now in need. Give them back what was stolen from them so they can live their years with some dignity."
The conference, organized by the European Shoah Legacy Institute, follows up on the Terezín Declaration, the Joint Declaration of the European Commission and 2009 Czech European Council Presidency and the 2010 Guidelines and Best Practices for the Restitution and Compensation of Immovable (Real) Property. The attendees are deliberating legislative developments and implementation, best practices, and legal and bureaucratic hurdles in restituting or compensating for communal, private, and heirless property.
Established in 1992, WJRO is an umbrella organization of international Jewish groups. WJRO seeks restitution of private and communal Jewish property and compensation when restitution is not possible and works with both governmental and Jewish organizations in order to assure appropriate restitution legislation and recovery of looted Jewish property.
WJRO member organizations attending the IPRC include: the American Jewish Committee; American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee; B’nai B’rith International; Claims Conference; European Jewish Congress; NCSJ: Advocates on Behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia; and World Jewish Congress.
El martes 27 de noviembre se hará la presentación, en nuestra Sede, del libro "Memoria viva de una Hermandad". El libro cubre y describe 75 años de vida de B'nai B'rith en Uruguay, con historias, recuerdos y fotografías. La presentación estará a cargo del Prof. Manuel Tenenbaum, ex Presidente de la Institución. En el "hall" se podrá ver una muestra retrospectiva de obras exhibidas en el Salón de Artes Visuales.
The sixth B’nai B’rith Europe Young Jewish Adult Forum, organized in association with B’nai B’rith United Kingdom, was held in London Nov. 16 to 18 and was highlighted by special guest Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier captured by Hamas terrorists and held captive for five years.
About 200 delegates from more than 20 European countries, Israel and the United States shared a memorable event under the theme “Disobedience.” The idea was for attendees to think about Jewish traditions, self-criticism and thinking outside the box and how all of these factors have played a part in Jewish survival.
The spotlight was on Shalit, who was freed last year. While attending the forum, Shalit was awarded with an honorary B’nai B’rith membership.
The Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdom Daniel Taub received Shalit at his residence, along with B’nai B’rith leaders. Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks was also present at the highly emotional meeting.
Shalit then visited the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, meeting with the Minister for the Middle East and North Africa Alistair Burt, President of B’nai B’rith Europe Ralph Hofmann, President of B’nai B’rith United Kingdom Jean Etherton, Director of B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem (which played a big role in ensuring Shalit’s presence at the forum) Alan Schneider, and International Vice President and Chair of the Young Adult Commission of B’nai B’rith Europe John P. Reeves.
B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs attended the forum and spoke at the gala dinner about the vital importance of the rejuvenation of B’nai B’rith around the globe. B’nai B’rith Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin also spoke about the Gaza situation and its potential consequences for Israel and the Middle East.
During the conference, Etherton and Hofmann greeted the participants and distinguished speakers. Ishmael Khaldi, counsellor for Civil Society Affairs at the Israeli Embassy in London, was one of the distinguished speakers, giving a fascinating account of his experiences as an Israeli diplomat, a Bedouin and a Muslim.
The Forum was very successful, not only because of the turnout and the speakers, but because of the primary organizers Simone Hofmann and Reeves.
Rebecca Saltzman, the International Chair of the B’nai B’rith Young Professional Network and recent recipient of the Label A. Katz award, was present at the forum and extended an open invitation for all young professionals to seek her out and discuss ways to connect B’nai B’rith communities across the globe. Saltzman noted how enthusiastic the attendees were about getting involved in their communities and bolstering the Young Professional Network.
Margaret Brearley, Ph.D. an expert on Jewish-Christian relations; Rabbi Andrew Steinman, writer and publicist; and Hagai Segal, specialist on Middle East affairs, all tackled the “Disobedience” theme of the forum.
The panel speakers on the B’nai B’rith Workshop “From Theory to Practice” included Honorary Life President of B’nai B’rith United Kingdom Sylvia Lewin, Raoul Beck of Geneva, Hofmann and Schneider.
The co-chairs of the forum, Valerie Achache and Simon Weinstein, moderated various discussions with help from Nuno Wahnon Martins, B’nai B’rith director of EU affairs.
The 11th annual Jewish Fair & Expo will be held Sunday, Nov. 18, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at the YM-YWHA of Union County in Union.
Cosponsored by the Union Y and B’nai B’rith, the event will feature over 30 shopping vendors, klezmer music, kosher foods, lectures, demonstrations, films, Noah’s Ark (live zoo) for the kids, Gizmo the clown, local school choirs, and cash-for-gold.
For a complete schedule of activities for the free Fair & Expo, visit www.jewishfair.org or call 908-289-8112.
On Monday, November 12, the Cathedral of Buenos Aires hosted hundreds of people who attended the B'nai B'rith Argentina commemoration of Krystallnacht. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio lead the event, which was attended by high representatives of the Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Catholic Churches. Rabbi Alejandro Avruj from the Conservative Synagogue Emanu-El leaded the Jewish attendance and gave Cardinal Bergoglio a Sidur at the end of the commemoration.
The B'nai B'rith Menorah lighting was offered to survivors of the Shoa; and Rabbi Avruj and Cardinal Bergoglio lit the candles together.
Rabbi Avruj said that it "has been a great honor that B'nai B'rith has called to bring to the main Cathedral of the Argentinean capital the eternal message of our people which has learned to respond against hatred with construction."
The resilience of the Yiddish language and culture was on display during a two-day symposium, “The Permanence of Yiddish,” that featured university teachers, experts, performers, writers, journalists and musicians from France, Britain, Poland, Germany, Israel, the United States and Australia Nov. 12 and 13.
Organized by the representation of B’nai B’rith at UNESCO in Paris, nearly 500 people attended the two-day event. In 2010, UNESCO published an atlas that outlined languages in danger of being lost. Yiddish was on the list. This language, intricately linked to the Jewish people, has seen a revival after being nearly lost in the wake of the Holocaust.
The members of the permanent representation of B’nai B’rith to UNESCO were disturbed by the idea that Yiddish could be doomed to disappear and were inspired to put the event together. Of the speakers and those in attendance, it was encouraging to see that many of these people were young and passionate about discussing the language and the culture.
Speakers at the event included Rachel Ertel, professor emeritus at Paris University and an author of numerous works on Yiddish literature; Yitskhok Niborski, senior lecturer of Yiddish at the French National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations; and Gilles Rozier, director of the Medem Library in Paris and a Yiddish author.
Among the B’nai B’rith representatives who spoke on the importance of keeping the Yiddish language alive, Daniel S. Mariaschin, executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International, Ralph Hofmann, president of B’nai B’rith Europe, and Serge Dahan, president of B’nai B’rith France, all addressed the symposium.
Participants discussed a range of topics during roundtable discussions. Conversations titled “The continuity of the living Yiddish” and “The creation in Yiddish” were held on the first day of the symposium.
On day two, a particularly interesting discussion was held, titled “Yiddish and the new communication tools and the effects of the digital revolution on the spreading of the Yiddish culture.” Those present discussed how previously isolated Yiddish speaking communities and individuals are now within reach through the Internet.
The symposium was very successful, not only because of the turnout and the speakers, but because of the organizers Irène Orès and Witold Zyss, representatives of B’nai B’rith at UNESCO.
Photos by: Cyril Bailleul and Jasmine van Deventer
Watch a video of Daniel S. Mariaschin discussing the symposium:
B’nai B’rith Latin America sponsored 500 leaders and professional staff from the Jewish communities of Latin America and the Caribbean Nov. 6-11 in Quito, Ecuador. This was the 12th gathering of the Joint Distribution Committee Latin America (JDCLA) group since it was formed in 1990.
Ecuador has a tiny and very active Jewish community. Although it was a challenge for a community of 450 Jews to host an audience of 500 leaders from 22 countries, the program was very successful. It included almost 40 workshops, six plenary sessions, countless breakouts to share experiences and more. Additionally, 20 percent of those in attendance were young professionals in their mid-20´s.
The most important and decisive issues of Jewish life today were on the agenda.
B'nai B'rith leaders chaired workshops, oversaw various sessions and lectured. Among the large B'nai B'rith delegation were:
Education, youth, continuity, religion, anti-Semitism, Israel-Diaspora relations, the Israeli economy, social and political issues, interfaith programs, how to use technology for the betterment of education, how to face technology when it is used for hatred, bigotry and anti-Semitism, and more were explained and discussed.
Considerable learning and teaching took place. The interactions were intense, productive and provided a unique experience to learn in less than a week what is taking place inside the Jewish communities of Latin America, and moreover, what is happening inside the partner organizations, like B'nai B'rith. The partner organizations discussed how they are working to face the challenges in the near-term and into the future.
The last plenary, which included Fischman as one of the three panelists, featured interactive voting and participation of the 500 attendees on the community's most crucial challenges and threats: the future of the organizations, the need of education, and the need of continuity. No threat can be properly faced if we do not have strong organizations and real continuity through inclusive education.
JDCLA, with the support of B'nai B'rith and other organizations, has hosted in the last 22 years the most important gathering of Jewish leaders and members of organizations from all over Latin America. The event is a unique way to teach, learn, and open minds.
B´nai B´rith leaders sharing the Shabbat dinner table.
Sitting from left to right: former B'nai B'rith International Senior Vice President Roberto Nul; B'nai B'rith Chile mentor and President of the Jewish Community in Chile Hernan Fischman; B'nai B'rith Paraguay mentor and President of the Jewish Community of Paraguay Jack Fleischman; B'nai B'rith Senior Vice President Leon Birbragher; Silvia Lustgarten, Human Rights Office Director in Cali, Colombia.
Standing up from left to right: President B'nai B'rith District 23 Marcelo Burman; Estrella Fleischman, B'nai B'rith Paraguay; Eduardo Kohn, B'nai B'rith.
Shocking testimony about, murder, forced conversion, abductions and other gross human rights violations inflicted on Christian minorities in the Middle East was presented on Nov. 8 at a symposium sponsored by the B'nai B'rith World Center and the Ecumenical Theological Research Fraternity under their joint “Liaison Committee” forum.
The title of the symposium, held in cooperation with the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, was "The Present and Future of Christians in the Middle East".
Over one hundred people attended the session that focused on the dislocation and violence by Muslims targeting Christians in the Middle East – a long-running phenomena that has increased since the Arab Spring.
The symposium exposed the predicament of Christian minorities in Iraq, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority, Pakistan, Lebanon and other countries in the area and the implications for the State of Israel. Raymond Ibrahim, a U.S.-based expert in Islam and the Middle East of Egyptian-Coptic descent and author of "The al-Qaida Reader", said that Christians are suffering unprecedented persecution in the Middle East. Ibrahim spoke of the harassment in Egypt against the Coptic Church which predates Islam, including forced conversions. He noted that in Iraq, for example, there is widespread dislocation based on religious identification against the Christian minority. He referred to the State of Israel as "the one Dhimmi that got away."
Juliana Taimoorazy - an Assyrian Christian and Founder and President of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council – noted that the gruesome attacks taking place against Christian minorities in Iraq and others countries in the Middle East must be brought to world attention. The U.S. government should press the Iraqi regime to prevent attacks against the Christian minority and to protect it, she said, and called on Jews and Christians to strengthen their ties in the face of this danger.
Dr. Mordechai Kedar from Bar Ilan University, an expert on Islam, noted that Moslem hatred towards Jews and Christians has grown in the light of the success of the West.
In an opening statement, B'nai B'rith World Center director Alan Schneider said that human rights organizations must not remain silent in the face of these reports of gross human rights violations against Christian communities in the Arab and Moslem world and should ensure that they reach the attention of the international community and world public opinion. Ecumenical Fraternity Director Rev. Dr. Petra Heldt also spoke at the event which was chaired by Dr. Mordechai Nisan of Hebrew University.
Raymond Ibrahim is a Middle East and Islam specialist, A widely published author best known for The Al Qaeda Reader (Doubleday, 2007), he guest lectures at universities, including the National Defense Intelligence College, briefs governmental agencies, such as U.S. Strategic Command and the Defense Intelligence Agency. Born and raised in the U.S. by Egyptian parents born and raised in the Middle East—has provided him with equal fluency in English and Arabic.
Juliana Taimoorazy - An Assyrian Christian born in Iran. Requested religious asylum at the American Embassy in Germany after fleeing Iran. In the United States she obtained her graduate degree in Instructional Design and worked as a reporter at a local station in Chicago for many years. In addition to owning her own businesses, creating employment opportunities for Iraqi Christian refugees, she has worked since she was 19 years old to elevate the Assyrian Christian cause in the United States.
Dr. Mordechai Kedar - BA in Arabic and Political Science (1982) and a PhD in Arabic (1998) both from Bar-Ilan University, Israel. His areas of research include: Islam, Islamic movements, gender issues in Islam, Arabic mass media, popular culture in the Arab world, and state and society in the Arab world.
Dr. Mordechai Nisan - born in Montreal, earned his Ph.D. in Political Science from McGill University. After moving to Israel, he taught Middle East Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, while lecturing as well at other academic institutions in the country. He has specialized and written books on Israel, Lebanon, Islam, minority peoples in the Middle East and the Arab-Israeli Conflict.
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