On Nov. 6, B'nai B'rith International will host a ceremony in New York City, bestowing the Jewish Rescuers Citation on Berta Davidovitz Rubinsztejn for her heroic efforts saving orphans of the Holocaust from certain death.
Part of the reason that date was selected was to accommodate the arrival of Meir Brand from Israel, one of the then children that Rubinsztejn saved.
Although both were living under Gentile indentities in Budapest when they met in 1944, they would become family, bonded by their circumstances and liberation. They call themselves mother and son.
Read the highlights of their story in an article on Jewish Ideas Daily:
In 1941, when Berta was 18, her family of five fled Poland and crossed the Carpathian Mountains into still-unoccupied Hungary, where Jews were being persecuted but not yet hunted down. One night the family was hiding, crowded together, in a sheep stall, when Berta’s father, fearing his children would be killed, cried, “For what did I bring you into the world?” From her father’s desperation Berta took the conviction that sustained her for the next five years: “Better to be killed than to hide!”
Berta made her way to Budapest in 1942, where she began working for the Zionist underground through the youth movement Dror Habonim. She assumed a Gentile identity and the name Bigota Ilona and wore a crucifix around her neck.
In May, 1944, Rudolf Kasztner made a daring deal to provide trucks to Adolf Eichmann in exchange for the safe passage of Jews out of Hungary by train, to the neutral country of Spain and ultimately to Palestine. The goal of Dror Habonim became getting Jewish children onto Kasztner’s train.
Meir Brand was one of those children. He was born in 1936 in Bochnia, Poland, and his family was forced into the Jewish ghetto there in 1942. After the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising, Meir remembered, “everyone knew the whole ghetto”—in Bochnia—“was going to Auschwitz.” Soon afterward, “the whole family,” three sets of parents, “convened to decide what to do.” They determined that one child of each set of parents would escape.
Meir, homeless like hundreds of other Budapest refugees, took shelter under the city’s bridges.
Berta found him there after seven months—alone, frozen, and covered in blisters. “Jude?” she asked. “I am Dudac Josef!” he answered.
"I didn’t trust anybody,” Meir remembered, “because I was under such strict instructions not to connect with anyone.” Still, “I trusted Berta. Why, I don’t know.” When Meir said he was Dudac Josef, Berta thought, “That means, ‘I am a Jew.’ Somehow I knew he was a Jew. And I said, ‘I am Bigota Ilona.’” About that moment, Berta later told Meir, “I looked you in the eye and said to myself, that’s it, you’re mine.”
The train carrying Berta and Meir, with 1,684 passengers in all, was diverted to Bergen-Belsen. There, Berta recalled, “I was with the halutzim,” while Meir was in a barracks with the other children. Still very weak, he couldn’t clean himself or eat properly. Berta devoted herself to his care, and nursed him back to health.
After news broke that the United States government has continued to pay Social Security benefits to Nazi war criminals who left the country willingly before deportation, B'nai B'rith International called for a close in the loophole.
Since moving abroad, these former Nazis have often collected entitlements from the governments of the countries in which they reside. B’nai B’rith urges these governments to cease providing benefits to such individuals and force them to stand trial.
Excerpts from the article in the Washington Free Beacon are below:
Nazi war criminals are still receiving Social Security benefits from the U.S. government despite their past crimes against Jewish people, prompting outrage from numerous Jewish organizations.
“Nazi war criminals who once lived in the United States and faced investigation by the Justice Department continue to collect Social Security payments through a legal loophole, despite having left the country and renounced their U.S. citizenship,” B’nai B’rith International (BBI) wrote in a recent press release calling on Congress to change the law.
“Since moving abroad, these former Nazis have lived undisturbed lives, collecting additional entitlements from the governments of the countries in which they reside,” the group wrote. “B’nai B’rith urges these governments to cease providing benefits to such individuals and force them to stand trial.”
B'nai B'rith International was quick to respond to the Ebola crisis in West Africa, dedicating donations from the Disaster Relief Fund to our partner IsraAID, already on the ground.
Working with IsraAID, the First Lady of Sierra Leone Sia Nyama Koroma hosted a two-day workshop on stress management and self-care, chronicled on her official Facebook wall.
Participants were drawn from all sectors, including governmental and non-governmental health organizations, education, social and children's welfare, inter-faith entities and other non-profits. For many, it was an introduction to proven practices in psycho-social support and self-care in the aftermath of Ebola.
The workshop focused on self-care and secondary trauma, because those who give help often forget to take care of themselves and suffer in silence. IsraAid pledged to bring in 60 specialists from Israel over the next two years to train Sierra Leoneans to give psycho-social support.
According to a statement on the First Lady's Facebook page, Koroma has a background as a psychiatric nurse and felt personally connected to those suffering:
"Ebola is not only a health issue...for a young girl orphaned by the disease, Ebola means grief, stigma and discrimination at the hands of her neighbors. For a survivor, weakened and scared, but alive, Ebola means pain and a life of guilt, shame and rejection.
"For the thousands of survivors and health workers especially nurses, doctors, lab-technicians, drivers, cleaners, contact tracers, burial teams and community workers Ebola means betrayal and sadness, flashbacks and nightmares.
And for all those who have lost family members and friends and who worry everyday about a disease that they cannot see, Ebola means fear and anxiety."
Click here to support our Disaster Relief efforts against Ebola!
The Latin American Jewish community has been on high alert since the Gaza conflict this summer set off waves of anti-Semitism across the continent.
Brazil and Uruguay experienced some high-profile anti-Israel and anti-Jewish incidents, and recently held their presidential elections.
B'nai B'rith Director of Latin American Affairs Eduardo Kohn was quoted in an article in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, interpreting the results of the election in Uruguay as it relates to the Jewish community.
Highlights from the article can be read, below:
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who called Israel’s conflict this summer with Hamas “a massacre,” was reelected in a tight vote.
Brazil, a country of some 110,000 Jews, pulled its ambassador from Israel during the conflict.
Also Sunday, in Uruguay, no candidate received the necessary majority in presidential voting, forcing a runoff next month.
In Uruguay, with 99 percent of the vote counted, the ruling leftist coalition candidate, Tabare Vazquez, was leading with 47.1 percent of the vote, but was short of the 50 percent majority needed to win the presidency in the first round. He will face Luis Lacalle Pou of the center-right National Party, who had 30.6 percent of the vote, in the runoff on Nov. 30.
The Jewish community has a fluid dialogue with Vazquez and Pou.
Eduardo Kohn, the director of Latin American Affairs for B’nai B’rith, told JTA that both candidates have spoken before the Jewish community in the last two months.
Kohn said they agreed that “Hamas is a terrorist group, and as any terrorist group must be faced and combated. Both agreed that there should be a peaceful solution between Israel and the Palestinians and the solution should be a two-state solution.”
The Bagel Brigade has been in action for two decades, working seven days per week, 365 days a year, collecting bread donated by supermarkets, bagel shops, etc. and distributes it to people in need in Los Angeles.
Their primary concern is to see that children do not go to school without breakfast and do not go to bed hungry. Their impact is illustrated in the infographic below.
The Bagel Brigade is always in need of donor stores and volunteers for pickup and delivery. Anyone interested in participating in The Bagel Brigade can contact the following numbers:
Jerry Magel: Administrator (818) 710-1299
Frank Shapiro: Volunteer Coordinator (818) 376-0502
Or email: email@example.com
Yormark also oversees all facets of Barclays Center, including operations, event programming, sales and marketing. Under Yormark’s leadership, Barclays Center has redefined the arena customer service and culinary experience. Its more than 2,000 employees are trained by Disney Institute, the business advisory arm of The Walt Disney Company, and its BrooklynTaste food program features selections from 55 well-known restaurants and vendors in the borough.
In addition to the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center community initiatives, Yormark started the Yormark Family Foundation to help re-develop basketball courts at Boys & Girls Clubs in Brooklyn. He also sits on the board of the City Parks Foundation to help improve New York’s vital outdoor spaces.
B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said, “It’s clear that, when discussing the sports entertainment industry, Brett and the Brooklyn Nets are at the forefront. Brett and the Nets are not only leaders and innovators, but have also demonstrated a commitment to the community that has resulted in an overwhelmingly positive impact on Brooklyn and its residents — exactly what B’nai B’rith looks for in a Distinguished Achievement Award winner.”
B'nai B'rith International spoke unequivocally against those that shouted down Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) while he expressed pro-Israel sentiments at an "In Defense of Christians" (I.D.C.) dinner.
The fallout from the speech was covered in an article in the Heritage Florida Jewish News, which referenced B'nai B'rith's statement.
Read highlights from the article, below:
Just as the entire international community must rally to protect the fundamental rights and dignity of Christians in places like Iraq and Syria, Christian leaders and faithful, along with others, are morally obliged do the same for Jews in the Middle East.
There can be no condoning or belittling the Islamist extremists doctrinally committed to the violent destruction of the Middle East’s democratic Jewish state.
Fortunately, so many Christians stand firmly with Israel and the Jewish people. But decades of anti-Israel animus, and centuries of anti-Judaism, have made a very significant imprint in the Middle East, and this moral disfigurement is not limited to components of the region’s Muslim population.
If efforts for peace, and to protect Middle Eastern Christians, are to succeed, there must be recognition that “love your neighbor as yourself” applies to the people of Israel as much as to any other human beings.
Some 1,000 attendees at the first IDC summit were joined by an array of senior Christian clergy from the region. A long list of Democratic and Republican members of Congress addressed the conference, including Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).
Also in attendance: the prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, and the Catholic archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, and prominent public figures including former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.
The theme of the gathering was a unified appeal for the safety of Middle Eastern Christians—and for religious freedom for all—a cause broadly embraced by speakers and attendees at the conference.
Argentina: B'nai B'rith At 76th Anniversary of Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) in Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral (Spanish)
B'nai B'rith Argentina's Commission on Interfaith Dialogue helped organize an interfaith event around the 76th anniversary of the Night of Broken Glass, a pogrom against Jews in Nazi Germany and Austria that saw tens of thousands rounded up and sent to concentration camps.
The event will be help on Sunday, Nov. 9 at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Buenos Aires. The event is designed to remind people of all faiths about the power of hate put into action.
A preview of the event can be found on the Spanish-speaking Argentinian Jewish website Vis-A-Vis. Read an excerpt of the announcement below:
Organizan el evento la Comisión Arquidiocesana de Ecumenismo y Diálogo Interreligioso de la Arquidiócesis de Buenos Aires, la Comisión de Diálogo Interconfesional de B’nai B’rith Argentina; y cuenta con la participación de la Comunidad Lamroth Hakol y el auspicio de numerosas organizaciones que adhieren al Diálogo Interreligioso.
“… La Shoá fue un drama con características peculiares que se distingue, por su horror, de entre los ignominiosos crímenes que asolaron a pueblos y naciones. Nos demuestra cuan terrible es la obra del odio y la necesidad de que el recuerdo ayude a resistir el mal y a hacer que triunfe el bien y el amor", Párrafo de una carta del 23/6/13 de S.S. el Papa FRANCISCO.
B'nai B'rith International Director of U.N. and Intercommunal Affairs David J. Michaels responded to recent allegations of genocide hurled at Israel by the likes of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and comedian Russell Brand.
By placing the history of genocide in perspective, Michaels argues that unfounded accusations of genocide, occupation and apartheid threaten to erode the very real definitions of those terms.
His response appears in the form of an op-ed in the Times of Israel, and appears posted in its entirety below:
Don’t Play Politics With Genocide
At the United Nations, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas asserted last month that Israel’s efforts to protect its citizens have amounted to “genocide.”
He did so, in language never remotely reciprocated by Israel, despite well knowing the nature of his current partners in Hamas, which had violently ended Abbas’s rule in Gaza, tossing his loyalists off buildings there.
In 1948, three years after the end of the Holocaust, two events represented a pivotal rejoinder to that most systematic of genocides. The State of Israel was founded – stemming a 2,000-year Jewish exile pervaded by persecution. And the U.N. General Assembly adopted its Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, to help ensure that no people would again be subjected to massive violence of the most unprovoked, calculated and indiscriminate kind.
The world body’s adoption of the Genocide Convention was celebrated as a deeply hopeful achievement by Jews. Yale legal scholar Raphael Lemkin – a Jewish émigré who lost nearly his entire family to the Nazi atrocities – coined the term genocide in 1943, defining it as “the destruction of a nation or an ethnic group.” Later, he drafted the Genocide Convention.
While the Holocaust was a distinct event in history, the appeal “never again” must apply to other people as much as it does to Jews.
However, not every loss of life can be labeled genocide. If genocide means everything, it could, dangerously, come to mean nothing.
Some of the world’s worst violators of human rights have an interest in stripping the term genocide of its purpose and potency through misuse.
More generally, ours is an era of stridency and populism, too often lacking nuance. When it comes to the most grave of charges, though, context matters and details matter, concerning both intentions and actions.
Iran pledges Israel’s destruction while illicitly pursuing nuclear capabilities and sustaining the groups, including Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, responsible for perennially forcing Israeli counterterrorism. Despite this, some commentators condemn as overblown any comparison of the Tehran regime to those, historically, who made good on remarkably open threats of monumental aggression.
By contrast, the subjection of Israel to the most inflammatory of rhetoric has again over recent months been met with astounding silence.
Iran’s supposedly moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, accused Israel of a “huge genocide” in Gaza – this from the leader of a government enabling bloodshed in Syria that has claimed far more Arab life in three years than Israel has in sixty-six.
Not given pause by the absence of gas chambers or crematoria, Turkey’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Israel has “surpassed Hitler in barbarism.”
And in an interview with the BBC, Hamas’s official spokesman (who, separately, alleged that Jews use Christian blood in matzo) charged Israel with “Nazism.” The allegation was met with a bumbling response from the BBC’s normally opinionated interviewer.
All this is not without consequence. Singular abuse of Israel in international forums creates the distortion that Israel has one of the worst, not one of the best, records as a progressive society.
When 56 U.N. member states – including nearly all of the world’s foremost oil exporters – belong to the Arab and Muslim bloc, a Human Rights Council resolution on Gaza can assail Israel but not even mention Hamas. And, of course, countries deemed to be perpetrating crimes like “apartheid,” genocide and Nazism – all-too-often interchanged – are expected to be dealt with accordingly.
If Israel has intended apartheid, it has proven mind-bogglingly inept, having created the freest and most pluralistic society in the Middle East in the face of relentless warfare.
And if Israel has intended genocide, it is among history’s most abysmal failures. Despite its military abilities, the population of Israeli and Palestinian Arabs has multiplied dramatically, even as the number of Jews, Christians and other minorities has tellingly plummeted elsewhere in the region.
After the genocides of the last century, there were among the victims no “victory” parades, as there were in Gaza after the latest hostilities. There was silence.
And during past genocides, there were no refusals of ceasefires by the beleaguered or pledges of new violence, as by Gaza’s factions – typically because the victims were not doing the firing.
Notably, despite the rush to equate Israel with Hamas in indiscriminate fire, males of fighting age appear to have been the most overrepresented group among recent Palestinian casualties in Gaza, the overwhelming majority of which went untargeted by Israel.
These facts, though, don’t suffice to penetrate international politics. Not in an age when a pop culture personality like Russell Brand can smugly invoke Israeli “occupation” in questioning Hamas’s categorization as a terrorist movement. No matter that Israel, which has supported a two-state peace, completely withdrew from Gaza in 2005 – and that if Jews lack even a right to exist in their historic homeland then Brand would hardly have a right to legitimately reside anywhere.
The British funnyman even likened Hamas to Gandhi – a comparison that might be worth discussing if not for Gandhi’s insistence upon non-violence, and the fact that Gandhi never aspired to the obliteration of Britain itself.
The continuing Arab-Israeli conflict has unquestionably claimed all too many lives, and those losses are heartrending. But not all loss of life constitutes murder, let alone genocide.
In the 1940s, in the face of a fascist onslaught, Britons and others responded, despite the heavy toll, not with complacency but with the necessary force.
Today, an array of countries is committed to combating such groups as Boko Haram, al-Shabab, Jemaah Islamiyah, the Taliban, al-Qaeda and ISIS.
As Palestinians again threaten to take Israel to the International Criminal Court over its struggle against fanatics deliberately operating among, and targeting, non-combatants, we must consider the implications of precluding counterterrorism by recklessly mislabeling it as genocide.
In order to combat the the Ebola crisis in West Africa, B'nai B'rith International pledged disaster relief donations to fund our partner IsraAID's efforts on the ground.
The following letters of thanks to IsraAID come from Israeli Pres. Reuven Rubi Rivlin and Sia Nyama Koroma, First Lady of Sierra Leone, its contributions to the cause so far:
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