B'nai B'rith International denounced the United Church of Canada (UCC) for calling upon its two million members to boycott Israeli companies that do business in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Last week, the United Church of Canada's general council approved boycotts of Israeli companies Keter Plastic, SodaStream and Ahava. This is a continuation of a resolution passed by the church in August 2012 to boycott Israeli products exported from the West Bank and east Jerusalem. This time, the UCC has specific targets and plans to dissuade Canadian businesses from selling the products of the targeted businesses. The reasoning behind these actions, the church said, is its view that Israeli settlements are the "principal obstacle to peace in the region." ...more.
by Daniel S. Mariaschin, executive vice president of B'nai B'rith International
Each time I hear “There’s a place for us” – the stirring plea for tolerance and acceptance sung by the ethnically mismatched lovers of “West Side Story” — I am reminded that it pinpoints a Jewish sensibility that influenced the show’s composer and lyricist. Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s musical about prejudice transformed Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet into an American classic.
May marks the observance of Jewish American Heritage Month, launched in 2006 by acts of Congress and a presidential proclamation. It’s a time to call out the many contributions Jews have made to this country from its very inception. Unless you know the origin of those who have contributed, you wouldn’t know or be aware of the Jewish connection that is so much a part of the American experience.
The first musical to address real life problems was “Showboat.” Its composer, Jerome Kern, was born in New York City, the son of an immigrant German-Jewish father, and a first generation Czech-Jewish mother. The father of “Showboat” lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II was also Jewish. They would produce hundreds of songs and shows over a period of several decades, but it was “Showboat” that changed the way Americans thought about Broadway musicals: its subject matter was serious, addressing racism, alcoholism and other issues. It melded music with real life situations, which put it way ahead of its time.
While it was an immigrant from Russia, Irving Berlin, who set in motion the great era of Tin Pan Alley, it was a succession of first generation Jewish American musicians and wordsmiths who “fine tuned” it and gave America its treasured 20th century songbook. The list is a long one, but George and Ira Gershwin would have to be at the top, followed by Richard Rodgers (Hammerstein’s longtime collaborator on so many Broadway shows), E.Y. “Yip” Harburg (“Over the Rainbow”), Irving Caesar (“Tea for Two”), Sammy Fain (“Love is a Many Splendored Thing”), Cy Coleman (“The Best is Yet To Come”), Sammy Kahn and Jule Stein (“Three Coins in the Fountain”) and of course Bernstein and Sondheim – to name just a few.
To that list, one could add songwriters of the rock/pop era, including Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (who wrote so many of Elvis Presley’s hits); Mort Shuman and Doc Pomus (“Save the Last Dance for Me”); Carole King (“You’ve Got a Friend”)—who fittingly this month was awarded the 2013 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song—and Neil Diamond (“Sweet Caroline”). As they say, if I’ve left anyone out, please accept my apologies.
Much of what’s been written has dealt with love and heartache, those two emotions that affect us all. But hundreds of other subjects have been given their due, including many patriotic tunes, from Berlin’s “God Bless America,” to Rogers’ “Victory at Sea.”
Was there something inherently Jewish in all of this? Surely the immigrant experience had some impact (Yiddish theater and musicals thrived in New York and other cities); the Klezmer tradition; and even cantorial influences are reflected in the work of many of these songwriters. But it’s not only that: the same composers and lyricists absorbed and incorporated musical styles, especially jazz, blues and folk, that we consider home-grown here in America.
There was something else at play here that found its way into so much of this music: the horn-of-plenty optimism that permeated the American Century. True, personal yearning and disappointment marked the lyrics of thousands of songs, but Berlin’s “Blue Skies” and Diamond’s “Coming to America” – and so many others – literally overflow with a cheery worldview that distills the essence of modern life.
No one expects that the next time someone hums along with “Rhapsody in Blue” or even sings along with “Hound Dog” one will think of who wrote the song or his or her near-immigrant origins. But during this month dedicated to Jewish-American heritage, when looking at the body of work of so many American songwriters with Jewish roots, it’s good to note the immense contribution they’ve made to the great American tapestry of culture and art...more.
by Brooklyn Lowery
Six groups have come forward with bids to develop the municipal parking lot on Austin Street in Newtonville.
According to the received bids document, B'nai B'rith Housing, Austin St. Partners LLC, Newton's Future Investment Trust, Metro West Collaborative Development, Newtonville Square Development Partners and New Atlantic Development submitted bids by the April 25, 2013, deadline...more.
KKL Belgium, along with other organizations, holds an Israeli cultural evening at the Place D'Espange as part of the Festival for Peace in Brussels.
As part of the Festival for Peace in Brussels, an Israeli cultural evening was held at the Place D'Espange on May 12, 2013. The evening was the initiative of several organizations, including KKL Belgium, Belgium Coalition for Israel, Kolonia, B'nai B'rith of Brussels, Magen David Adom, ORT Belgium, Meir Panim, Anet and Christians for Israel.
The evening featured Israeli song and dance, and there were information stands for participants to learn more about Israel and Israeli organizations...more.
The Rome Jewish community leadership gave a rousing send-off to journalist and former Italian parliament member Fiamma Nirenstein ahead of her departure for Israel on aliyah.
She was scheduled to move permanently to Israel over the weekend.
Born in Florence, Nirenstein was elected to Parliament in April 2008 as a member of the center-right People of Freedom ticket headed by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. During her tenure in Parliament, she was outspoken in support of Israel and in combating anti-Semitism.
Italy’s B’nai B’rith chapter presented her with its silver medal...more.
by Jeffrey Alderton
As an eight-year-old Pennsylvania Avenue kid, Kevin Ogle’s love for the game of baseball took him to every ballfield in South End for spontaneous pick-up games with neighborhood friends.
Ogle’s organized baseball activity began in the Pee Wee League under the late Coach Bobby Cavanaugh before he graduated to the Dapper Dan Cardinals under the late Coach James “Bromo” Ellsworth. In the Hot Stove League, Ogle played for the B’nai B’rith team...more.
by Ariel Ben Solomon
British author Dr. Qanta Ahmed spoke on Wednesday at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem about the difficulties for minorities in Islamic societies and how Israel is the only country in the Middle East that tolerates them.
The event was organized by Alan Schneider, director of the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem, and cosponsored by the Ecumenical Theological Research Fraternity as part of their joint Liaison Committee forum.
The forum serves as an informal initiative aimed at fostering better mutual respect and understanding between local Christians and Jews...more.
"One summer, I worked at the Central Missouri B'nai B'rith, it's the nation's smallest chapter." - Modern Family
Watch last night's episode of the ABC television comedy on Hulu at - http://www.hulu.com/watch/492291
B'nai B'rith is referenced at approximately the 9:14 mark.
Jewish News of Greater Phoenix: JFNA, URJ, B'nai B'rith announce aid efforts for Oklahoma tornado victims
Jewish News has received word today from Jewish Federations of North America, Union for Reform Judaism and B'nai B'rith International announcing their donation collections to provide help to the communities and victims devastated by the tornado that hit Oklahoma City suburbs yesterday (May 20). The death toll stands at 24 with whole neighborhoods leveled...more.
Prominent international Jewish organizations are coming to the aid of the victims of Monday’s devastating tornado that ripped through the Oklahoma City region with wind speeds of up to 200 miles per hour, killing 24 people, including nine children.
Despite the area being home to just around 5000 Jews, local Jewish groups such as Chabad of Oklahoma City are doing its part to assist in disaster relief.
B’nai B’rith International has opened its Flood, Tornado and Hurricane Disaster Relief Fund. This fund has helped victims of other major disasters such as Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and the earthquakes in Japan in 2011 and Haiti in 2010.
“No amount of advanced warning could have prepared the people of Moore for the horrors this storm has brought. We’re going to do our best to help these people get back on their feet,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said in a statement...more.
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