JTA ran a story on B’nai B’rith’s efforts to help those affected by the severe weather that swept across the southern United States in late December. B’nai B’rith opened its flood, tornado and hurricane disaster relief fund and had volunteers on the ground assisting in clean up. Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin was quoted, “B’nai B’rith will, without fail, always offer help, to anyone, anywhere in need.” Click here to read the article on JTA.org
B’nai B’rith International will make disaster relief funds available for victims of storms in the southern United States that have killed 40 people.
The tornadoes and torrential rains throughout Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama and Texas started early last week.
Some 14 tornadoes hit Mississippi on Dec. 23 and continued through Tennessee, Texas and Arkansas. Nine tornadoes in North Texas over the weekend left more than 1,450 homes destroyed and 11 dead. Heavy rains and floods in the Midwest also left 13 dead.
B’nai B’rith said in a statement that it would work in coalition with other agencies to provide emergency support relief efforts and long-term rebuilding plans through its Flood, Tornado and Hurricane Disaster Relief Fund.
“B’nai B’rith will, without fail, always offer help, to anyone, anywhere in need,” said Daniel Mariaschin, the group’s international executive vice president. “I commend our volunteers, who are already on the ground assisting in the clean up, for their swift response to this devastating situation. We will continue to monitor the type of supplies and assistance needed in the coming days,”
The Jewish Daily Forward continued media coverage of the U.N. recognizing Yom Kippur as an official holiday. A B’nai B’rith statement is quoted in the story, saying “this is a modest, common-sense step toward fairness for personnel at the United Nations and respect for Judaism as a major world religion. It should be emulated at the U.N.’s offices across the world, and built upon across an international system in which politics often supplant mutual respect and equality.” Click here to read the article at Forward.com
The United Nations will for the first time recognize Yom Kippur as an official holiday.
Starting in 2016, no official meetings will take place on the Jewish day of atonement at the international body’s New York headquarters, and Jewish employees there will be able to miss work without using vacation hours, the Times of Israel reported Friday.
Other religious holidays that enjoy the same status are Christmas, Good Friday, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. This is the first time in its 70-year history that the U.N. has recognized a Jewish holiday.
In a statement issued Friday, B’nai B’rith International, which in a 2014 Op-Ed for The New York Times pushed for the international body to recognize Yom Kippur, said it “welcomes” the news.
In 2014, ambassadors from 32 countries signed a letter in support of recognizing Yom Kippur.
“This is a modest, common-sense step toward fairness for personnel at the United Nations and respect for Judaism as a major world religion,” the B’nai B’rith statement said. “It should be emulated at the U.N.’s offices across the world, and built upon across an international system in which politics often supplant mutual respect and equality.”
“We strongly commend the diplomats of the United States, Israel and many other nations who made possible the progress seen yesterday,” the statement added.
Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to United Nations, said the decision means there is finally “an official place for the Jewish religion in the world’s parliament.”
“Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people, and the U.N. should have recognized this holiday many years ago,” Danon said.
Like B’nai B’rith, he thanked U.S. diplomats, specifically US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, reports the Times of Israel, for blocking attempts to kill the proposal.
The Jerusalem Post ran a story about the IAEA’s decision to close its investigation of past Iranian nuclear activity. The paper included a list of Jewish organizations that expressed disappointment in the U.N.’s decision; and B’nai B’rith was on that list. Click here to read the story on JPost.com
For Iran, the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany to reach “Implementation Day” for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Tehran must first complete a series of tasks. Those steps include neutering its plutonium reactor in Arak, reducing its nuclear enrichment capacity and stockpile, and increasing access and transparency at its declared nuclear facilities.
As soon as Iran completes all these steps – a process the Obama administration believed would take four to six months – the deal reached in July will be formally implemented, and Iran will begin receiving sanctions relief.
Having promised in election campaigns past an improved economy in short order, the government of President Hassan Rouhani has been pushing toward implementation before Iran’s parliamentary elections at the end of February. At the start of the process, Iranian officials even expressed hope they would complete the initial steps by the end of this year.
IAEA director-general Yukiya Amano, whose agency must verify that Iran has put the required nuclear restrictions in place for sanctions to be lifted, told Reuters in an interview this week that the electoral deadline could be met.
“If everything goes well, it is not impossible,” he said. “Our inspectors are on the ground and they are observing their activities, and with their report I can tell that Iran is undertaking activities at a very high pace.”
Iran said after an IAEA board meeting on Tuesday that it hoped to have put the restrictions in place within two to three weeks. Amano has said his agency would then need a matter of weeks to verify the curbs.
Also this week, the IAEA Board of Governors closed its investigation into Iran’s past work on nuclear weaponization, after confirming in a December 2 report that the country had indeed coordinated a program prior to 2009 that was consistent with illicit weapons work.
The US praised the board’s decision, while Israel, and several US-based Jewish groups, condemned it as a political move.
“We are deeply dismayed at the vote,” said Malcolm Hoenlein and Stephen Greenberg, leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
“This action by the IAEA board will compromise future inspection regimes and increases the likelihood of Iran’s continuing deceptions and clandestine advances of its nuclear weapons program.”
B’nai B’rith International, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Anti-Defamation League also expressed disappointment in the UN agency’s decision.
Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, one of four Democrats in the upper chamber to stand against the deal in a key September vote, said, “I don’t accept that the IAEA report competently or fully addresses the true nature of Iran’s past weapons of mass destruction program. The report was a whitewash. And it certainly doesn’t give us any more insight into Iran’s past activities or future intentions.
“This sets a terrible precedent for the IAEA with respect to investigations in other countries,” he said, “and more importantly, does not provide the United States with full information on the scope and progress of Iran’s nuclear weapons program – information that is critical to guide the IAEA’s inspection and verification regime under the JCPOA.”
Secretary of State John Kerry, in a statement explaining US support for the move, said that closure of the investigation was a “critical component of the implementation process” of the JCPOA.
The IAEA’s December 2 report “is consistent with what the United States had long assessed concerning Iran’s past nuclear program,” Kerry said. “This resolution allows the Board to turn its focus now to the full implementation and verification of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which prohibits the resumption of such nuclear weapons-related activities and provides comprehensive tools for deterring and detecting any renewed nuclear weapons work.”
CNN International ran a story on the United Nations adding Yom Kippur to its official holiday list. After many years during which no acknowledgment was afforded to the holiest day on the Jewish calendar—even in the city with the largest Jewish population in the Diaspora—staff at U.N. headquarters in New York can now choose Yom Kippur from among six holidays on which they can stay home from work. You can read it on CNN.com by clicking here.
For the first time in its 70-year history, the United Nations has officially recognized a Jewish holiday.
U.N. employees who observe the Jewish faith will have the day off and no official meetings will take place on this date from now on, according to the Israeli mission to the organization.
Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, considered the most important Jewish religious holiday, will join two of the world's other monotheistic religions in having one of its high holidays observed by the world body.
Christmas Day, Good Friday, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha have all been recognized by the United Nations as official religious holidays.
B'nai B'rith International, in a statement, said Thursday's decision on how the holiday would be practically observed was a "modest, common-sense step."
In the past, the opening week of the General Assembly fell on at least one of the Jewish holidays, which are typically celebrated toward the end of September. This has caused Israeli delegates to miss sideline meetings and official debates, according to the Israeli mission to the organization, which has been a member state since 1949.
Efforts to have the United Nations recognize Yom Kippur were led by Israel's former ambassador the United Nations, Ron Prosor, who began lobbying almost three years ago.
Starting in 2016, according to the decision by the United Nations, the organization will no longer have 10 official holidays -- there will be nine official holidays and each employee will be able to choose one of seven floating holidays as a 10th holiday.
Yom Kippur, along with Day of Vesak, Diwali, Gurpurab, Orthodox Christmas and Orthodox Good Friday, in addition to Presidents' Day, will be considered floating holidays. The United Nations said the move was "in the interest of respecting the diversity of United Nations staff members."
The decision implements General Assembly resolution 69/250, which recognized the significance of a number of other holidays, and was adopted last year.
"The decision to recognize Yom Kippur allows for more diversity in religion and opened the door for other holidays, in addition to Yom Kippur," Israeli diplomat Yotam Goren told CNN in a phone interview.
Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, played a crucial role in negotiating the initiative, according to the Israeli mission. "The partnership with the U.S. Mission prevented the anti-Israel majority at the U.N. from blocking the resolution," the Israeli mission said in a press release.
The Algemeiner: Jewish Groups Decry Atomic Agency Decision to End Probe into Military Dimensions of Iran’s Nuclear Program
The Algemeiner quoted B’nai B’rith President Gary P. Saltzman, and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin who expressed their deep disappointment by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)'s decision to close its investigation of illicit past Iranian activity in pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability. “This outcome sets a perilous example to other countries — that deception and continued testing of proscribed weapons is acceptable,” Saltzman is quoted as saying. Click here to read the story on Algemeiner.com
American Jewish groups across the board echoed Israel’s harsh condemnation of new European Union guidelines for labeling products made in territory captured by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War.
Jewish advocacy group the American Jewish Committee said it was “dismayed” by the EU announcement.
“Today’ s decision will play into the hands of those determined to demonize the Jewish state; offend mainstream Israelis who favor territories compromise and encourage maximalist Palestinian positions,” said the director of AJC’s Transatlantic Institute, Daniel Schwammenthal.Schwammenthal warned that the activists promoting a boycott of all Israeli products would ultimately use these new guidelines as fuel for their political activities. Referring to the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, Schwammenthal said, “This BDS movement will no doubt use these EU rules to intensify its shameful policy of picketing shops and intimidating consumers and business owners to outright ban Israeli settlement products as a first step in their strategy to boycott all Israeli goods.”
As Israeli leaders have said, Schwammenthal stressed the singling out of Israel from among the world’s nations regarding the labeling of products from disputed territories.
Schwammenthal also criticized the EU’s labeling of products manufactured in the Golan Heights — such as award winning Israeli wines — saying regular Israelis would see this as removed from the reality on the ground, where neighboring Syria has crumbled under several years of sectarian violence. This could have the effect of “weakening the EU’s standing as a credible player in the region,” he said.
WJC CEO Robert Singer called the move a “misguided attempt to hamper trade with Israel and to exert political pressure on the government in Jerusalem.”
“This does nothing to advance the peace process. On the contrary, all it will do is strengthen those hardliners in the Middle East and in Europe who reject the Jews’ right to live in peace in the land of Israel,” he said.
The Anti-Defamation League called the EU regulations unproductive and one-sided, criticizing the EU for applying external pressure with the hopes of achieving a breakthrough in the peace process.
“It is for Palestinians and Israelis – not the Europeans – to determine future borders between them, not Europe. European countries have not had much luck drawing boundaries in the Middle East,” said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt.
“In fact, this unhelpful policy to apply diplomatic pressure only on Israel only serves to reinforce Palestinian unwillingness to rejoin direct negotiations with Israel,” he said in a statement.
“If the EU wants to play a positive role in the Middle East peace process, it will not pressure Israel through economic sanctions, but use its influence to bring the Palestinian Authority back to the negotiating table, and end the wave of Palestinian incitement and violence,” he said.
B’nai B’rith International said the move was an anti-Israel measure that obstructed any resolution with the Palestinians.
“It also encourages and reinforces the Palestinian narrative at a dire time when anti-Semitic incitement is thriving and there have been more than 60 knife, gun and car attacks on Israeli Jews,” the group said.
“The European Union would better spend its time encouraging Palestinians to get to the negotiating table, as these guidelines only prolong the process, rather than resolve it,” B’nai B’rith said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meanwhile called the move hypocritical and said it held the Jewish state to a double standard, “dealing just with Israel and not the 200 other conflicts throughout the world.”
“The European Union decided to label Israel alone and we are unwilling to accept the fact that Europe is actually labeling the side that’s being attacked with terrorism,” he said, according to Army Radio.
The new Israeli ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, said in a press release that he was appalled by the EU move, saying it amounted to condemning the “entire Zionist enterprise as Racist [sic] and discriminatory.”
He said just as the 1975 UN resolution saying Zionism was a form of racism was repealed, “so too will this disgraceful decision be retracted.”
The new guidelines apply mainly to Israeli agricultural goods and products, such as olive oil, fruits and vegetables, eggs and poultry, as well as cosmetics, from Israeli owned businesses and farms operating in the disputed territories of the West Bank and the Golan Heights.
A wide range of Nazi-related items are available for sale on Amazon, which still seems unable to control the sale of this hateful paraphernalia.
B’nai B’rith International joins with Bnai Brith Canada in condemning the sale of these disgusting and hate-filled objects calling on the online retailer to swiftly remove this merchandise from its store.
B’nai B’rith has frequently spoken out against online outfits such as Etsy, Ebay and Sears, peddling everything from Nazi sneakers to Holocaust denial books.
Below you'll find a recent story from CBC on the offensive items sold on Amazon, a B'nai B'rith call to web retailers to remove hateful and anti-Semitic objects from their stores, and a story about a call that was heeded by Amazon—to remove blood-stained Israeli flag merchandise from its website.
B'nai B'rith Writes CNN After Commentator Uses Trump's Anti-Muslim Immigration Plan to Exhibit Anti-Israel Bias
The following was written by B'nai B'rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin to CNN's head of news standards and practices, asking for an apology or correction after commentator Ashleigh Banfield again showed her extreme anti-Israel bias, linking Donald Trump's anti-Muslim immigration plan and ISIS to a fringe, right- wing Jewish group.
CNN owes its viewers a correction and an apology in the wake of Ashleigh Banfield’s “interview” with Jeffrey Lord, a Donald Trump supporter, former Ronald Reagan staffer and current CNN commentator.
The conversation on “Legal View with Ashleigh Banfield" was billed as a discussion about Trump’s plan to bar Muslims from entering the United States (a plan which B’nai B’rith spoke out against).
Instead, Banfield used a marginal Jewish group to make an inappropriate comparison, revealing, again, her long-standing, well-documented bias against Israel. In trying to demonstrate the absurdity of the Trump plan, Banfield compared ISIS terrorists of today with the three-decades old actions of a fringe Jewish group, the Jewish Defense League (JDL). She created a preposterous link to the radical Islamic terrorists of today that is just not relevant.
In her farfetched analogy, she makes it seem like a small, fringe Jewish group that committed acts of violence in the 1980s is somehow equivalent to a mass movement like ISIS, which aims for an end to Western civilization.
This dangerous lack of context left viewers with the impression there are hordes of Jewish terrorists who have committed attacks in the United States.
Banfield was clearly not interested in Lord’s view, talking over him repeatedly as he tried to denounce her absurd claims. Even when he asked incredulously: “Are you really saying to me that there's an international Jewish conspiracy to take over the world?" Banfield didn’t budge.
Sticking to the biased script she has clung to for more than a decade, Banfield concluded the segment again talking about the threat Jews are to the United States.
Her incomplete and irresponsible line of thought was presented as fact. What a disservice to viewers.
The Times of Israel has a round-up of what organizations are saying in response to Donald Trump’s call to ban all Muslim immigration to America and B'nai B'rith International makes an appearance on the list: “Singling out an entire religious community for diminished rights amounts to bigotry, and it should not be accepted.” Click here to read the article on TimesofIsrael.com
Donald Trump’s call last week to bar all Muslims from entering the United States “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on” has set off a deluge of criticism in America and around the world, from US House Speaker Paul Ryan to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu rejects Donald Trump’s recent remarks about Muslims,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement. “The State of Israel respects all religion and strictly adheres to the rights of all its citizens.”
Trump’s December 7 remark also spurred numerous Jewish organizations to speak up.
Here’s a roundup of some of the notable Jewish organizational responses, as well as some of those that have stayed silent.
Jewish defense organizations:
CityBeat, which reports on the Cincinnati area,wrote a story about the HUC-JIR Cincinnati Skirball Museum displaying artifacts from the B’nai B’rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum. Last year B’nai B’rith transferred its massive collection of art and social documents to the museum. Click here to read it on CityBeat.com
Art and artifacts from the B’nai B’rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum are now making their debut in Cincinnati, which will be the Klutznick collection’s permanent home.
But don’t look for “The Klutznick” — which had existed in Washington, D.C. — to have its own brick-and-mortar building here. Rather, its holdings this year have become part of the existing Skirball Museum on the Clifton campus of Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion. Nevertheless, Skirball plans to clearly identify the source of its new collection.
The first exhibition to feature these arrivals is now open. Called Ten Treasures from the B’nai B’rith Klutznick Collection, it is on display at the Skirball through Jan. 24.
Really, the size of the total Klutznick collection dwarfs that of the Skirball’s — it has some 2,200 objects compared to the Skirball’s roughly 500. It also has some major historic and contemporary Judaica and art, including several Rembrandt etchings.
The arrival of this gift from B’nai B’rith, an organization that has advocated on behalf of global Jewry since 1843, gives the Klutznick collection a new life. It had been in storage for 13 years, since B’nai B’rith moved its Washington headquarters to a downsized space without room for its museum. B’nai B’rith earlier had given its archives to American Jewish Archives, also based on the HUC-JIR Cincinnati campus.
Many, but not all, of the Ten Treasures relate to the Jewish tradition of creating beautiful objects to hold, accompany or cover the Torah, the scroll that is central to the teachings of the religion and used in services.
One exceptional piece now on display is contemporary, a 1967 polished-silver and blue patinated-copper “Torah Crown” by the Israeli artist Ori Resheff, a third-generation silversmith.
This modern piece, with its layers of swooping, curved metal ovals inscribed with Hebrew lettering, seems too abstract to serve its stated function of covering both the top and front (like a breastplate) of a Torah.
It looks more like an art object in its own right, or a model for the next futuristically silvery Frank Gehry building.
Another of the objects has a somewhat similar stated purpose but is very different in many ways — although, it, too, is of great beauty. It is a late-19th/early-20th century “Tik (Case) and Torah” by an unknown artisan and comes from India.
While made of wood, that material is only visible on the opened inside, which holds the deerskin Torah. The exterior is covered with velvet and plated with silver. On the top are ornamental, Middle Eastern-shaped objects with engraved Hebrew inscriptions, including the Ten Commandments. There are also two finials called rimmonim.
Designed for use by nomadic peoples who may not have a home synagogue (the Jews of India migrated from Baghdad), it allowed the Torah scroll to be read while still inside the traveling case.
The arrival of the Klutznick collection marks an impressive turnaround for the Skirball since Jonathan Cohen became dean of HUC-JIR’s Cincinnati campus in 2011. (There are also New York, Jerusalem and Los Angeles campuses.)
During the early years of the Great Recession, the museum had major cutbacks, losing its full-time curator and reducing operations to appointment-only hours. Under Cohen, the museum first resumed shows and then appointed Abby Schwartz — former curator of education at Taft Museum — full-time director in 2013.
The Skirball opened in 1990 primarily to show material collected by HUC over the years in a permanent exhibit called An Eternal People: The Jewish Experience.
“The intake of this collection is a tipping point for us,” Schwartz said of the Klutznick collection. “We are now thinking about a redesign of our permanent collection, or core exhibition, that pretty much has looked the same since 1990. We are exploring a rethinking of that space and others in this building that can be developed as exhibition spaces.”
The Times of Israel wrote a story about the Australia B'nai B'rith Anti Defamation Commission Chairman Dvir Abramovich's condemnation of social critic Camille Paglia and her labeling of pop star Taylor Swift as a "Nazi Barbie.” “Such obscene and insensitive equations have no place in our cultural discourse and only serve to demean and trivialize the memory and suffering of the victims,” Abramovich said. Click here to read the full story on TimesofIsrael.com
An Australian Jewish group has criticized author Camille Paglia for referring to Taylor Swift as an “obnoxious Nazi Barbie.”
The chairman of the Australian B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission said Paglia’s comments, which she published in an article for the Hollywood Reporter on Thursday, were “obscene.”
“While Paglia is entitled to her views about Taylor Swift’s music and performance, her absurd and offensive comparison of Swift to the Nazis, whose genocidal policies and actions resulted in the systematic persecution and slaughter of six million Jews and millions of others in the Holocaust, betrays an ignorance of what really happened in Hitler’s Third Reich,” said Dvir Abramovich, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday.
“Such obscene and insensitive equations have no place in our cultural discourse and only serve to demean and trivialize the memory and suffering of the victims.”
Paglia, an eminent feminist academic and social critic, made headlines last week with her polarizing essay about Swift, who is among the best-selling American musicians of all time.
“Swift herself should retire that obnoxious Barbie routine of wheeling out friends and celebrities as performance props,” Paglia wrote.
Paglia’s argument focused on Swift’s “girl squads” and the way she often surrounds herself with celebrity friends on and off stage.
“Writing about Swift is a horrific ordeal for me because her twinkly persona is such a scary flashback to the fascist blondes who ruled the social scene during my youth,” she said.
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