If it is September, we are receiving calendars in the mail from our synagogues, organizations or supermarkets because Jewish life revolves around the calendar. It is filled with holiday information, recipes and how-to guides to bring observances to your home or synagogue. This is the outline for our Jewish life cycle. The calendar also is the life cycle of organizations, such as B’nai B’rith.
These events are available to be part of your life too. Each month brings an opportunity to be part of the activities that are planned, whether you can attend in person or learn more about the subject by viewing the on-line story available on the B’nai B’rith website or newsletters.
B’nai B’rith regions and districts and community lodges and units, plan activities that provide social activity and lectures featuring experts on interesting subjects and issues that are important to the Jewish people such as Israel and events in the Middle East. The program planners include fund-raising events such as goods and services auctions, golf outings or a tribute dinner or brunch for a community leader.
Community service events are planned, again, with a look at the calendar to connect with the needs in the community, both for Jewish people in need as well as the general community or for veterans, seniors and sick and needy children. With names such as Schlep Sunday, Operation Brotherhood, Pinch-hitters, Project H.O.P.E., these programs have become representative of the tradition of service in our organization, as the community knows it can count on this activity. It also offers members and supporters an opportunity to do a good deed as volunteers. Individuals look forward to being a part of these programs, not only for the good it does for others, but for the benefit of those who perform this service for those in need.
Holocaust remembrance is on the list of programs that find their place in programming planning, with potential commemoration dates. One is Yom Hashoah, the 27 of Nissan, chosen by the Israeli Knesset to be the Day of Remembrance and a more recent addition, the International Holocaust Remembrance Day selected by the United Nations for its observance on Jan. 27. Another Holocaust related anniversary observed is the commemoration of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, which is observed Nov. 9 and 10. It commemorates the horrifying attacks on Jews in Germany and Austria in 1938 when at least 96 Jews were killed, more than 1,000 synagogues were set on fire, nearly 7,500 Jewish-owned businesses were destroyed, and countless community centers, libraries and homes were attacked, looted and destroyed. About 30,000 Jews were sent to concentration camps during this time.
As programs are established, we see the structure of a program year take shape, from planning to implementation. For those programs already part of our year, we see what date will work best and check with community calendars to avoid conflicts with other organizations or find new partners for our programming. We also look for unmet needs and see how we can fill those with a new program that we can bring to the community.
We evaluate each program held the previous year to determine if it was successful or whether there is a change needed. Events can be held monthly, quarterly or annually. The Henry Monsky Lodge in Omaha, Neb. could win a most programs planned a year award, as it holds a weekly luncheon, featuring guest speakers on a variety of topics, offered as a place to lunch and learn about something of interest each week along with other special events in the community.
Audiences are identified, with specific program activity such as the B’nai B’rith Young Leadership Network planning its calendar in cities around the world, with activity dedicated to reaching out to young professionals age 22 -40 in a community with social, service and issue oriented programming.
And while you have your calendars in front of you—see the world of programming in action: join us at the annual B’nai B’rith International Policy Forum, Nov. 8-10 and a pre-forum Young Leadership Conference (Nov. 6-8) in Washington, D.C. for a showcase of programs connected to B’nai B’rith.
Click below to register:
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 brith with the Julius Bisno Professional Excellence Award. This June will mark her 38th anniversary at B'nai B'rith. To view some of her additional content, Click Here.
Who isn’t a Mayim Bialik fan? It’s tough not to be impressed by a woman whose deftly deadpan antics as The Big Bang Theory’s Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler, a Ph.D. neuroscientist, are informed by her real life education as a Ph.D. neuroscientist.
To learn more about her, legions of devotees—seemingly of all demographics and faiths--are logging on to her new website Groknation.com, a name referencing the 1960s cult science fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land. Bialik writes about all aspects of her multi-layered life, from her Jewish background and love of Israel, to parenting, the arts, and her special vegan diet.
Readers may be surprised by the frankness of Bialik’s posts, the most recent focusing on the ways in which her adherence to Jewish ritual became a source of comfort after her father’s death:
“Life goes on; it has to. But saying Kaddish every day has allowed me to step out of the ‘life goes on’ part of my day to enter a sanctuary (literally!) where I again am a mourner, and I feel again that life can’t go on because it’s OK to feel that way. It’s healthy to hold that tension in your brain. Grief is dissecting life going on from life not going on again and again.”
And… no, Bialik will not divulge anything about Amy’s response to Sheldon’s Big Bang proposal on the site—unless you don’t like to laugh, you’ll just have to catch the season premiere.
Join the crowds coming downtown to New York’s glitzy new Whitney Museum of American Art for a look at 29 year old Rachel Rose’s prize-winning works during her solo show from Oct. 2, 2015 to Feb. 7, 2016 in its Kaufman Gallery, where her installation “will physically engage with the architecture of the museum’s new building.”
Educated at Columbia, Yale and London’s Courtauld Institute of Art as an art historian and painter, Rose became known for using innovative materials like gel and transparent plastic paper to produce brilliantly colored, glistening forms suggestive of biological organisms or marine animals.
Fusing the conceptual and the sensual, her critically acclaimed videos, including A Minute Ago and Sitting Feeding Sleeping, are thoroughly original constructions bringing together film clips--from sources including YouTube, vintage movies and the artist’s own footage of zoo animals--that address big questions about life and death, and explore the sometimes uneasy relationships between nature, culture and advanced technology.
Cheryl Kempler is an art and music specialist who works in the B'nai B'rith International Curatorial Office and writes about history and Jewish culture for B’nai B’rith Magazine. To view some of her additional content, Click Here.
"Let's not mince words,” President Obama told an audience at American University on August 5, in defense of the Iran nuclear agreement. “The choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy or some form of war. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not three months from now, but soon."
The following day, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) took issue with the dichotomy offered by the president. “Some say the only answer to this is war. I don’t believe so,” Schumer said. “I believe we should go back and try to get a better deal…The nations of the world should join us in that.”
This disagreement between two senior officials of the same party raises two crucial questions for both Democratic and Republican members of Congress to ponder as they decide how to vote on the Joint Plan of Action (JCPOA) when Congress passes judgment next month. Is there really no alternative to the deal other than war? And do opponents of the agreement actually advocate war?
The answer to the second question is almost universally no. Many of the deal’s fiercest critics, such as Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) have called not for war, but for a better agreement. So why would the JCPOA’s supporters imply that their opponents prefer war as a policy option?
Framing the issue as a diplomacy-vs.-war dilemma helps the deal’s backers channel unhappy memories of the debate that preceded the U.S. operation in Iraq 12 years ago. We chose to enter a costly war once before, the reasoning goes; let’s not repeat that mistake. Invoking the specter of war also minimizes the arguments of those who oppose the JCPOA on the merits; it is easier to quell serious debate if critics can simply be dismissed as warmongers.
But regardless of how one felt about the prospect of military conflict in 2003 or 2015, it seems clear that other options remain available with respect to Iran today. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey acknowledged as much in his recent testimony before the Senate. “I can tell you that we have a range of options and I always present them” to the president, he told the Senate panel.
Increased sanctions, diplomatic isolation, and the credible threat of military force could go a long way toward securing a better agreement than the one currently being deliberated over. With sanctions still in place – or tightened – Iran would have a strong incentive to slow its march toward nuclear weapons if the contracts with multinational energy firms Iran hopes to negotiate are suddenly put at risk. Also in peril would be Iran’s access to the more than $100 billion in frozen assets it hopes to retrieve.
DIME, the military and government acronym for soft power tools, accounts for the diplomatic, informational, military and economic aspects of American power. All of these instruments could be applied to maintain pressure on Iran to curb its nuclear program while the U.S. and its partners seek a better agreement.
The U.S. has significant leverage against Iran, a fact that was reflected during the negotiations by Iran’s continued insistence on the immediate lifting of sanctions to ease the country’s troubled economic plight. If, as National Security Advisor Susan Rice said earlier this year, “A bad deal is worse than no deal,” how did we arrive at a stark choice between this flawed agreement and war?
Certainly the debate over the JCPOA needs to be informed by a clear understanding of America’s options and how best to maximize them in order to prevent a nuclear Iran. In that light, false dichotomies such as diplomacy vs. war are unhelpful distractions.
Eric Fusfield, Esq. has been the B’nai B’rith International director of legislative affairs since 2003 and the deputy director of the B’nai B’rith International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy since 2007. He has worked in Jewish advocacy since 1998. To view some of his additional content, Click Here.
Iran—which publicly and proudly declares its intent to wipe Israel off the map—has been a major contributor to building the financial and military capacity of Hezbollah. It is directly responsible for developing the infrastructure of terror in Central and South America in order to, among other goals, have a base from which to attack the United States.
Iran has been clearly implicated in the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 and the AMIA bombing two years later of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, killing 85 people. Alberto Nisman, the Argentine prosecutor charged with investigating the AMIA bombing, was found dead in his home earlier this year after presenting an avalanche of evidence about Iran's terrorist activities throughout the region. Most recently, he accused Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, her foreign minister and other members and allies of the government of having obstructed the investigation of Iranian involvement in the attack in order to secure an oil deal with Iran.
In fact, just a few months ago, an Iranian diplomat based in Uruguay hurriedly left the country after rumors that he was involved in suspicious activities, purportedly involving a plan to bomb the Embassy of Israel in Montevideo.
Venezuela has proven the linchpin of this Iranian activity, with the country providing passports to members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, and with ties including a direct air link, Iranian investments in “auto, bicycle, and cement” factories, and joint petroleum and mining ventures. Reports of military cooperation abound. Iran has steadily infiltrated Latin America in this manner, creating strong and dangerous ties with countries in the Chavez-Castro alliance (the Bolivarian Alternative for our Americas, or ALBA) including Bolivia, Nicaragua, Cuba and Ecuador, where Iran has signed dozens of economic agreements.
These avenues of influence are described by security analyst Joseph Humire as Iran’s pattern of penetration, evolving through its cultural, diplomatic, economic and military influence. It is clear that Iran maintains Latin America as a strategic priority for its global positioning.
It is in the context of all this manipulation that the United States, as a member of the P5+1, held negotiations and signed a deal with Iran with the intention of curbing its nuclear capabilities in exchange for sanctions relief. The Iran nuclear deal has been evaluated at length, and has been heavily criticized from broad reaches of the political spectrum.
It is odd, then, that through all the debate and discussion, there still remains the question that everyone has seemingly failed to ask: what will be the impact of the Iran nuclear deal in our own backyard? One has to ask what effect sanctions relief will have on Iranian financial and material assistance to Hezbollah and other regional proxies throughout the Western Hemisphere and elsewhere.
The economic sanctions that at least strained Iranian endeavors over the past three decades will be lifted. There is no doubt that the half-trillion dollar jackpot Iran is slated to receive will be directly funneled into those activities we dread most: the exportation of Iranian aggression and anti-Semitism. These funds, returned to the coffers of a known state sponsor of terrorism, will surely make their way toward financial and material assistance to Hezbollah and other regional proxies. As it concerns U.S. national security, one can’t help but flatly reject the far-reaching concessions of the P5+1 as a direct threat to our interests regionally, let alone globally.
The reaction in Latin America has, thus far, been as one might expect. Kirchner has praised the agreement, while questioning local critics of the AMIA memorandum pact, surely a failed attempted to bless her own deal with Iran in the face of mounting pressure. The president of Colombia also congratulated President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry for their “courage” in securing the deal, perhaps related to Colombia’s close relationship with the United States.
But with history as our guide, this agreement will do more harm than good. The expanded presence of Iran in Latin American should have, at the outset, given the United States pause, given a known regime in Tehran that supports terrorism as an officially sanctioned tool of national power. That Iran remains heavily invested in the region’s shift to the left and the anti-U.S. sentiment it provokes is hardly surprising. The fact that regional powers do not recognize the danger within their own borders is naïve at best, ignorant at worst.
While a nuclear Iran would trigger proliferation and instability throughout the Middle East and beyond, the easing of sanctions will be found to provide an umbrella for Iran’s terror proxies around the globe. There has been no accountability for Iran’s decades-long history of deception and denial over their nuclear ambitions and past links to terrorism, and there is no reason to give Iran the benefit of the doubt now.
Sienna Girgenti is the Assistant Director for the International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy at B'nai B'rith International. To view some of her additional content, Click Here.
Why We Should Be Concerned About A New Resolution By The U.N. Security Council On The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (English & Spanish)
Adriana Camisar, is an attorney by training who holds a graduate degree in international law and diplomacy from The Fletcher School (Tufts University). She has been B'nai B'rith International Assistant Director for Latin American Affairs since late 2008, and Special Advisor on Latin American Affairs since 2013, when she relocated to Argentina, her native country. Prior to joining B'nai B'rith International, she worked as a research assistant to visiting Professor Luis Moreno Ocampo (former Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court), at Harvard University; interned at the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs; worked at a children's rights organization in San Diego, CA; and worked briefly as a research assistant to the Secretary for Legal Affairs at the Organization of American States (OAS). To view some of her additional content, Click Here.
Over the last few weeks an Israeli soldier was stabbed in the torso near the settlement of Nachliel by a 15-year old Palestinian girl while he was standing by a pillbox guard tower, and the security forces announced the arrest of two Palestinians for the June 24, 2015 murder of 70-year-old farmer David Bar Kafra of Rehovot, who was killed while tending his vineyard in Moshav Pedaya. He was taken to the hospital in critical condition where he later died from his wounds.
Most likely these attacks will be attributed to "lone wolves"—persons not acting on specific orders from any particular Palestinian terrorist organization but who are compelled by some other motivation to commit murder. These lone wolf attacks increased during Ramadan, including the stabbings of a female soldier near Bethlehem and a yeshiva student at the Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem, a drive-by shooting in the Shomron that left one dead and three wounded, a shooting near Dolev that left one dead and a driving "accident" in Jerusalem that left one Israeli dead and another seriously wounded.
The attacks have rekindled discussion about whether they should be ascribed to the ongoing incitement against Israelis and Jews in the Palestinian media, school system and speeches by Palestinian Authority (PA) officials.
Criticizing the PA for not distancing itself from these attacks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in late June: "The fact that up until now, the Palestinian Authority has not condemned these attacks needs to bother not only us, but also the international community as a whole. Those who do not take an unequivocal stand against terrorism cannot wash their hands."
A few days later, Minister of Defense Moshe "Bogie" Ya'alon charged the Palestinian Authority with responsibility for the wave of attacks because of the incitement that has been carried on official PA radio and television.
The PA's responsibility to stop incitement and hostile propaganda goes back to the very early days of the “Peace Process” and has been recognized from the outset as essential to the achievement of any peaceful resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
The 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement stipulates that “Israel and the [Palestinian] Council…shall abstain from incitement, including hostile propaganda, against each other and…shall take legal measures to prevent such incitement by any organizations, groups or individuals within their jurisdiction…Israel and the [Palestinian] Council will ensure that their respective educations systems contribute to the peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples and to peace in the entire region, and will refrain from the introduction of any motifs that could adversely affect the process of reconciliation.”
In annexes to the agreement, both sides committed to “act with respect for the values and human dignity of the other side” to focus their educational cooperation on “other ways of promoting better mutual understanding of their respective cultures” to “cooperate in enhancing dialogue and relations between their peoples.”
Since incitement—and terrorism—continued unabated in the PA despite these undertakings, the Wye River Memorandum of Oct. 23, 1998 included a provision under which the Palestinian side agreed to issue a decree prohibiting all forms of incitement to violence or terror and an agreement to establish a joint U.S.-Palestinian-Israeli committee to monitor cases of incitement to violence or terror and to make recommendations on how to prevent it. With little—but continuous arguments—to show for its work, the committee disbanded after about a year.
The Quartet’s “Roadmap to a Permanent Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict" of 2003 specifically required that both sides end all incitement against the other by official institutions. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1515 that endorsed the Roadmap reiterated the demand for an immediate cessation of all acts of violence, including all acts of terrorism, provocation, incitement and destruction.
Unfortunately, all these bilateral and international instruments have remained a dead letter as incitement continues in the PA unabated, coming in many different—some seemingly innocuous—forms.
One of the bluntest forms of incitement to violence is hero worship of terrorists. In the course of June and July alone, PA television carried the expressions of joy by a Palestinian mother at the martyrdom-death of her son; a killer of 67 Israeli civilians was honored by independent Ma'an TV; A PA-Fatah summer camp for kids, featured on various Palestinian news outlets, showed army-uniform clad kids brandishing AK-47 automatic weapons indoctrinated with slogans such as "What was taken by force, can only be restored by force," and youth football (soccer) teams were named for terrorists.
Another form of incitement is anti-Semitism, such as a PA TV program that carried a young girl reciting a poem calling Jews "barbaric monkeys," "the most evil among creations," and those "who murdered Allah's pious prophets." Jews are said to be "throngs... brought up on spilling blood... impure... [and] filth;" or a preacher at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque who told the crowd assembled that "[Jews] prepare their matzah... with the blood of children...They were burned in Germany because they kidnapped young children" to make matzah. (Compiled from Palestinian Media Watch).
Numerous cartoons in the Palestinian media also encourage terrorism. Another method that contributes to encouraging terrorism is the ongoing monthly payment--totaling an estimated $3-7 million annually from the PA budget—as salaries and other financial rewards to terrorists and their families.
Since taking office again in 2009, Netanyahu restored Palestinian incitement as a government priority, charging the Ministry of Strategic Affirms with maintaining an "incitement index" and raising the issue publicly and in official meetings. The last serious attempt to approach this issue was in February 2014 when the Israeli government rejected a Palestinian-American initiative to convene a tripartite committee to address incitement and education toward peace both in Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Then Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz made it clear to the American mediators that a condition for participating in such a committee would be a Palestinian confidence-building measure, like deleting provocative content from official PA websites. Steinitz argued that setting up such a committee would just allow the Palestinians to avoid dealing with the issue themselves on the grounds that there was a committee handling it.
A new, welcome, resolution (H.R. 293) titled "Expressing concern over anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement within the Palestinian Authority" submitted on June 3 to the U.S. House of Representatives by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) reiterates strong condemnation of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement in the Palestinian Authority as antithetical to the cause of peace.
The resolution—after going through a long litany of examples of Palestinian incitement of the worst kind—also urges PA President Mahmud Abbas and Palestinian Authority officials to discontinue all official incitement and exert influence to discourage anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement in Palestinian civil society; and directs the State Department "to regularly monitor and publish information on all official incitement by the Palestinian Authority against Jews and the State of Israel."
With the Palestinian Authority now recognized as a state by the United Nations and by many individual states—including, most recently, the Vatican—it is high time to make it live up to its responsibility to curb deadly incitement. A good first step would be to throw support behind H.R. 293 and then keep Abba's feet to the fire by reporting every infraction to be included in the State Department's report.
Alan Schneider is the director of B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem, which serves as the hub of B'nai B'rith International activities in Israel. The World Center is the key link between Israel and B'nai B'rith members and supporters around the world. To view some of his additional content, Click Here.
If you were retired and living in an apartment community, would you want to live in a building totally isolated from your neighbors, or would you want to live in a vibrant community with a wide variety of programs and activities? Wouldn’t you want to live where you and your neighbors get to know one another, and are able to provide one another with mutual support through the good times and bad?
Luckily, in the B’nai B’rith Senior Housing network, a dedicated group of resident volunteers makes sure it is the latter, through their individual buildings’ “Residents Council” or “Association.”
The membership of each Residents Council is comprised of all the residents in that particular building. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Council is the voice in the community, and acts a liaison between management and the residents, as well as between the residents and the general neighborhood. Another significant role for every Council is to create programming and activities for the tenants. The Councils develop and carry out programs which they feel will improve the social and economic status of their residents.
Moreover, the Council truly enhances the “quality of life” in their respective housing developments, creating a sense of community, shared responsibility and inspiring residents to have a feeling of civic pride in their homes. A key part of this is involving all members in the planning and execution of activities, whether it is an ice cream social or a senior prom.
Senior housing communities that have a well functioning Residents Council, besides just benefiting the residents, also will have benefits for management. Working together on solving community problems allows management to have a better, more satisfying relationship with their tenants, creating a sense of respect instead of mutual distrust. Management can work with the Council to combat problems that affect all residents, such as residents propping open outside doors, people not cleaning up after their dogs, or any other issues that can impact people living in such close proximity in congregate housing. Although not required, HUD is very supportive of each Residents Council in all HUD subsidized buildings.
Recognizing how important these associations are for the tenants, Mark Olshan, Ph.D., director of the B’nai B’rith Center for Senior Services, created a program almost 30 years ago to provide training for these resident leaders of the B’nai B’rith buildings. The first Resident Leadership Retreat took place over three days. Over time, staff realized that it was such a wonderful opportunity, and with so much to learn, the retreat was eventually expanded to six days.
Scenes from previous Resident Leadership Retreats.
The retreat takes place every other summer at B’nai B’rith Perlman Camp, located in the scenic mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania, and is open to two residents from each of our U.S. and Canadian housing communities. One of the best parts of the program is that the retreat takes place while the young campers are still there.
The retreat features a variety of workshops conducted by staff from the B’nai B’rith Center for Senior Services including: how to run a tenants’ association, how to plan activities and programs for their fellow residents, how to recruit and retain volunteers, how to write newsletters and ideas to celebrate the diversity in our buildings. Sessions also provide icebreakers encouraging participants to network and learn from one another. A highlight of the camp experience is the opportunities for intergenerational activities with the elementary through high school population at camp. These programs include Israeli dancing and singing lessons, Shabbat services and various social events.
But that’s not all. The program is designed to be a memorable experience not just for the seniors who attend, but to be a benefit to all of the residents of our housing communities. Each participant is given the opportunity to learn skills so that when they go back to their buildings, they are able to make a difference in the lives of their fellow residents with a strong Residents Association.
In early August, 36 residents will be attending the next Resident Leadership Retreat. Hear from residents who took part in the 2013 retreat:
Janel Doughten is the associate director of the B’nai B’rith International Center for Senior Services, focusing on the subsidized senior housing program. She has been with B’nai B’rith for 23 years, and looks forward to leading the 15th Resident Leadership Retreat later this year. To view some of her additional content, Click Here.
Analysis From Our Experts
B'nai B'rith International has widely respected experts in the fields of: