The Jewish News Service included a statement by B'nai B'rith International Director of Legislative Affairs Eric Fusfield in its coverage of the controversial nomination of Kenneth L. Marcus to the position of assistant secretary of education for civil rights. Some pro-Palestinian organizations have cited his refusal to support the BDS movement as evidence that he is not fit for the position.
Fusfield noted, “B’nai B’rith strongly supports the nomination. Kenneth Marcus has been a champion of civil rights, especially combating anti-Semitism on college campuses. He understands this pervasive social problem in all its manifestations. Having worked directly with Marcus in the past, Fusfield also attested, “As someone who has worked with Ken on various projects for more than eight years, I can say that the federal government will be well served by having him in a key civil rights position.”
WASHINGTON—Leaders of major American Jewish organizations are rallying around Kenneth L. Marcus, the nominee for assistant secretary of education for civil rights, as pro-Palestinian groups denounce him for opposing the BDS movement.
Marcus, an attorney, served in the Department of Education’s civil rights division and then was staff director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, before founding the Washington, D.C.-based Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law in 2011.
The U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights is mobilizing its members against the nomination, arguing that Marcus’s efforts against BDS activity on college campuses were intended to “repress college students from organizing for Palestinian rights.”
The anti-Zionist group Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) recently announced that “over 100 faculty members” at unnamed universities had signed their petition against the Marcus nomination. The petition claimed that because of Marcus’s anti-BDS efforts, “students and faculty [on unidentified campuses] fear studying Palestinian history or advocating for Palestinian rights.” But JVP officials have not responded to multiple requests from JNS.org for a list of the alleged signatories.
A number of Jewish organizations this week endorsed Marcus.
“B’nai B’rith strongly supports the nomination,” the group’s director of legislative affairs, Eric Fusfield, told JNS.org. “Kenneth Marcus has been a champion of civil rights, especially combating anti-Semitism on college campuses. He understands this pervasive social problem in all its manifestations.”
Fusfield added, “As someone who has worked with Ken on various projects for more than eight years, I can say that the federal government will be well served by having him in a key civil rights position.”
The American Jewish Committee (AJC) described Marcus in a recent tweet as “a good choice—knowledgeable about and committed to the mission of the office.”
Marc Stern, the AJC’s general counsel, strongly defended Marcus against the accusations by pro-Palestinian groups.
“Whenever I’ve heard Ken speak, he’s been focused on antisemitism or opposition to BDS,” Stern told JNS.org. “I’ve never heard him say anything remotely close to being anti-Palestinian. It seems as if these groups are saying that anyone who opposes their boycott of Israel is unqualified for office. The American Jewish Committee does not agree with that line of thinking, and we are confident that the U.S. Senate won’t, either [when it considers the nominee].”
“For years, anti-Israel groups have had virtually a free ride to promote BDS, spread anti-Israel libels, and intimidate Jewish students, without any fear of consequences,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. “The haters are terrified that someone like Kenneth Marcus might come along and take appropriate steps against hate activity.”
“That’s exactly why the Department of Education needs Kenneth Marcus,” Cooper said. “He will help make sure that campuses will not become de facto safe zones for bigots like the anti-Semitic tenured professor at Rutgers.” Cooper was referring to Michael Chikindas, a professor of microbiology at Rutgers University in New Jersey, who recently called Judaism “the most racist religion in the world.”
Prominent Jewish jurists are also backing Marcus. The American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists this week distributed a call to its members to send letters to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions in support of the nomination. Irit Kohen, president of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, told JNS.org, “We know Kenneth Marcus, recognize him as a professional with integrity who has dedicated his career to the fight for civil rights, and are sure he will succeed in his new position.”
“Being opposed to BDS is not a reason to disqualify someone from a position in the Department of Education,” said Thane Rosenbaum, a Distinguished Fellow at New York University School of Law and a longtime human rights activist, author and law professor. “In fact, it is a singular qualification because it demonstrates a commitment to justice, fairness and moral balance. BDS is an anti-Semitic campaign led by those who have cynically masqueraded their anti-Semitism as a bogus human rights issue.”
Mark Yudof, emeritus professor of law at University of California, Berkeley and a leader of the Academic Engagement Network, an anti-BDS group, called Marcus “intelligent, articulate, fair-minded and highly qualified to be assistant secretary.” Yudof told JNS.org, “He is not anti-Palestinian; rather he is dedicated to non-discrimination and equal treatment of all students, including Jewish and Palestinian students. He strives for a campus climate that is respectful and free of intimidation.”
Christians United for Israel (CUFI), which calls itself “the largest pro-Israel grassroots organization in the United States;” the National Council of Young Israel, representing more than 100 Orthodox synagogues nationwide; and the World Jewish Congress in North America have also issued statements endorsing Marcus.
“I have known Ken Marcus for over twenty years. There is no one in Washington who could bring more intelligence, integrity and relevant experience to this position,” said CUFI board member David Brog.
The Anti-Defamation League told JNS.org that it has not yet decided whether to take a position on the nomination. But the ADL’s general counsel, Steven C. Sheinberg, recently wrote on his private Twitter account that Marcus is “an absolutely stellar choice!”
Marcus’s confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, Dec. 5.
The Jewish News Service included a statement by B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin in its coverage of Jewish organizations that called for a withdrawal of bill H.R. 4391 in the wake of a Palestinian terrorist attack in Israel on Friday, November 17, 2017. If passed, the bill would have responded to various military or interrogation-related actions by the Israeli government toward Palestinian minors with a reduction in funding for Israel.
Daniel S. Mariaschin noted, "This bill is dangerously presumptuous...It puts Israel in peril. This measure seemingly ignores the assaults on Israelis. It basically calls on Israel not to respond to acts of terror. At a time of heightened awareness to acts of terror everywhere, such legislation is surprising and disheartening.”
In the wake of an attack by a teenage Palestinian terrorist that left two Israelis wounded last Friday, Jewish organizations and community leaders are calling for the withdrawal of a congressional measure targeting Israel’s treatment of Palestinian minors.
Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) and nine other Democrats in the House of Representatives last week introduced H.R. 4391, which would restrict U.S. aid to Israel if the Israelis undertake the “military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children.” The legislation specifies that any Palestinian under the age of 18 should be considered a child.
Last Friday, a 17-year-old Palestinian deliberately ran over two Israeli civilians near the town of Efrat. One of the victims was a 70-year-old American immigrant. The attacker then exited his vehicle and attempted to stab several Israeli soldiers, who shot and wounded him.
The soldiers’ shooting and detention of the teenage terrorist are among the types of actions that would trigger the sanctions mandated by the McCollum bill.
“I urge Congresswoman McCollum to withdraw her bill, before it helps inspire other young Palestinians to copy the 17-year-old attacker near Efrat,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
“Palestinian youth do need a ‘protection act’—they need protection from Hamas that uses them as human shields for terrorism and who send them to dig terror tunnels,” Cooper added. “They need protection from the brainwashing of the Palestinian Authority that teaches them to deny the rights and humanity of their Jewish neighbors.”
“The bill is dangerously presumptuous,” B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin told JNS.org. “It puts Israel in peril. This measure seemingly ignores the assaults on Israelis. It basically calls on Israel not to respond to acts of terror. At a time of heightened awareness to acts of terror everywhere, such legislation is surprising and disheartening.”
Even if last Friday’s attack had not occurred, “this is an unwise piece of legislation,” Steve Grossman, former president of AIPAC and ex-chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told JNS.org. “If the sponsors don’t withdraw it on their own, I urge them to do so—and if not, I hope the members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee will report it out unfavorably and make it clear to their colleagues that the bill is unwise and they do not support it.”
“Israel has a solid system of checks and balances in place” to address any instances in which Israeli soldiers act inappropriately, Grossman said. “Israel, unlike virtually every other country in that region, has a robust and independent judiciary, which steps in if actions go beyond what is appropriate. It’s a central feature of Israel’s open and democratic society and it functions very effectively.” Therefore, Grossman said, “I agree with those who are saying the bill should not see the light of the day. This legislation is hostile to Israel, and hostile to appropriate public policy.”
The purpose of McCollum’s bill is “to paint Israel in a negative light by presenting issues out of context, and misrepresenting the facts in the Middle East,” said Betty Ehrenberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress in North America. “The truth is that it is the Palestinians who abuse children by putting them in harm’s way and sending them out to commit stabbings, to throw rocks that have killed and wounded, and trained them to be suicide bombers.”
The McCollum bill’s nine co-sponsors are Reps. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin; Earl Blumenauer and Peter A. DeFazio of Oregon; André Carson of Indiana; John Conyers, Jr. of Michigan; Danny K. Davis and Luis V. Gutiérrez of Illinois; Raul Grijalva of Arizona; and Chellie Pingree of Maine.
According to an analysis prepared by the Jerusalem-based research institute NGO Monitor, “the entirety of the [McCollum] bill is premised on factually inaccurate claims from anti-Israel advocacy NGOs” such as Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P). Portions of the text of the bill appear to have been lifted directly, without attribution, from a DCI-P report issued last year or from the DCI-P website.
At least three members of DCI-P’s board—Shawan Jabarin, Nasser Ibrahim and Dr. Majed Nasser—have been affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group.
The Keene Sentinel: Monadnock Profile: Leader of world jewish organization proud of his monadnock region roots
The Keene Sentinel profiled B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin, who grew up in the region covered by the paper.
The profile discusses his decades-long career serving the Jewish people across the globe through his work with B'nai B'rith International and other organizations.
The phone interview with his hometown newspaper almost over, Daniel S. Mariaschin had a question of his own.
The CEO and executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International has a strong affinity for Keene and the Monadnock Region. He grew up here, graduated from Monadnock Regional High School in 1967, and spun records at weekend record hops at the school, leading to a job at radio station WKNE.
Thus, he wanted to know: How is the Monadnock-Keene Thanksgiving Day football game shaping up?
After all, 50 years ago, he was part of the pageantry that is high school football, playing trombone in the high school band. “Claudia Howard,” he says, in an ode to one of Monadnock’s earliest music teachers. “She put a band on the field.”
Mariaschin today wields one of the most powerful voices in the world advocating for the Jewish community. The 68-year-old has led B’nai B’rith International for a quarter-century and is director of its Center for Human Rights and Public Policy. He meets regularly with heads of state from every corner of the globe. He’s had audiences with three popes. He received the Cultural Pluralism Award from the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad in recognition of his work in Central and Eastern Europe. And that’s just a resume sampler.
Though he lives just outside Washington, D.C., in Chevy Chase, Md., his roots are planted in the Monadnock Region. His parents are buried here. “I really consider Keene to be my home,” he says.
B’nai B’rith, which means “Sons of the Covenant,” is the oldest Jewish service organization in the world, founded in 1843. Mariaschin is its longtime leader, representing B’nai B’rith on numerous national and international delegations. He’s been at the forefront of Holocaust education programs, particularly in Lithuania, the home country of his parents, who immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1900s.
Recently, he’s been involved in negotiations with several countries in Eastern Europe regarding the return of Holocaust-era assets and compensation for private property taken by the Nazis and Communists.
About 15 years ago, he was part of a negotiating team that successfully brought back to Israel more than 400 Torah scrolls that had been hidden by the Nazis in a warehouse in Vilnius, Lithuania. Although most couldn’t be repaired, he says, retrieving them gave him a great deal of satisfaction, one of many in a long and productive career.
“The opportunity to be able, face to face, to meet with foreign ministers and prime ministers, presidents of countries, to have a dialogue about issues that we’re concerned about with people at that level, I think, has been the best opportunity in this career,” he says.
“The chance to convey our positions on issues — I can’t tell you in every case I was persuasive and I convinced people to vote our way — but just the chance to convey our positions was very gratifying, very rewarding.”
Mariaschin is a prodigious writer. He’s written articles for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Times and Newsday.
Some of his most heartfelt writings are personal. He’s published essays about his parents, Saul and Rose, and former teachers. It whisks him back to his youth and his upbringing in the Monadnock Region.
Last year, he wrote a moving piece for The Sentinel titled “Remembering Mrs. Phippard,” about a teacher at Mount Caesar School who asked him to speak to his 3rd-grade classmates about the upcoming holiday of Hanukkah — how that simple act had a profound effect on him.
In recent years, he penned Mother’s Day and Father’s Day tributes to his parents — his mother died 32 years ago and his father 43 years ago. Growing up in the 1950s, table talk at dinner was almost always about world affairs, discussions that served as building blocks in his own career. And the family had a voracious appetite for reading.
Every morning his father read the American Herald Tribune, and the family’s written news intake was supplemented by radio. They didn’t have a TV until he was older. As a young child, he says, “I recall hearing my parents talk about big news events of the mid-’50s and late ’50s.”
Mariaschin’s parents originally settled in New York City before moving to Keene and opening the Blue Shop, a women’s clothing store in the Colony Block of Central Square. His two older sisters graduated from Keene High and today live about 10 minutes apart from each other in Israel. Mariaschin saw them just last week and says his oldest sister, Sondra, will be coming to Keene for her 60th class reunion next year.
The family moved to North Swanzey, near Dillant-Hopkins Airport, before Mariaschin entered 1st grade. He remembers four Jewish families lived in Swanzey and about 25 Jewish families altogether lived within a 25-mile radius.
He attended Hebrew school three days a week at Congregation Ahavas Achim, then at 91 Court St. in Keene. Though his father was a lay person, he was learned in Hebrew and often taught classes when the congregation had difficulty finding a permanent rabbi.
“He was a regular kid,” says Aaron Lipsky, a retired Keene lawyer and three-term mayor of the city, of Mariaschin. “He was a friendly, outgoing person, as you would expect from somebody who has gone on to head a major international religious organization.”
Last year Lipsky spearheaded the creation of an exhibit celebrating Jewish history in the area, “From Peddlers, to Shopkeepers, to Professionals: A History of the Jewish Community in Cheshire County.” On display at the Historical Society of Cheshire County earlier this year, it focused on the original immigrant families, and their descendants, who founded Congregation Ahavas Achim.
Mariaschin didn’t fit the exhibit’s thesis, but he was included because of his prominence in the national Jewish community. “We decided that he was certainly worthy enough … that his story was exceptional in regard to his achievements,” Lipsky says.
Except for one incident, Mariaschin doesn’t remember being a victim of anti-Semitism in the area. That case was deftly handled by Mrs. Kellom, his 5th-grade teacher at Cutler School, which housed grades 5 through 8. “In hushed tones, she told me that the janitor had found a swastika on the wall of the boys bathroom,” Mariaschin says. “She wanted me to know that, and wanted me to know it had been washed off and taken care of.”
To this day, Mariaschin says, he appreciates being informed of what had happened, and the steps that were taken. Otherwise, he describes it as a normal childhood with good friends.
“Parents of those friends, as I look back, were really very open-minded,” he says. “I would say they wanted their children to be inclusive of me. Most of my colleagues come from big cities and large Jewish communities in the work that I do. … I come from an upbringing that was very positive because of my parents, and on the other side to have such good friends, good teachers, who had an understanding and who were sensitive of who I was — as I look back, I think I was fortunate.”
Growing up in Keene, he asks rhetorically, who were your friends? Catholics and Protestants. It gave him an early foundation in interfaith relations, highlights of which would later include meetings with Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis.
In high school, Mariaschin was a disc jockey at weekend dances, which led to a job at WKNE. He worked weekends, summers and holidays from 1966 to 1972, through his college years at the University of New Hampshire. He worked on-air morning drives, evening drives, farm reports, police logs, district court reports. He did “Coffee at the Crystal” (restaurant), which were 15-minute interviews with local residents. He did Monadnock Scrapbook in the evening. He did some political reporting for CBS when the presidential primary rolled around.
“This was like being a kid in a candy store,” he says.
It was a training ground for later appearances as a foreign affairs analyst on television and radio, and as a lecturer on foreign and defense affairs at the U.S. State Department’s Foreign Service Institute and military installations across the country.
At UNH, he majored in history, charting a course for law school and eventually politics. He rang doorbells campaigning for Perkins Bass, Bernie Streeter, William Johnson and Walter Peterson. He figured someday he would run for the state Legislature and, ultimately, Congress.
He had a change of heart as a college junior, when serving the Jewish community became foremost, even to the point of considering rabbinical school. After UNH, he earned his master’s degree in contemporary Jewish studies from Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass.; later, in recognition of his lifetime accomplishments, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from UNH and the American Jewish Communal Leadership Award from Brandeis.
He worked for several organizations before joining B’nai B’rith, starting with the Jewish Community Council of Boston. Other stops included serving as director of the New England Office of the American Zionist Federation, the Anti Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and director of the Political Affairs Department of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
He dabbled in politics for a couple of years, serving as director of communications for former secretary of state Alexander M. Haig Jr. during his 1987-88 presidential campaign, but returned to Jewish advocacy thereafter.
He looks back at his career not through a series of individual achievements, but wrapped as a bundle.
“I set out in 1971, didn’t know what it was I would do, but the impulse was to serve in some way the Jewish people. Then it took on different iterations, started in Boston, went to New York. I satisfied my own political interest working for General Haig, then came to Washington,” he says. “I don’t measure it in accomplishments; I measure it in that I’ve been fortunate and I’ve been blessed to do what I want to do.”
He thinks back to those long-ago, current-affairs discussions over dinner that he coveted with his parents. If they could join him for dinner now, he is asked, what would they say?
“They probably would have said I made the right choice.”
The Hebrew Watchman described in detail the proceedings of B'nai B'rith International and B'nai B'rith Europe's International Leadership Forum that took place from Oct. 29 - Nov. 1, 2017, in Prague, the Czech Republic.
The article notes the forum's many speakers on the topics of Israel, terrorism, and growing anti-Semitism in Europe, as well as the events associated with the forum.
The Jewish Cultural Quarter announced the posthumous awarding of the Jewish Rescuer’s Citation to Alice Cohn. The award is administered by the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust (JRJ) to honor Jews who acted during the Holocaust to save the lives of other Jews.
To learn more about the award, visit our Jewish Rescuer's Citation information page here.
Sunday 29 October 2017, during the opening of the exhibition Identity Cards and Forgeries in the National Holocaust Museum (currently in the process of development) in Amsterdam, the ‘Jewish Rescuer’s Citation’ was posthumously awarded to Alice Cohn. This international award is an initiative of The Committee to Recognition the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust and the B'nai B'rith World Center - Jerusalem, it is conferred to Jews who rescued fellow Jews during the Holocaust. To date, 171 Jewish resistance fighters in eight countries have been honoured.
Alice Cohn is the first Liechtenstein citizen to receive the award. Cohn receives the award for rescuing a 3-year-old girl from the nursery at Plantage Middenlaan, and most importantly for her long-standing resistance work at the ‘Forgery Agency’ in Utrecht. She forged hundreds of identity cards, food stamps and other so-called ‘wild papers’ while she was in hiding herself as Jewish woman. Thus saving the lives of many. Alice Cohn's daughter and son took receipt of the award in the presence of the 96-year-old Rutger Mathijssen, who founded the ‘Forgery Agency’ together with Alice Cohn and Siem Buddingh.
Identity Cards and Forgeries
Alice Cohn lived during the war years in Utrecht, mostly hidden in an attic room from where she did her resistance work. Because she permanently left the Netherlands after 1945, her history is completely unknown to date. The life and work of Alice Cohn during her stay in the Netherlands is part of the new exhibition in the National Holocaust Museum in formation. In addition to Alice Cohn's story, the exhibition also sheds light on that of Jacob Lentz. Being a civil servant at the Ministry of the Interior, he introduced the term ‘personal identification card’ and obsessively developed a highly sophisticated identity card. With the card bearing a photograph and fingerprint of the holder, is was the most difficult to forge compared to all other occupied countries in Europe. This identity card was introduced at the beginning of World War II. It appeared to be a powerful bureaucratic instrument that led to the death of many. An impressive installation of the visual artist Robert Glas shows how ingeniously Lentz worked. The exhibition is on display until 4 March 2018 inclusive.
National Holocaust Museum in formation
The National Holocaust Museum is a museum that is currently in the process of development. Together with the Hollandsche Schouwburg, the Children's Museum and the Portuguese Synagogue, it constitutes the Jewish Cultural Quarter. The completion of the National Holocaust Museum shall be achieved in stages.
Tablet discussed the history of B’nai B’rith International as well as its archives in a piece about German Jews who bore witness to the horror of Hitler’s ascension to power in letters to loved ones.
The article describes the formation of B’nai B’rith in Germany in 1882 as a response to the spike in national antipathy toward German Jews. It also includes detailed excerpts these letters from German Jews to loved ones. These documents are part of the B’nai B’rith Archives, now housed at the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati.
When Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany on Jan. 30, 1933, he gained the authority to implement his racist ideology toward Germany’s Jews, who then numbered 535,000 out of a general population of 67 million. After the Reichstag (parliament) elections on March 5, the new German government removed the constraints on violence against Jews, and assaults and vicious beatings of Jews in the streets of major German cities by Nazi thugs became commonplace. Within months, the Nazi government issued numerous decrees and regulations that effectively removed Jews from German economic life and the professions, the goal being to force the Jews to leave Germany.
German Jews reacted to these developments with shock and disbelief. Diaries and memoirs record their distress and utter bewilderment. Another primary source is the private letters that German Jews sent to relatives living abroad. These letters express the reactions and emotions of men and women to the horrifying events unfolding around them daily. One rarely used such resource is the letters written by German B’nai B’rith (Sons of the Covenant) members to relatives in the United States. Many of these letters were forwarded to B’nai B’rith’s international headquarters in Cincinnati, where they remain part of the organization’s archives.
Jewish men established the German B’nai B’rith in Berlin 1882 to combat a rising tide of anti-Semitism among the populace and in fraternal organizations. From 1882 onward, most German B’nai B’rith members belonged to business, industry, and the legal and medical professions. In general, B’nai B’rith members represented the most influential element within European Jewish society, and many of the leading personalities in Jewish life were members. At the time of the Berlin lodge’s founding, the largest and wealthiest German Jewish elite lived in Berlin and occupied an important position in the city’s cultural and intellectual life. By 1925, Germany contained 107 B’nai B’rith lodges with over 15,000 members.
While all German Jews reacted to these events with alarm and incredulity, the elite of the community experienced an especially deep dismay, having assumed that their economic and social position and contributions to German life and culture would shield them from danger. B’nai B’rith members came from this class, and many of them wrote personal and emotional letters describing the nightmare they found themselves in to family members living in the United States. The letters movingly express the consternation and terror the writers felt as the world they knew collapsed.
A letter written in April 1933 by an elderly physician to his daughter living in the United States expresses the author’s anguish, disillusionment, and anger at what has befallen him and those in his profession.
Your dear mother owing to bad health is in danger of her life and this is the main reason why I left Berlin as fast as possible. Nothing had happened to me personally up till then … I myself face a complete breakdown of my nerves. I surely could not have managed to keep quiet in case of a controversy. What that would have meant, other doctors have found out with their lives. Now after a few days in Paris where people do not look at you with eyes of hatred, where they are friendly and human, I can breathe again, which I could not do lately at home.
And for that I had to lose my father in the war; for that I had to leave wife and children to risk my life as a volunteer during the war. I had to lose everything and build up after the war an existence so that my family would not suffer hunger. For that I was proud when I was 60 years old to have only few enemies and many friends and to enjoy reputation and esteem – to now end my life as a second-grade citizen. These methods are so much more cruel than anything in anti-Semitism up to now, because they did not kill in one day 13,000, after which the beast would calm down, but now in cold reasoning hundreds of thousands of Jews are being destroyed spiritually, physically, morally and now finally economically. And even if this present storm should subside, it will break out time and again as soon as economic difficulties make Hitler’s success impossible. You cannot allow a big party of untamed youth to shout continuously “perish Jews.” Then Jews simply have to perish. That is what these brutal elements now demand. I bespeak you to destroy this letter because I do not wish to contribute one iota lest Germany’s reputation should be damaged by me. Indeed thanks to my friends and my position, I have not received anything but good from Germany so that I now do not wish to seem ungrateful. But now unfortunately everything is dark. And in this spirit I just wanted to open my sick heart to you to relieve myself. But I ask you to please be careful so that not through you anything may become known. For every attack in foreign countries, reacts in Germany on its Jewish citizens. They alone have to suffer for what others sin. … Finally, be very careful when you write to us because after the inquiry at the American consulate every one of your letters has been opened.
The letter illustrates the extreme caution Jewish letter writers had to exercise when voicing criticism of the government because doing so could cost them their lives. The writer also reminds his daughter to exercise caution in what she writes to him because the Jews were under constant surveillance. He explains that her letters are being opened after he made inquiries at the American embassy. He also mentions the unpleasant truth that German Jews would pay a heavy price for every negative action against Germany instigated by Jews living abroad. This comment reflects the harsh reality that the German government blamed Germany’s Jews for the anti-German rallies and demonstrations undertaken by Jews in other countries. He purposely did not date or sign the letter, and he mailed it from Paris where he was on a trip with his wife because letters mailed outside Germany were not opened, scrutinized, or censored.
On April 2, 1933, the wife of another Berlin physician and B’nai B’rith member wrote to a relative in the United States movingly describing what she witnessed during the April 1 national boycott against Jews in Germany and her reaction and emotions regarding what she saw.
I will try to give you an idea of my experiences of yesterday—Saturday, April 1st….I have had many experiences in my life, but nothing I have ever gone thru can compare with this Nazi boycott in retaliation of “the atrocity propaganda” against Germans. No blood was shed, that is true, but the humiliation to the Jews—the absolute helplessness of their position—the cowardliness of these brutes in carrying out to the last vestage [sic], the most intimate details on orders from above (Goebbels and Goerring [sic])beggars description.
I wanted to see for myself just what was happening and so went down the Kurfurstendam [sic]–a street much like 5th Ave. in N.Y.—very long, block after block of both large and small exclusive shops interspersed by large coffee houses and movies. Here on a Sat. afternoon it is a sort of promenade and window-shopping, but the site that met one’s eyes yesterday! On the large windows of all shops bearing even the semblance of a Jewish name these brown shirts had pasted plain colored posters about 3 feet long bearing the words, “Deutsche Whart Euch—Kauft nicht bei Juden” (Germans beware do not buy from Jews). On office buildings where Jewish lawyers, notaries, or doctors have their small signs … they smeared over the signs of the Jews and pasted smaller placards. “Jews—geht nicht hier” (Jews—do not enter)….
These young devils like a lot of hungry wolves let loose … with buckets filled with red paint and with large paint brushes, rushed from one shop window to another and not satisfied with having put huge posters against the Jews thereon, printed in huge letters at the side of the posters JUDE [underlined in the original]. These were followed by other troops with white paint buckets who hastily painted a large Shield of David [underlined in the original] on the same windows. It was a concerted action, completely organized so that one atrocity followed upon the other. Up and down these devils flew, across the wide streets over to the opposite side while the crowds of people (there was scarcely a Jew to be seen on the streets, they were mostly at home, being afraid to venture out), looked on, some with serious faces—many (and mostly the bourgeois type, the kind of women one could imagine in France during the revolution) grinning and smiling approvingly as though it was a huge joke! Can you imagine my feeling? Large shops and small ones, shops that no one ever knew that they were owned by Jews… lace houses that have been in the same shops for 50 years—coffee houses and fine restaurants. Hundreds and hundreds of stores, delicatessen shops, the finest Berlin has, were all, without exception smeared up in this way. And what a sight! And what deep misery in the wake of this dastardly, cowardly outbreak. On some stores which from the name one would never think owned by Jews they had smeared “Geborener Jude” [born a Jew]. And on many, oh so many, in large white letters they printed “Ich bein Jude” [I am a Jew]… The ready-to-wear shops—and there are many—on the main street, Leipzigerstrasse, were all full of these signs. Well, my dears, my heart ached and bled and it was all I could do to keep the tears back. … Throughout the entire breath and length of this long, long, Kurfurstendam [sic] we never saw one single policeman [underlined in the original], not one officer of the law to protect any outrage that might have occurred. … Can you imagine a civilized land condoning such atrocities? Can you imagine in the twentieth century that troops of young snips should have the right to perpetuate such horrible deeds as the smearing of respectable shops with all these dirty epithets? Juda-Juda everywhere. Kauft nicht bei Juden-kauft nur bei Deutsche. (Don’t buy from Jews buy only from Germans).
Jews who fought and died for their Fatherland should not be looked upon as Germans? And then, when one thought they had finished with their dirty work—to see them wild with glee and victory heaped upon helpless Jews, (and oh how helpless) this handful of people is against the infamous mob backed by the government of tyrants and Jew haters—to add the finishing touch—the Shield of David painted in white on all the windows. Well, that Shield has led Jews throughout centuries and protected them from greater atrocities than those that are being heaped on them today by this barbarous country…. God has never left us yet and my faith in Him has never been shaken.
The blood-thirsty army which Hitler and his cohorts have been building up have had their first outlet. … The protests of the Jews in the foreign countries played right into their hands and they used their already prepared and fully organized “boycott” as THEIR protest to the lies[underlined in the original] about Germany which, as they claimed, the Jews [underlined in the original]over here broadcast. These demons say, “this is your own work—now take your medicine.” … I am now worried until Pesach is over, for I can’t help thinking, in the face of the placards announcing that the Jews need Christian blood for the Passover feast, that some horrible thing is brewing. Let us hope not. I also am afraid now as many others are, of confiscation of the property belonging to the Jews… I doubt if anything I have written you in such minute detail will come into the press, and that is why I have written my personal account of it.
The letter makes evident that the writer is a member of the middle or upper-middle class. She wrote the letter in English and translated the German phrases she uses into English. The shock she evinces relates to the fact that she never encountered this kind of action and violence against Jews of her standing and class. She cannot grasp that such an action took place in an upscale district of Berlin and not in some lower-class and poor area of the city. She fears that this is not the end, but that the government has plans for additional and more horrible actions against the Jews. Her letter also makes evident that Jews owned most of the stores, restaurants, and cafes on Berlin’s most exclusive shopping street.
The following letter, dated March 23, 1933, was written by the wife of a physician and B’nai B’rith member in Vienna to her cousin in the United States. Although she lives in Vienna, she describes the conditions in Germany that affect Jews of the “intellectual” class. She asks her cousin Severna to “please consider this letter as one from my husband, whose secretary and spokesman I have become in this emergency.”
Aside from the daily violence and the daily threats and menaces of more persecutions to come, which the highest officials have openly said, we can report that the most dangerous threat of all which over-hangs German Jews is as follows: (my report is very condensed and stresses the situation of the intellectual workers, since my husband is a physician).
All Jews exercising so-called free vocations as lawyers, physicians, artists, etc. are placed under what is called “exception rules.” In plain words, that means that Jewish lawyers are not allowed to plead cases before German law courts, that Jewish doctors have been removed from the staffs of hospitals and cooperative health institutions more or less violently, and the actors and orchestra leaders are no longer permitted to act or to lead.
A highly organized boycott system is being carried out against Jewish tradesmen of all kinds so that our coreligionists in Germany find it absolutely impossible to earn a living.
In our country the same movement is spreading rapidly and we can foresee a coalition with the same German system in the near future.
I beg of you, dear cousin Severna, to hand this S.O.S. communication to the authority you think should see it. For the sake of caution I am not mentioning my address in this letter. Should you be unable to find it, I am sure your father will have it. I will not write you any personal news for we feel so depressed and downhearted that I could only repeat the theme of this letter.
Ever yours affectionately
P.S. When replying, please be very careful not to be too explicit and keep in mind the fact that the letter will possibly be opened and read by officials.
As in the first letter, the writer of this letter is also afraid to write her address. She is worried that German officials may trace the letter to her and she and her family will be in danger for what she wrote. She also fears that what is happening in Germany will happen in Austria as well.
As all the letters indicate, by the end of April 1933 few Jewish members of the middle and upper middle classes had any illusions that conditions under the Nazis would improve. With hindsight, we know that the Jewish situation only worsened. But none of the letter writers could have imagined that in 10 years they or their families would be reduced to ashes by a state-run industrial killing machine and that the long continuum of Jewish life in Germany would be broken.
JTA included statements by B'nai B'rith in its coverage today of Jewish groups’ reaction to the tax overhaul bill currently being debated in Congress.
In its statements regarding the tax bill, the leadership of B’nai B’rith expressed, “We are very concerned about the impact eliminating this deduction could have on seniors, particularly low-income older Americans who have used this tax savings to save money on their vital medical needs.”
Jewish groups expressed dismay at some of the provisions of a tax overhaul that President Donald Trump and Republicans hope to complete by the end of this year.
The overhaul, broadly, slashes taxes and compensates for them to a degree by reducing deductions.
Congress launched hearings on the reforms this week after Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, unveiled them last week. It will be the first major overhaul of the taxation system in three decades. Its purported hallmark is simplicity: Ryan has said that a filer could send in a return on a postcard if he so chooses.
Of concern to Jewish groups are the removal of deductions, possible reductions in spending for social safety net programs, and the removal of a ban on tax exemptions for houses of worship.
In statements and memos, Jewish groups expressed concerns that the repeal of deductions could harm the sectors that rely on them. B’nai B’rith International, which advocates on behalf of the elderly, decried the elimination of deductions for medical expenses. Most of the Americans who take advantage of the deduction, which applies if one’s medical expenses exceed 10 percent of one’s income, are older than 65, the group said.
“Medical expenses that can be deducted from federal taxes include prescription drugs, insulin, glasses, hearings aids, payments to doctors, dentists and surgeons, nursing home fees and some long-term care insurance premiums,” it said in a statement released Friday. “We are very concerned about the impact eliminating this deduction could have on seniors, particularly low-income older Americans who have used this tax savings to save money on their vital medical needs.”
In a memo to its constituent Jewish federations, the Jewish Federations of North America singled out the proposed elimination of a tax credit for small businesses that build accommodations for the disabled.
“JFNA will actively oppose the repeal of this provision,” the memo said.
Also of concern to JFNA are changes likely to affect charitable giving, including a provision that doubles the “standard deduction” — the amount that filers can choose to claim if they forego itemized deductions.
“Because fewer taxpayers would itemize and benefit from the tax incentive for charitable contributions, overall giving would be expected to decrease,” the memo said.
The JFNA memo also said the umbrella body would lobby against eliminating the amendment that keeps houses of worship from opposing or endorsing candidates. Trump has vowed to kill the “Johnson Amendment,” named for Lyndon Johnson, who led its passage in the 1950s as a senator. A broad range of liberal Jewish groups want it preserved.
“JFNA will join with the overwhelming majority of charities, including religious groups, opposing this change that would weaken the fabric of this important protection from partisan politics that has enabled charities and houses of worship to remain focused on their mission,” the memo said.
B’nai B’rith, the National Council of Jewish Women and Bend the Arc in statements addressed concerns about the broader implications of the bill, saying the cuts — some estimates say they could slash revenue by as much as $1.5 trillion over the next decade — could destroy social safety net programs.
“This could seriously harm our more vulnerable populations, as increasing the deficit would provide cover for lawmakers to argue for cuts to important federal programs such as Medicare and Medicaid to make up for the shortfall,” B’nai B’rith said.
Bend the Arc alluded to corporate tax cuts and reductions in top level income taxes in the proposal, saying the plan “would exacerbate inequality, robbing vital programs for ordinary Americans to pay back millionaire campaign donors with tax cuts.”
NCJW said the plan was “severely skewed toward the rich.”
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