B’nai B’rith sent the following letter to the editor of the New York Times regarding a recent piece it ran about Miam Bialik:
To the editor,
The New York Times never misses an opportunity to let its anti-Israel bias show.
How ironic that it published a “journalism” piece condemning a Jeopardy host for a lack of neutrality. (Mayim Bialik Wants the ‘Jeopardy!’ Job. Is She ‘Neutral’ Enough? by Julia Jacobs).
What a lack of self-awareness. Though “neutrality” is likely not on the job description for a game show host, it certainly is (or should be) at the top of the list of job prerequisites for a reporter.
There are three references in the piece involving Bialik as a proud, pro-Israel Jew. That's who Bialik is.
Yes, Bialik is outspoken on many topics, including the safety and security of Israel. But is that relevant for a Jeopardy host?
Mayim Bialik is a game show host and actor. Not a trained journalist employed by the self-described “paper of record.”
Daniel S. Mariaschin
B’nai B’rith International CEO
B'nai B'rith Letter to Marriott Regarding Anti-Semitic Treatment of Gil Ofarim and Marriott's Response
German Jewish singer Gil Ofarim was recently denied entry to the Westin Leipzig for wearing a Star of David. When Ofarim spoke out about his inexcusable, anti-Semitic treatment, we immediately sent a letter to parent company Marriott International. Read our letter to Marriott.
We appreciate Marriott's response to us and swift investigation into this horrific anti-Semitic act. Read Marriott's letter responding to us.
The Detroit Jewish News highlighted the community programs held by B’nai B’rith Great Lakes Region during the summer of 2021, including a golf tournament fundraiser and donations made to the Children’s Hospital of Michigan and Yad Ezra.
The Great Lakes Region covers Michigan, Fort Wayne, Ind., and Toledo, Ohio, with most of its activity centered in Metro Detroit, which is home to active lodges, units and numerous community programs.
The B’nai B’rith Great Lakes Region, centered in Metro Detroit, held several community service programs over the summer, including a golf tournament fundraiser and donations made to the Children’s Hospital of Michigan and Yad Ezra.
On July 9, Great Lakes Region President Lila Zorn and Vice President Joel Marwil presented a donation of B’nai B’rith Diverse Minds books to the Children’s Hospital of Michigan. The donation was accepted by Sinéad Nimmo, Child Life Projects specialist at the hospital. Diverse Minds books were created in the B’nai B’rith Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge, held from 2006-2018, which awarded college scholarships to high school students who wrote and illustrated books for young readers that promoted a message of tolerance and diversity. The winning books were published by B’nai B’rith and donated to children’s facilities nationwide. Marwil has distributed Diverse Minds books to libraries, schools and community centers in the area.
On Aug. 2, B’nai B’rith Great Lakes Region held its 39th annual B’nai B’rith Stephen B. Zorn Memorial Golf Outing fundraiser at the Tam-O-Shanter Country Club in West Bloomfield. Proceeds raised from the event benefitted a variety of B’nai B’rith programs and went toward scholarships for four students.
On Aug. 30, Lila Zorn and Judi Shapiro, Great Lakes Region Project H.O.P.E. chairperson, presented a $1,500 check to Yad Ezra, which provides kosher and traditional Passover food, health care products and household items to vulnerable Jewish families in Southeast Michigan. Daniella HarPaz Mechnikov, executive director of Yad Ezra, accepted the check. Project H.O.P.E. — Help Our People Everywhere — works with community family service agencies and local Jewish social services to provide and deliver food packages to communities in need across the United States. The B’nai B’rith Great Lakes Region supports Yad Ezra year-round as part of its community service programs.
The Great Lakes Region covers Michigan, Fort Wayne, Ind., and Toledo, Ohio, with most of its activity centered in Metro Detroit, which is home to active lodges, units and numerous community programs.
The Algemeiner noted our condemnation of the Belgian Constitutional Court's decision to uphold a ban on shechita — the Jewish method of slaughtering animals for kosher consumption. This is a painful blow to freedom of religion, as well as the Jewish and Muslim communities of Belgium.
Jewish advocacy groups were dismayed, if not surprised, by the decision of Belgium’s Constitutional Court on Thursday to uphold a ban on shechita — the Jewish method of slaughtering animals for kosher consumption.
The court issued a ruling affirming the legality of the Belgian ban, originally imposed in 2017, bolstered by the decision of the European Union’s highest court last December to permit EU member states to ban the slaughtering of animals without pre-stunning, despite the requirements of both Jewish and Muslim religious law on this matter.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) made its determination after Belgium’s Constitutional Court referred a lawsuit, filed by the Belgian Federation of Jewish Organizations (CCOJB), to determine whether the bans were lawful.
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER), said that while his group was “disappointed with today’s judgement, we are certainly not surprised as it upholds the status quo in Belgium.”
Goldschmidt added that the court ruling “confirms the ban religious slaughter and brings Belgium into line with those few other countries whose bans on shechita date from the Nazi era.”
In one of the earliest legislative acts of the Nazi regime in Germany, a ban was imposed on the slaughter of animals without pre-stunning in April 1933. Nazi propaganda films routinely depicted shechita as the barbaric practice of an alien people.
Other Jewish organizations issued similar condemnations of the Belgian court’s decision.
“The decision to curb this fundamental religious practice is a painful blow to the freedom of religion and belief of the Jewish — as well as Muslim — communities of Belgium,” said Daniel Mariaschin, CEO of the Washington, DC-based B’nai B’rith International (BBI), in a statement. “The country is home to one of Europe’s largest Jewish communities, which will now face exceedingly difficult hurdles to access kosher meat.”
Mariaschin observed that Belgium had now joined “a shameful growing list of countries putting in place barriers to religious practice.” He noted as well that the supportive ruling of the ECJ in the Belgian case “leaves room for other governments to follow suit.”
World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald Lauder said that Thursday’s court decision was “a continued maneuver to discriminate against Belgium’s Jewish and Muslim citizens.”
Said Lauder: “By prohibiting religious slaughter without stunning, the Belgium Constitutional Court has placed a potentially terminal obstacle to continued Jewish communal life in Europe.”
John Legend Says Israel Needs to Be Held to a “Higher Standard”: “What They’re Doing to the Palestinian People Is Not Fair”
The Jewish Journal included our criticism of singer John Legend's anti-Israel, anti-Semitic remarks in its coverage of Legend's appearance of “The Mehdi Hasan Show" on MSNBC.
Singer John Legend called for Israel to be held to a “higher standard” in a September 20 appearance on MSNBC, arguing that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is “not fair,” The Algemeiner reported.
Mehdi Hasan, host of “The Mehdi Hasan Show,” pointed out that Legend had tweeted “Palestinian Lives Matter” in May during the Israel-Hamas conflict and asked Legend how he became an advocate for Palestinian rights. Legend responded that he learned “what justice meant” through reading the works of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and writer James Baldwin.
“When I see what’s happening in Palestine, to the Palestinian people, where they’re clearly not being able to experience [the] full rights that they deserve, it’s an extremely unfair and difficult life they’re forced to live,” Legend said. “I had to say something. It’s not fair, it’s not just, and given that Israel is the recipient of so much American aid and support and named as one of our strongest allies, we should hold them to a higher standard, and what they’re doing with the Palestinian people is not fair and it shouldn’t be done in our name and with our resources contributing to it.”
Some Jewish groups criticized Legend for his remark. Stop Antisemitism tweeted to Legend that “Egypt is the recipient of nearly the same amount of aid as Israel and controls Gaza’s southern border. Why are you speaking only of Israel and ignoring Egypt??”
They added in a follow-up tweet: “Why did @johnlegend make no mention of the 4500 terror rockets blast into Israel in 11 days from Gaza? Those rockets were also made ‘in your name’ and with your tax dollars. Again why is your grievance only with Israel?”
B’nai Brith International similarly tweeted that they were “disappointed” with Legend’s remarks.
“Legend falsely accuses #Israel of ‘unjust’ treatment of Palestinians, while failing to mention the Hamas terror threats Israelis face every day,” they wrote. “We urge Legend to apologize for his anti-Semitic remarks.”
On the other hand, Jewish Voice for Peace, an organization that supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, tweeted in support of Legend. They argued that he was “speaking out for Palestinian rights and the need for the US to finally hold Israel accountable.”
Hanan Ashrawi, former member of the Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee, similarly tweeted that Legend’s comments took “courage, empathy, & moral clarity.”
JNS, Israel Hayom and Cleveland Jewish News included B'nai B'rith International's condemnation of the resolution adopted by the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) that commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action (DDPA) in its coverage of Durban IV (during UNGA).
A number of American Jewish organizations slammed a resolution adopted on Wednesday at a high-level meeting at the UN General Assembly that commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action (DDPA) stemming from a notoriously anti-Semitic World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, in 2001.
"The resolution predictably claimed that the DDPA offered 'a comprehensive United Nations framework and solid foundation for combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance,' and reaffirmed commitment to its 'full and effective implementation,' " stated B'nai B'rith International in a news release on Friday.
The original Durban declaration was censured by Jewish groups and nations such as the United States for allowing the presence of overt anti-Semitic and anti-Israel hate, as well as including Palestinians as the only group named as victims of racism.
B'nai B'rith wrote that it has worked over the past few weeks in partnership with the Jewish Broadcasting Service on Durban, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. The organization featured luminaries such as Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky, intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévi, former US National Security Advisor John Bolton and others, culminating in an hour-long interview with B'nai B'rith honorary president Richard Heideman, who led the Jewish delegation at the Durban conference and his wife, Phyllis Heideman, president of the International March of the Living.
In the past year, B'nai B'rith also lobbied other nations to join the United States and Israel in boycotting the anniversary conference, also known as Durban IV, leading to a total of 35 countries that declined to participate in the commemoration.
"This public disassociation by a substantial moral minority at the UN represents a meaningful victory against efforts to hijack the world body and the critical fight against racism – specifically, racism against people of African descent – for the purposes of delegitimizing Israel by obscenely equating only it and Jews' national liberation movement, Zionism, with racism," B'nai B'rith wrote in the statement.
Countries that boycotted the proceedings included Albania, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, the Dominican Republic, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Moldova, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States and Uruguay.
'A vicious slander against the Jewish state'
AIPAC also strongly condemned Durban IV on its Twitter account, while individually tweeting appreciation for countries that joined the boycott.
"The UN #DurbanIV conference is a cesspool of discriminatory, anti-Israel propaganda," AIPAC tweeted on Tuesday. "'Zionism=Racism' is a vicious slander against the Jewish state and its supporters. America and many allies stand proudly with Israel in boycotting this despicable conference."
Alex Safian, associate director at CAMERA, which monitors bias in reporting on Israel and the Middle East, noted that there was no improvement in Durban IV and the passed resolution than in the previous three conferences.
"The original Durban Conference in 2001 created the firestorm of renewed and growing anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, and the statements yesterday from Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and her radical colleagues are just an example of this in our own Congress," he said in an email. "The United Nations was founded as a reaction to Nazism and the Holocaust, but the Durban process proves that fascists and bigots are still much more comfortable in the UN than Jews."
Anti-Israel members of the Democratic Party also motivated Zionist Organization of America national president Mort Klein to make a few phone calls to UN offices he had connections with to urge them not to attend Durban IV. His organization put out a news release lauding nations that announced they would not participate, though after that acknowledged following the proceedings only a little bit.
Klein said during one of his calls, one official him that "anti-Semites" in Congress had inspired a number of countries that were thinking of not participating in Durban IV to join.
"This one guy told me, you should know that inadvertently or directly, they've had an impact on several countries that participated, figuring they have to cover it because there are a dozen anti-Semites in Congress," said Klein, adding that the official also told him that he believed Jew-hatred will continue to grow in the United Nations.
20 years ago, the UN Durban Conference aimed to combat racism. It devolved into a ‘festival of hate’ against Jews.
B'nai B'rith International's Honorary President Richard D. Heideman and Director of Latin American Affairs Eduardo Kohn spoke to JTA about their experiences at the 2001 U.N. Durban conference that devolved into anti-Israel hatred.
Some of the Jewish organizational officials flying into the coastal city of Durban, South Africa, on the last week of August 2001 were excited. They believed the U.N.’s anti-racism conference there would be an opportunity to exchange notes on a cause that the Jewish world had worked on for decades.
Others, steeped in how the United Nations and its affiliates functioned, were wary of some of the players, who were known for tirelessly steering every international conference to complaints about Israel. Still others who had been tracking preparations for the gathering knew that Iran, Israel’s implacable enemy, was planning to take over the proceedings.
But no one was prepared for what it became — a carnival of antisemitic expression that drove Jewish participants to tears each night and had them fearing for their physical safety.
“It was worse than I had imagined,” recalled Irwin Cotler, a longtime Jewish human rights lawyer in Canada who would go on to be his nation’s justice minister. “Because it was a festival of hate.”
As is conventional at U.N. forums, the governmental conference, which ran Sept. 2-9, was preceded by the nongovernmental organization conference Aug. 27-Sept. 2.
Both would be overshadowed by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But the NGO conference, say the Jewish participants who attended, was a template for the next 20 years of anti-Israel rhetoric, codifying the argument now increasingly prevalent on the left that Israel is an apartheid state deserving of isolation. It was also an eye opener for many in terms of how criticism of Israel, however legitimate, can be co-opted by an antisemitic agenda.
The failure of the human rights organizations present to come to the defense of the Jewish participants, who walked out to jeers and threats, created a rift that persists until today. Over a dozen countries, including the U.S., Canada, Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom, are boycotting this year’s Durban conference over its antisemitic history.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency spoke to nine Jewish officials who were at the 2001 conference, including Cotler, who was then a member of the Canadian parliament.
The others are:
— Stacy Burdett, then the associate government relations director at the Anti-Defamation League;
— Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center;
— Felice Gaer, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights;
— Richard Heideman, then the president of B’nai B’rith International;
— Phyllis Heideman, his wife, who had attended a number of U.N. conferences as a delegate of B’nai B’rith;
— David Killion, then the chief of staff to Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., the only Holocaust survivor ever elected to Congress, who headed the U.S. delegation to the governmental conference;
— Eduardo Kohn, the B’nai B’rith International director of Latin American Affairs;
— A top Jewish organizational official at the time who is now in a job where she is not permitted to speak on the record.
Heading into the conference: “There was a little bit of naivete going into it.”
Cotler: “In 1997, when it was first announced that there was going to be a world conference against racism in South Africa in 2001, I greeted it with anticipation, if not excitement, because this was going to be the first world conference against racism in the 21st century, and I felt that it would give underrepresented groups a voice and a presence. Second, it was going to be the first international human rights conference of the 21st century. Human rights had emerged as a new secular religion of our times, and this conference would be as timely as it would be significant. And third thing is, it was taking place in Durban, South Africa. I not only had a longtime involvement in the anti-apartheid movement but actually had been arrested.” [Cotler was arrested in apartheid South Africa in 1981 for delivering a lecture at a university in which he said that Nelson Mandela had as much right to freedom as Natan Sharansky, then a prisoner in the Soviet Union whom Cotler represented as a human rights lawyer. He went on to lead anti-apartheid advocacy in Canada.]
Burdett: “I was born in 1964, so for Americans of my age, it was like the antisemitism was over, right? So there was this aspect of, in preparing for Durban, my focus was trying to make sure ADL got a good spot for doing events on our anti-racism trainings. So there was a little bit of naivete going into it.”
Richard Heideman: “In 1985, there was a U.N. conference to assess and appraise the status of women that was held in Nairobi, Kenya. Phyllis was designated as a delegate by B’nai B’rith International, which is the oldest Jewish organization with standing at the U.N. When we arrived in Nairobi we found at the NGO forum and at the U.N. conference itself terrible hatred toward Israel and the Jewish people.”
The 1975 U.N. General Assembly resolution equating Zionism with racism permeated the Nairobi conference. In 1991, years of Jewish organizational advocacy and U.S. diplomacy brought about the revocation of the resolution, fueling hope that Israel would not be a focus at Durban.
Gaer: “We had a secretary-general who, for the first time in the history of the U.N., actually used the word ‘Holocaust,’ who was married to the niece of one of the great Holocaust-era heroes. [Kofi Annan, who was instrumental in the establishment of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, was married to Nane Lagergren, whose uncle was Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat whose actions saved thousands of Hungarian Jews.] And we had expectations that a world conference on racism could not only address the scourge of racism, which we have seen in such ugly ways in the former Yugoslavia, the Bosnia conflict and in Rwanda, but that could also address race issues in individual countries. Those of us who were engaged in Jewish organizations also felt this was an opportunity in which we could talk about combating antisemitism as one of a whole variety of forms of intolerance and racial discrimination and racism that needed to be eradicated.”
Cooper: “The truth is that when we went, we’d already seen storm clouds [after Iran maneuvered to set the agenda at a preparatory meeting in February], although no one had any clue about how bad it would be on the ground, how terrible it would be on the ground.”
Iran and a striking image set the stage
In retrospect, there were signs that there were actors intent on making Israel a focus of the conference. The main conference was preceded in late 2000 and early 2001 by regional conferences. The final regional conference, for Asian countries, took place in Tehran in February 2001. Iran refused to allow Israelis and Jewish organizations to attend.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, another Jewish organization accredited at the United Nations, asked the U.N. human rights commissioner — Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland who was organizing the conference — to move the venue to another Asian country. Robinson declined but pledged that she would make the Iranians allow Jewish and Israeli representatives to attend.
Cooper: “Mary Robinson promised us up the wazoo, ‘You guys have every right to attend the meeting in Tehran.’ But we didn’t get the right to go until after the last planes from Paris and New York left for Tehran so that it would be impossible for us to reach there. And that’s where a lot of the stuff was cooked.”
Whereas Jewish and Israeli delegates could influence summary statements at regional preparatory conferences in Africa, Latin America and Europe, Iran’s maneuver meant that the Asian summary document amounted to an indictment of Israel. It accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing,” of implementing “a new kind of Apartheid” and “a crime against humanity,” and said Zionism was “based on race superiority.” Much of the Iran-influenced document became a template for the NGO declaration at the Durban conference.
Cotler: “There was a six-point indictment of Israel at the regional conference in Tehran, one of the most scurrilous indictments of Israel since the end of the Second World War.”
The Second Intifada had been underway for almost a year by the time the conference started, and one of its most striking images, caught on video, persisted: The Sept. 30, 2000 killing of Muhammad al-Durrah, a 12-year-old Palestinian caught in the crossfire during a battle between Israeli and Palestinian forces. Images of al-Durrah proliferated at the conference, including on T-shirts. “Killed on September 30 2000, for being Palestinian,” a T-shirt said on one side. On the other side it read “Occupation = Colonialism = Racism. End Israeli apartheid.”
Burdett: “The Palestinians really had an edge here because they have the popular vote. There were pictures of Muhammad al-Durrah everywhere. They had the sympathy vote.”
Richard Heideman: “What we faced was phenomenal in terms of the visible expression of hatred, not just placards but photographs, and talking about Jews and Israelis as murderers.”
Burdett: “There was an NGO kind of infrastructure managing this [on the South African end], a South African NGO that received large grants from the U.N. [SANGOCO, a coalition of South African NGOs]. And even before Durban started they did a mission for NGOs for the West Bank, so there was a lot of writing on the wall.”
“I saw grown men crying, weeping.”
Not long after they landed, the conference-goers noticed a ubiquitous flyer with a picture of Adolf Hitler. “WHAT IF I HAD WON?’ it asked. “The good things: There would be no Israel and no Palestinian’s [sic] bloodshed. The bad things: I wouldn’t have allowed the making of the new Beetle. THE REST IS YOUR GUESS.”
The Arab Lawyers Union also distributed pamphlets filled with caricatures of hook-nosed Jews depicted as Nazis spearing Palestinian children, dripping blood from their fangs, with missiles bulging from their eyes or with pots of money nearby. Copies of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a notorious antisemitic text, were available. Calls to the organizers to remove the materials went unheeded.
The confrontational imagery was reflected in personal encounters. Protesters surrounded Jewish students who set up a stand near the press tent and screamed at them.
Kohn: “We couldn’t speak out in the meetings because in the moment we started speaking — any Jewish delegation — the shouts of ‘You kill the Palestinians, you’re like the Nazis you’re a racist, apartheid’ and whatever — it made us impossible to speak out.”
Cooper: “The Lawyers Guild from Egypt did political cartoons that literally would have belonged in Der Sturmer. Our attempts to get them removed were basically laughed at. So we called a press conference. At that press conference, before we started, a phalanx of Iranian women in black rush the press conference and try to push over the shtender [podium] and try to kill the press conference. They were eventually physically removed. So the physical intimidation was there.”
Kohn: “There was a Uruguayan minister [Education Minister Antonio Mercader] who came up to me and said it was risky, we need protection. I mean it was unbelievable. We were at a U.N. conference.”
On Friday, Aug. 31, the Jewish delegation learned that South African unions were staging a massive pro-Palestinian demonstration at the conference grounds, the Kingsmead Cricket Stadium. Security officials warned Jewish participants to stay away.
Cooper: “I was approached by the chief of police of Durban and told the following: ‘Rabbi, please, I’m asking you, do not try to go from here to the Jewish community center today.’ ‘Why not? It’s like 2 1/2 blocks away.’ He said, ‘We cannot guarantee your safety.’ And just then when we looked out — we went up higher [in the stadium] — 20,000 people have been brought in by train by the trade unions in order to do Israel apartheid protests, in which the famous picture of the banner ‘Hitler was right’ was hoisted. They were giving out free copies of the ‘Protocols of Zion.’”
Burdett: “We had put out an SMS to everyone’s cellphone, ‘Do not go near that demonstration’ because our information is that it’s going to be heavily laced with and motivated by antisemitism and that we should not be visible. They were carrying signs and wearing T-shirts that said ‘Apartheid Israel.’ Someone had gone to the townships and just distributed T-shirts to people who just could use a shirt to wear. And so that street demonstration was just filled with people wearing freshly minted anti-Israel T-shirts. And so the effort to make Israel such a prominent issue at this conference was very organized.”
Cooper: “The one lifeline for the Jewish groups was the Jewish community center of Durban. That was the place we came at night to lick our wounds, where I saw grown men crying, weeping. It was that bad.”
On the evening of Saturday, Sept. 1, the conference-goers convened to work out the final text of the NGO declaration. It was a chaotic scene, but the steering committee achieved a modicum of order by allowing each group to propose an amendment that defined the discrimination they suffer. That prompted the Jewish delegation to propose an amendment that pushed back against the conference’s anti-Zionism and referenced the spike in worldwide antisemitism after the start of the Second Intifada.
It said: “We are concerned with the prevalence of anti-Zionism and attempts to delegitimize the State of Israel through wildly inaccurate charges of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and apartheid, as a virulent contemporary form of antisemitism, leading to the firebombing of synagogues, armed assaults against Jews, incitement to killing and the murder of innocent Jews for their support for the existence of the State of Israel, the assertion of the right to self-determination of the Jewish people and the attempts through the State of Israel to preserve their cultural and religious identity.”
The conference overwhelmingly rejected the amendment, with only delegations from Central Europe and the Roma joining the Jewish delegation in favoring its inclusion. That was a breaking point. The entire Jewish delegation rose to leave, and the crowd erupted in shouts and threats.
Richard Heideman: “We were walking out in a procession with people jeering us on the sides.”
Kohn: “While we were walking we received very, very, very rude insults, antisemitic insults and the threats of being attacked, I mean attacked physically, attacks that were averted by the guards of the conference, I mean, if we didn’t have the protection of the guards …”
Read the full story in JTA.
The Hebrew Watchman (Jewish Scene Magazine) included letters from both B'nai B'rith International President Charles O. Kaufman and Memphis-area B’nai B’rith leader Harold I. Steinberg to Germantown Municipal School District superintendent Dr. Jason Manuel in response to a district administrator comparing vaccine papers to yellow stars.
Several prominent Jewish community leaders, rabbis, organizations and Congressman Steve Cohen have responded to a Facebook post by an administrator in the Germantown Municipal School District comparing vaccine papers to yellow stars.
Within days, Memphis-area news outlets aired and published information concerning the comments by the administrator, Janna Matykiewicz, at Houston High School. The post, which has since been taken off Facebook, read “What’s the difference between vaccine papers and a yellow star? 82 years.”
Rabbi Jeremy Simons of Temple Is- rael commented to NBC Action News 5 that “to know this came from an ed- ucator... it was shocking and deeply distressing.”
Rabbi Sarit Horwitz of Beth Sholom spoke with ABC Local 24 saying “vac- cines are about giving life and uphold- ing life for everyone, for ourselves, for our families, for our larger community whereas the mass genocide of the Jew- ish people was about killing people.”
Letters were also sent to Dr. Jason Manuel, superintendent Germantown Municipal School District concerning her remarks. A student started a petition to fire the administrator at change.org, which at the time of this article had re- ceived 2,417 signatures.
Read more in the Hebrew Watchman.
Charles O. Kaufman, president B’nai B’rith International and local B’nai B’rith member Harold I. Steinberg sent the following letters to Dr. Manuel.
Letter from B'nai B'rith International President Charles O. Kaufman to Dr. Jason Manuel, superintendent Germantown Municipal School District:
Dear Dr. Manuel,
There is no confusion surrounding the message behind Janna Matykiewicz’s Facebook post: “What’s the difference between vaccine papers and a yellow star? 82 years.”
By invoking the yellow star used by Nazis to segregate and identify Jews as a population to be demonized, your colleague has entered something more than simply a poor use of a metaphor from history. Imagine the message that already is filtering through the Germantown school community, not just Houston High School.
This is an administrator who has a problem relating events in history to the management of today’s Covid-19 pan- demic, which has exploded into a most serious health concern with the current wave of variants. It is a matter of ignorance, pure and simple, a lack of sen- sitivity and perhaps latent hatred. This was no slip of the tongue or an example taken out of context.
A severe reprimand, a suspension or dismissal is certainly in order. In the meantime, it is important for Ms. Matykiewicz, faculty and students to understand why such parallels are so abhor- rent, and I trust you will wisely guide your colleagues to make this circumstance a teaching opportunity.
Frankly, Jews around the world have enough problems with anti-Semites casually accusing Jews and Israel of acting like “Nazis” or practicing “Apartheid.” And now the unmistakable 82-year time frame of wearing yellow stars. These are false narratives, if not blood libels, of modern times.
Today’s education system has many successes, to be sure, but this incident is proof that education is sliding into a very deep hole of learning deficits.
B’nai B’rith has worked in the Memphis area and around the world to serve the good of the community and stamp out anti-Semitism and we stand ready to assist you in solving this problem.
President, B’nai B’rith International
Letter from Memphis-area B’nai B’rith leader Harold I. Steinberg to Dr. Jason Manuel, superintendent Germantown Municipal School District:
Dear Dr. Manuel,
As a member of the Sam Schloss Lodge of B’nai B’rith, founded in Memphis in 1854 (yes, in 1854), I am proud of its long record of service. As an example, following the assassination of President Lincoln, the entire lodge marched in a local memorial procession. In addition, B’nai B’rith has an unmatched record of support to the United States and members of the military service. President Truman sent a letter to B’nai B’rith thanking the organization for its “amazing amount of national service.” There are many other examples I could cite.
I am also a member of the Germantown Financial Advisory Commission. I have long been proud of the commission’s steadfast support for quality education in our city and the Germantown Municipal School District. But the recent news report about Janna Matykiewicz’s post on Facebook tells me that there is more work to do.
Simply stated, Ms. Matykiewicz must be disciplined, suspended or terminated. GMSD cannot allow such remarks to go unanswered.
Students at Houston High School should benefit from administrators who clearly understand that America is stronger for its diversity. I ask that you ensure this message is received by students, faculty and staff, not only at Houston High School, but throughout the entire GMSD.
I stand ready to assist you in any way.
Harold I. Steinberg
The Jerusalem Post quoted B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin concerning the fall of Afghanistan and the strategic, regional uncertainty that it has unleashed – particularly with regard to Iran, the Palestinians and the future of the Abraham Accords.
WASHINGTON — US Jewish organizations were following closely as the drama was unfolding. Even before Thursday’s terror attack, it was already clear that the Afghanistan withdrawal will overshadow the meeting between US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. But the deadly attack near the Kabul airport made it clear that the administration’s attention is currently elsewhere, as the President and his close staff monitored the developments from the situation room, postponing the meeting to a later timing.
William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, told The Jerusalem Post that “as we watch the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the alliance and partnership between the United States and the State of Israel is more critical than ever.”
Speaking about the meeting, Daroff said that he expected the two new administrations “to make significant progress on issues of mutual and fundamental importance to all Americans and Israelis during Prime Minister Bennett’s first US trip to Washington since assuming office — the first opportunity for the two leaders to meet face-to-face during their many years in public service.”
“These priorities include sharing knowledge and resources to counter the COVID-19 virus and its variants, how best to deter Iranian aggression and hold its nuclear program accountable and in check, and defending and promoting Israel’s security, peace, and stability,” he said.
Dan Mariaschin, CEO of B’nai B’rith International, told the Post that with the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban and all of the strategic uncertainty that it has unleashed, “events would hopefully dictate a further closing of the ranks between Washington and Jerusalem on Iran and the Palestinian issue.”
“This is clearly no time for risk-taking with Iran, including sanctions relief, especially given the election of Ebrahim Raisi, Tehran’s ratcheting up enrichment and other aspects of its nuclear program, and its malign behavior throughout the region,” said Mariaschin.
“With regard to the Palestinian issue, the PA’s pay-for-slay program and its incessant efforts at the UN and elsewhere to demonize Israel suggests more business-as-usual in Ramallah,” he continued. “There should be no rush to proffer additional incentives to the PA —such as re-opening of the PLO office in Washington and certainly not re-opening of the consulate in Jerusalem — in the face of its zero-sum recalcitrance.”
“Finally, we hope that the success of the Abraham Accords will move the administration to proactively seek out, together with Israel, new partners for peace and cooperation in the region, to join those already committed to this camp,” Mariaschin said.
Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) CEO Halie Soifer released a statement on Thursday morning, saying that the meeting between President Biden and Prime Minister Bennett is the first meeting between a new US president and new Israeli Prime Minister in more than a decade. “It ushers in a new chapter for the United States and Israel, and reaffirms the strength of our historic and mutually beneficial bilateral relationship,” she said.
“President Biden entered office with a longer and stronger record of support for Israel than any of his predecessors, and has been steadfast in his support for Israel’s security and right to self-defense,” she said.
She went on to say that The United States and Israel “share a common goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. With the future of a renewed Iran nuclear agreement remaining, at best, uncertain, we welcome close collaboration between the US and Israel in ensuring that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon.”
Jeremy Ben Ami, President of the progressive group, J Street, said in a statement on Thursday that “while the US builds common ground with the new Israeli government in a number of areas, we also must make clear that the “status quo” is too dangerous to accept.”
“J Street is urging President Biden to make clear in [the] meeting that a strong, enduring, bipartisan US-Israel relationship demands fidelity to our shared values of democracy, peace and respect for human rights,” said Ben Ami. “That means pushing for an end to harmful settlement expansion; an end to discriminatory evictions in East Jerusalem and demolitions in the West Bank; an end to the policy of perpetual occupation; an end to the twin erosion of Israeli democracy and Palestinian hopes for self-determination,” he said in a statement.
JNS quoted B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin in its coverage of the upcoming first in-person meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, and what Jewish leaders hope will come from the meeting.
(August 24, 2021 / JNS) The fallout from U.S. troops leaving Afghanistan has taken over news headlines and will likely overshadow the upcoming first in-person meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the White House on Thursday, even geared as it is with the aim of solidifying and strengthening ties between the allies, and bolstering regional security.
“The history is that strong relationships between the government of Israel and the government of the United States have transcended what party is in power, what government is in power from either country,” said Eric Fingerhut, president and CEO for the Jewish Federations of North America. “But the fact is, when there are new leaders, you have to renew those ties—you have to build the relationship.”
While other members of the Israeli government have in recent months been meeting with their American counterparts, Bennett will be the first new Israeli prime minister in more than a decade, and unlike his predecessor, is not acquainted with Biden. Fingerhut emphasized the relationship between both administrations to show continuity.
“From the perspective of Jewish Federations of North America, the most important thing that we want to see is the building of the relationship between the prime minister and the president, and the fact that this is happening despite COVID and despite the challenges that Israel faces, the challenges that the United States faces in the United States and elsewhere, I think is very significant, and it transcends any specific issue we might wish to raise,” he said.
Jewish organizational leaders in the United States largely agree on the topics the two leaders are expected to discuss, with the international threat of a nuclear and belligerent Iran heading the list of priorities.
“The most important thing that can come out of this is a good rapport between the prime minister and the president, [so] they can start to build a very productive working relationship,” said Nathan Diament, executive director of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center. “I would say what’s good for the atmosphere in the American-Jewish community is for there to be a good, friendly, productive relationship between the president of the United States and the prime minister of Israel because if there’s friction, then that creates tension with the community as well.”
‘An opportunity to close any gaps’
Both administrations have departed from the policies of their predecessors to varying degrees and have a number of divergent opinions with each other. Biden has notably sought to re-enter the Iran nuclear deal, which former President Donald Trump left in 2018, as well as restore aid and ties with the Palestinians, which Trump also severed. While Bennett, a right-winger, likely shares his predecessor’s views on Iran and the Palestinians, he may lack the clout to sway Biden on the issues.
Dan Mariaschin, CEO of B’nai B’rith International, hopes that the conversation could move the two nations closer to an agreement on certain issues.
“I think, hopefully, in light of the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan and the election before that of Ebrahim Raisi as president of Iran, that there would be an opportunity to perhaps close any gaps that might have existed before between the two governments on the Iran issue,” he said. “Israel, of course, has all along expressed its justified opposition to any deal with the Iranians that would create some kind of daylight for them to continue in some way—whether it’s sooner or later—their nuclear program. And now, impacted by the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, all of this should be put on pause because we really have to assess what this means for the Iranians in terms of the opportunity for additional instability to be fomented throughout the region.”
Fingerhut said that Bennett should deliver the message that the threats of instability and radicalism that threaten Israel are the same as those that threaten the United States—the terroristic threat that reached American shores almost 20 years ago on Sept. 11, 2001, is also related to the recent war between Israel and Hamas.
The organizational leaders were concerned about the Biden administration’s willingness to enter the 2015 Iran nuclear deal—the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—despite receiving any concessions from Iran.
“I hope what comes out of it is the sanctions that are still in place now will remain in place, and I hope [Bennett] puts pressure on Biden to not make a deal, at minimum, unless America can visit any military facility at will,” said Mort Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America.
“Right now, it has to give a notice of 28 days. It’s ridiculous. They clear everything out,” he said. “So the three things he’s got to do is to say if you make a deal, you’ve got to have a much longer sunset period—20 or 30 years. Two, you have got to keep the sanctions in place until we see some sort of transformation of the regime towards a civilized society. And three, any new deal has to allow them to visit military facilities at will, not give them a 28-day notice.”
‘The worst appeasement message imaginable’
Organizational leaders also hope that the two sides agree not to let the United States dictate the timetable for Israeli-Palestinian peace, especially while Palestinian officials refuse to faithfully negotiate.
“The P.A. [Palestinian Authority] has not moved at all on pay-for-slay; funds are being given to UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees] … really with nothing substantial in terms of reforms, in terms of commitments to change school curricula. And now, there’s also the issue where the administration would like to reopen the consulate in eastern Jerusalem,” said Mariaschin. “And if one gives away all of your leverage, without receiving anything in return, then what should we expect?”
Mariaschin said that he hopes Israel’s concerns will be factored into American policymaking.
“There should really be no rush to conclude any kind of hasty return either to the table or to try to move on some kind of an arrangement without ascertaining that there would be something in return,” he said, adding that since the Abraham Accords signed between Israel and neighboring Arab nations a year ago, there have been encouraging signs for peace and stability in the region, despite the Israeli-Palestinian conflict not being resolved.
The consulate is a critical issue for Klein, who is opposed to its reopening, especially in Jerusalem.
“Israel is going to try to make it clear that they can’t open a consulate in Israel’s capital because this is a radical terrorist regime that has refused to negotiate for 12 years; pays Arabs to murder Jews and Americans; names schools, streets and sports teams after terrorists; and promotes hatred and violence against Jews in every aspect of their culture,” he said. “This would be the worst appeasement message imaginable—that despite their outrageous behavior, they’re being allowed to open up a consulate in Israel’s capital. This would undermine the thesis that this is Israel’s capital and send a message to them that they can get away with acting horribly and they still get rewarded.”
So far, it remains unclear if organizational leaders will meet with Bennett while he is in the United States, with COVID-19 creating the need to limit contact, and none of the leaders JNS spoke with scheduled to meet with the prime minister.
Another topic of conversation, of course, would be the uptick in anti-Semitic incidents in America and throughout the world, especially in the wake of the conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip in May.
Said Fingerhut: “I know that Prime Minister Bennett—because Jewish Federation leadership was with him just days before he became prime minister—cares deeply about the rise of anti-Semitism around the world. That he sees his role as prime minister as caring for the Jewish people around the world and I hope and expect that will be also a topic of conversation between them.”
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