In November, after the 20-member multinational B’nai B’rith International leadership delegation concluded its mission to India to meet with an array of senior government officials, religious leaders, foreign diplomats, civil-society figures and Jewish community representatives, the visit garnered press attention.
The Hindu newspaper caught up with the group in the city of Kochi, paying their respects to the Cochin royal family who have received Jews with open arms. In the story, Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin is quoted, calling the city a “beacon of tolerance and a lesson to the world for peace and understanding.”
Click here to read the story on TheHindu.com
For Mazal Mariaschin, it was a sort of homecoming. Born in Mumbai, she had migrated to the US with her mother, who was born in Kolkata. But she had grown up with stories about India.
Steven Horowitz, an ENT specialist from Chicago was all excited to see an elephant in the front yard of Kalikotta Palace. “We don't get to see them like this back home. Barbara Schinar went a step ahead as she placed a bunch of plantains right in the pachyderm's mouth.
The trio and others in the 20-member group of the Jewish organisation, B'nai B'rith International, who reached here on a three-day visit, were in Tripunithura on Thursday visiting members of the Kochi royal family. A member of the versatile group of professionals, businessmen, executives, called the city of Kochi the most beautiful in India.
It was history of Jewish settlements that brought the group here. The then rulers of Kochi had received Jews with open arms and had allowed them to have a settlement, which still has many remnants of their life here. Daniel S. Mariaschin, Executive Vice President and chief executive officer of B'nai B'rith, said at an interactive session that Kochi was a beacon of tolerance and a lesson to the world for peace and understanding.
The team’s visit would be featured in the magazine brought out by the organisation, which has units in 53 countries.
Mr. Mariaschin said the organisation would try to reopen a unit of B'nai B'rith, which had functioned here till the early ’90s .
David Michaels, who had organised this visit, said that, the team would preserve the memory of this visit in a manner that would inspire more such visits. A team of B'nai B'rith had visited Kochi 13 years ago and had held a photo exhibition and it inspired the present visit.
Mr. Mariaschin, as a token of appreciation of the friendly welcome, gave a gift of the medallion and coins brought out by the Israeli government to commemorate the 150th year of B’nai B’rith, set up in 1843 in New York.
Kocha Varma, founder of the Kochi Royal Family Heritage, welcomed the team.
In a letter read to the lobby’s inaugural gathering, President Reuven Rivlin stated that while in “Spain precious communities were forced leave their faith, their life and the values they grew up and raised their families” five hundred years ago, “Spanish Jews are still with us, and we must not forget them.”
According to lobby founders MK Robert Ilatov and Ashley Perry, increasing numbers of the descendants of Jews around the world have become interested in exploring their heritage and reconnecting with the Jewish people.
“For many of us in this room who are the descendants of those persecuted and forcibly converted in Spain and Portugal, we know that it would have been impossible for our ancestors to have even dreamed of this moment,” said Perry, a former advisor to erstwhile Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and the founder of the Reconnectar NGO.
According to Spanish Ambassador Fernando Carderera, more than the requests of more than 4,300 Sephardic Jews for citizenship have been approved since the recent passage of a bill providing the descendants of the expellees with the opportunity to reconnect with Spain.
B’nai B’rith’s Alan Schneider told the Post that he believes that the new initiative sends a message to interested parties that Israel and the Jewish people reciprocate their desires and that “its going to be easier for them now to investigate their Jewish roots, to find out about Jewish tradition, learn about their traditions and how they relate to Judaism and eventually to decide if they want to take the greater leap of rejoining in a formal way with the Jewish people.”
“I think it also sends a message to the Jews in Israel and Jews around the world that there potentially is a much deeper margin of potential supporters, of family actually, there who feel close toward the Jewish people and the state of Israel and eventually can be called upon to be our supporters even if they choose to stay in their current status,” he said.
In a joint statement, B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission chairman Dvir Abramovich and B’nai B’rith International executive vice-president Dan Mariaschin said the lack of outcry against the wave of terror was disturbing.
“If a rash of terror broke out in any other democratic nation, most of the international community would be appalled,” they said.
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