Some years ago, before email and text messages, I was following up on a meeting notice with a phone call to one of the invitees for a program we were holding that week. The responses had been slow in coming back, we had catering to order and did not want to have a small crowd for the guest speaker. I reminded the individual about the notice we had mailed, and that we had not received his RSVP yet. I also said that this was an important subject on B’nai B’rith’s agenda, and it was important for him to be there.
His response to me, before he gave his “yes” or “no” reply was, “Rhonda, you always say that everything is important.” I would have the same exchange today, maybe first by email, but I would have no problem saying what I said then: “Everything is important.”
It is important that we care about and advocate for the needs of refugees and vulnerable people impacted by extreme situations such as war that creates a humanitarian crisis, or a natural disaster that comes with little or no warning. Unfortunately, events in the world determine what is important one minute and not another.
Once the situation is no longer front-page news or the leading story on TV or in social media news feeds, the judgement of what is important is made by an editor or news producer, or by amplification of individuals on social media.
We think that the needs of refugees forced to flee Ukraine are as important today as the day the B’nai B’rith Disaster Relief Fund opened a fund-raising campaign in February when Russia invaded, to raise awareness and funds about the needs of those who are impacted by this attack. Our aid work goes beyond thinking about victims of disasters and supporting their needs long after headlines change. We are involved during the emergency situation and as it transitions to supporting recovery and rebuilding. It is all important.
It is important that we remember the victims of the Holocaust and learn as much as we can from the survivors and their families. We remind ourselves of that importance as we read the names of the victims aloud on Yom Hashoah and share the important thematic information that has been created by Yad Vashem for Unto Every Person There is a Name programs, to help show the enormity of this loss for the Jewish people. It is important that there will always be someone to remember them. It is important that scholars share their research and survivors share their stories so that education and awareness are incorporated into remembrance and memorials.
The lives of seniors are important to B’nai B’rith, whether they are residents of B’nai B’rith affordable housing or need B’nai B’rith’s advocacy on issues that are important to their economic and social wellbeing. This includes protecting Medicare, social security benefits, prescription drug prices, access to medication and transportation, to name just a few topics we focus on.
It is important that B’nai B’rith comment on attacks against Jews and Israel, whether the stinging words come from the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, or by a foreign diplomat, a politician at any government level or a celebrity. We make responding to anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism important.
We have also just created an essay contest to bring this important message to the next generation. The voices of students are an important component in the effort to speak out against hatred and violence. The winning essay will be showcased in B’nai B’rith Magazine and featured on our website and social media platforms. To learn more and bring this contest to your community or to someone you think has something to say, please visit here.
We know that the words of those 18-22 years old are vital to help us fight against anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. We must ensure that the next generation understands the importance of advocacy to protect Israel and the Jewish people around the world.
So now, if everything is important, “what is important to you?” is up to you to decide. It’s up to you to determine what part of B’nai B’rith you find most important and what we call the “hot button” for an individual. You can be part of making sure that important work is done by being a B’nai B’rith member or supporter. The choice and options are wide open.
Rhonda Love is the Vice President of Programming for B’nai B’rith International. She is Director of the Center of Community Action and Center of Jewish Identity. She served as the Program Director of the former District One of B’nai B’rith. In 2002 she received recognition by B’nai B’rith with the Julius Bisno Professional Excellence Award. Rhonda has served on the B’nai B’rith International staff for 41 years. To view some of her additional content, click here.