The New York Jewish Week quoted B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin in an article on the response to threats made on Jewish institutions. Mariaschin is quoted discussing the call for a Department of Justice special envoy to handle the rise in anti-Semitism.
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Suffolk JCC sends out pitch letter for security upgrade as new community demands surface.
Just four days after a St. Louis man was arrested for allegedly making bomb threats against the Manhattan headquarters of the Anti-Defamation League and eight Jewish community centers and schools primarily in the New York area, more threats were made Tuesday to 12 JCCs and four ADL offices.
Amid this sixth wave of bomb threats since the beginning of the year, Jewish leaders pressed for more arrests and called for a high-level government envoy to deal with anti-Semitism in the U.S.
And in a sign of the times, a JCC in Suffolk took the unusual step of sending out a fundraising letter Tuesday to its members asking for money to pay for a “comprehensive overhaul” of its aging security systems.
“I’m not a police expert, but with all the resources and technology available to law enforcement, I don’t understand why so few people have been arrested,” said Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind. “That’s a real problem.”
In addition to more than 100 bomb threats to JCCs, Jewish schools, ADL offices and the Museum of Jewish History in Manhattan, authorities are also investigating the desecration and vandalism of several Jewish cemeteries. Although the discovery last weekend of a dozen toppled headstones at a Brooklyn cemetery was labeled by Hikind as vandalism, authorities said it could be the result of neglect.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said he believes the “response has been very strong” by law enforcement officials on both the federal and local level.
“The FBI has worked closely with SCN [Security Community Network] and been very responsive, as have other police departments and legislators at the state and local level,” he said.
SCN is the Jewish community’s leading national security agency. Its national director, Paul Goldenberg, was one of the Jewish leaders who met with FBI officials including its director, James Comey, at FBI headquarters in Washington last Friday, to discuss the bomb threats.
“I will assure you that the FBI has tremendous assets in this investigation and I’m positive we’ll see a positive outcome,” he said.
Doron Krakow, the newly installed president and CEO of the JCC Association of North America, said he found it “extraordinary he [Comey] convened that meeting. He does not routinely engage [with communal leaders] but wanted to make sure we knew they were making material progress. … There is no question that progress continues to be made.”
We cannot succumb to these threats — it would be a victory for the terrorists.
The latest bomb threats prompted all 100 U.S. senators on Tuesday to send letters to Comey, Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to express their concern that “the number of incidents is accelerating and failure to address and deter these threats will place innocent people at risk and threaten the financial viability of JCCs, many of which are institutions in their communities.”
Hoenlein told The Jewish Week that although the threats have been unfounded, “they have had a very detrimental impact, dissuading people from attending JCC events, compelling parents to pull their children out [of JCC programs] and disrupting communal life. We cannot succumb to these threats — it would be a victory for the terrorists.”
White House press secretary Sean Spicer acknowledged the new threats, telling reporters: “We’ll continue to condemn them and look at ways in which we can stop them.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday ordered the state police to coordinate with federal and local law enforcement to investigate the latest threats against JCCs in Rochester and Syracuse and the ADL headquarters in Manhattan. He has repeatedly denounced the threats, even making a last minute one-day solidarity trip to Israel last weekend. Such trips by elected officials have usually been made when Israel is at war with its neighbors.
Hoenlein pointed out that “members of Congress are trying to get additional funds to be allocated by this administration” for additional cameras and other security equipment for Jewish institutions.
“That’s important because so many institutions are so strapped for money that security usually gets relegated to the last position [in terms of priorities],” he said.
But that may be changing for some JCCs. The Suffolk Y sent a fundraising email to its members Tuesday saying “investing in security has become a priority” and that it is expected to cost $175,000 for a “comprehensive overhaul” of its aging security systems.
“We must have the most advanced tools to stay ahead of the curve of what is necessary to ensure safety,” said the email, signed by Rob Greenberger, the Y’s chief executive officer. “We live in uncertain times that foster feelings of anxiety and worry which have been elevated since a rash of non-credible threats have been made to JCCs nationwide.”
Dan Mariaschin, executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International, said he is calling for the creation of a Justice Department special coordinator to deal with anti-Semitism in the United States. And he and other Jewish groups have called on the Trump administration to fill the position of special envoy in the State Department for monitoring and combating anti-Semitism abroad. The administration is said to be considering not filling the post for budgetary reasons.
“With anti-Semitism on the rise around the world, now is not the time to eliminate” it, Mariaschin said.
Ken Jacobson, deputy national director of the ADL, said his organization is calling for an interagency task force to deal with hate in the U.S. and does not favor a coordinator to deal with domestic anti-Semitism.
Jacobson added that while he was pleased that one person has been arrested for making eight bomb threats, “there have been dozens of other bomb threats and at least two cemetery desecrations [involving the toppling of heavy tombstones] that required time and tools and more than one person.”
The arrest of Juan Thompson, 31, came after authorities said some of his emailed and phone threats were made in the name of a former love interest as part of a “sustained campaign to harass and intimidate her.” Federal authorities in New York charged him with cyberstalking and other crimes and were said to consider him a “copycat.”
Thompson is also alleged to have made some of the threats in his own name, according to a criminal complaint filed in Manhattan Federal Court. A former reporter for an online publication, he was fired early last year for allegedly fabricating quotes and sources. He had worked there a little over a year.
The Zionist Organization of America pointed out that Thompson’s Twitter account revealed his conversion to Islam and his hatred of Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel and America. He also claimed that Israel “loved bombing innocents” and is never entitled to defend itself against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
“After decades of mainstream Jewish organizations crying wolf by reviling young Jews who want the same rights for Palestinians that Jews correctly have sought for ourselves and many other oppressed groups, the Jewish establishment deserves some responsibility for weakening their own credibility and diminishing the American public’s concern when now our community is facing real anti-Semitism.” – Rabbi Lerner
Among those writing columns about the rash of anti-Semitic incidents is Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun Magazine, who complained of “indifference” to these events by the media and public because they have been “overdosed with cries of anti-Semitism.”
“After decades of mainstream Jewish organizations crying wolf by reviling young Jews who want the same rights for Palestinians that Jews correctly have sought for ourselves and many other oppressed groups, the Jewish establishment deserves some responsibility for weakening their own credibility and diminishing the American public’s concern when now our community is facing real anti-Semitism,” Rabbi Lerner wrote.
But that view was completely rejected by David Bernstein, president and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the public affairs arm of the organized Jewish community.
“There is always a danger of overstating anti-Semitism that can cost one his credibility over time,” he told The Jewish Week, “but there is no evidence of that in the current context. We have seen thousands of people come together around desecrated cemeteries, and public officials and law enforcement act with great alacrity towards the bomb threats directed at JCCs.”
He pointed out that there is also “no evidence of rising anti-Semitic attitudes among Americans, and a Pew Research study recently confirmed that Jews are the most admired religious group. “I think what we are seeing is an emboldening of extremes in American society. On the left there are those who delegitimize Israel and on the right you see the emergence of the alt-right and white supremacy groups.
“The overall political atmosphere can make it more or less hospitable for anti-Semitism to exist, but there is no clear causation between the political campaign [and the increase in anti-Semitic incidents].”
He said his organization also supports the ADL’s call for federal and state legislation to protect students from increasing religious harassment and discrimination on college campuses.
Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents said he would “like to see the Department of Education adopt a definition of anti-Semitism in order to hold universities [accountable] to a standard” of behavior on campus.
Arutz Sheva posted B’nai B’rith’s press release on its website on the upcoming B'nai B'rith World Center and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jews who Rescued Fellow Jews During the Holocaust (JRJ) Jewish Rescuer’s Citation. The Citation is being given posthumously to Naftali Backenroth-Bronicki, who risked his life saving Jews from deportation and extermination during the Holocaust in Drohobych, Poland.
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Naftali Backenroth-Bronicki, who risked his life saving Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland, is a forgotten hero of the Holocaust.
The B'nai B'rith World Center and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jews who Rescued Fellow Jews During the Holocaust (JRJ) will confer their joint "Jewish Rescuer's Citation" upon Naftali Backenroth-Bronicki, who risked his life saving Jews from deportation and extermination during the Holocaust in Drohobych, Poland. The citations will be conferred at a ceremony on March 7 at Beit Hatfutsot – Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Backenroth was born in 1905 in Drohobych, Galicia. Heir to an oil family, Backenroth studied agriculture in France as part of his plan to make Aliyah, but returned home after graduating to help his family cope with the severe economic crisis at the time. Between 1939 and 1941, under Soviet rule, Backenroth was appointed as county agronomist by Nikita Khrushchev, then a regional official.
With the German invasion of Drohobych in the summer of 1941 and the beginning of the destruction of the Jewish population in the town and the surroundings, Backenroth started to systematically organize and employ Jewish workers who were conscripted under the Gestapo orders. Recognizing that if the Nazis became dependent on Jewish labor there was less chance that they would be deported and murdered, Backenroth initiated the establishment of workshops, agricultural farms and a horse riding school for the Germans that provided an excuse to employ Jews and save them from death. The status he attained as "foreman" of Jewish labor in Drohobych allowed him to extract Jews who were detained in a major actzia (mass round-ups of Jews during the Holocaust) in 1942 and bring them back to work. When it became evident that the work permits were only a temporary defense from deportation and murder, Backenroth used the means accessible to him in the workshops to build bunkers, which served as a hiding place for dozens of Jews. They survived the war with his assistance.
In 1943, in a clever ruse, Backenroth was recognized by the Gestapo as an “Aryan.” Despite the danger to him and to his family from the local population he continued to play, befuddle and confuse the Nazis. His position as an “Aryan” allowed him to move freely and organize a food supply system for the Jews who survived in the bunkers and hiding places he created. However it endangered him as the war came to a close as he could have been viewed by local Jews as a Nazi collaborator.
Thousands of Drohobych Jews were executed at the Bronitza forest nearby. In memory of them, Backenroth changed his name after the war to Bronicki.
When Backenroth-Bronicki was asked why he does not tell stories about that period of his life he said, "what accompanies me all the time, are not the Jews I was able to save, but the memory of all the Jews I could not rescue."
The committee's considerations state that "Backenroth-Bronicki is a symbol of Jewish solidarity during the Holocaust, expressed in surprisingly varied initiatives to rescue Jews from deportation and extermination. The resourcefulness, dedication, wisdom and courage demonstrated by Backenroth-Bronicki against the Gestapo from the moment he realized he could save the lives of Jews, is a marvel of risk-taking and limit-testing on a daily basis. His unique personality, authoritativeness and reliability, made him amenable to both his enemies and friends—among them two Germans who helped with the rescue operations, and later received Righteous Among the Nations. These rescue operations ensured the survival of dozens of Jews. Therefore the committee decided to honor Backenroth-Bronicki with the Jewish Rescuer Citation."
“The heroism of Naftali Backenroth-Bronicki should put to rest once and for all the notion that the Jewish people didn’t fight back, which has wrongly tainted Holocaust historiography for more than 70 years,” B'nai B'rith World Center Director Alan Schneider said. “It is very important for Jewish rescuers to be included among the categories of all who rescued Jews.”
The Citation will be presented posthumously to Backenroth-Bronicki’s son Yehuda Lucien, who as a child was complicit in some of his father’s rescue efforts.
Since its establishment in 2011, the Jewish Rescuers Citation has been presented in order to correct the public misconception that Jews did not rescue other Jews during the Holocaust. To date 162 heroes were honored for rescue activities in Germany, France, Hungary, Greece, Slovakia, Yugoslavia, Russia, Lithuania, Poland and Holland.
Haaretz cited B'nai B'rith International in a story on the U.S. Department of State’s proposal to cut the envoy on anti-Semitism position. B'nai B'rith was listed among the broad, bipartisan support for keeping the position.
Click here to read the story on Haaretz.com.
'We view U.S. leadership on combating anti-Semitism and promoting human rights as pivotal components of American diplomacy and foreign policy,' says a draft of the letter, obtained by Haaretz.
A bipartisan group of members of Congress prepared a letter to U.S. President Donald Trump urging him not to cancel or weaken a position within the State...
Here's B'nai B'rith International CEO Dan Mariaschin and NCSEJ CEO Mark Levin imploring President Donald Trump not to cut the State Department's anti-Semitism envoy for Fox News.
"It’s a position that allows our country to lead by example. And it has inspired other nations to follow suit in making the eradication of anti-Semitism a priority."
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With anti-Semitism on the rise around the world, now is not the time to eliminate a State Department position dedicated to monitoring and combating this persistent social illness. But numerous reports indicate that is just what the White House is considering as it reviews budget options. This misguided step would have monumental repercussions in the global arena.
In 2004, the bipartisan Global Anti-Semitism Review Act created a State Department special envoy position to tackle the problem. It was an office created out of urgency as a wave of anti-Semitism swept across Europe. Our organizations fought to create this position, and we know first-hand the value it carries. World leaders charged with addressing anti-Semitism in their countries know that battling anti-Semitism is a priority for the United States government and that the U.S. is holding them accountable.
It’s a position that allows our country to lead by example. And it has inspired other nations to follow suit in making the eradication of anti-Semitism a priority.
As an office of the United States government, the special envoy post has carried weight in world capitals. The State Department has called out violence and hateful language and inspired foreign leaders to condemn incidents of anti-Semitism among their own populations. It’s been a model for other nations to emulate. Attendance by these envoys at global conferences sends a powerful message that the United States will not accept anti-Semitism as a norm.
This position has proven successful in getting other countries to look at their own problems with anti-Semitism and address them in a meaningful and effective way. A succession of U.S. envoys has travelled worldwide to bring attention to anti-Semitism, placing the power and prestige of the U.S. government behind fighting the problem. The world’s leaders have seen this as a priority of U.S. foreign policy. If we remove it, we lose a powerful tool and a public megaphone.
The world looks to the United States to be a leader.
If the United States steps back from the very model we created, what does that signal, both internationally and domestically, about our commitment to combat the pervasive social ill that is anti-Semitism? It sends a message that this is not an important issue. It sends a message that no one is watching to ensure anti-Semitic incidents are noticed, made public, investigated and castigated.
Now the same social illness we are trying to fight globally is raising its head anew in our own backyard. And though the State Department’s Special Envoy is tasked with monitoring and fighting anti-Semitism abroad, we can’t help but make the connection to what is happening at home. A frightening wave of anti-Semitism has been unleashed, and seems, at the moment, unchecked.
In recent months, scores of bomb threats have been called into Jewish Community Centers and day schools across the United States. In recent days, hundreds of headstones have been overturned at Jewish cemeteries. Swastikas have been carved into cars and on mass transit. Threats against Jewish college students are reported at alarming rates.
We have already proposed the creation of a Justice Department special coordinator to deal with anti-Semitism at home. Though the domestic context is different, the State Department special envoy position would serve as an example to the Justice Department of how focusing the U.S. government’s attention on anti-Semitism can produce results. Removing this position would say the U.S. has left the stage at perhaps one of the most critical moments.
We call on the administration to raise the level of monitoring of anti-Semitism. We are ready to help provide our expertise in this area.
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