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.
With contested Israeli elections, the framework of a nuclear deal in place between the west and Iran, and a tenuous peace between Israel and the Palestinians, there is much political fodder for discussion at this year's Passover Seder tables.
The International Business Times featured quotes from B'nai B'rith World Center Director Alan Schneider in an article on the topic. Read highlights from the wide-ranging piece, below:
As much as Mia Warshofsky is looking forward to spending time with her family this Passover, the Florida college student is already bracing herself for the political arguments that she knows will break out over the Seder table on Friday. The subject of Israel has become a point of contention between Warshofsky and her grandparents, following Israel’s 50-day offensive in Gaza last summer, and she anticipates that these disagreements will be further inflamed by more recent political events.
“I would like my Seder table to not be a political minefield,” said Warshofsky, 20, a sophomore at the University of Central Florida in Orlando and a critic of the Israeli government’s policies toward Palestinians. “But all of my grandparents have recently picked up this really wonderful habit of bringing up Israel every time they see me… I don’t like to start debates, but they always seem to steer the conversations toward the hot-button issues.”
Warshofsky’s family will not be the only one navigating potentially charged political discussions this year. Passover comes in the immediate aftermath of Israel’s contentious elections and just after the announcement of a preliminary agreement over Iran's nuclear program, a process Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned will endanger the Jewish state.
These sensitive issues mean that for many U.S. Jews, regardless of political or denominational affiliation, the rituals of the Passover ceremony, which commemorates the Israelites’ freedom from slavery, will be particularly charged this year.
The implications of the election, which saw the incumbent Israeli leader sweep to a landslide victory after a tightly contested campaign, will be a particularly prominent topic at Seders in Israel, said Alan Schneider, the director of the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem. However, Schneider argued that for most Israelis, intense debates about Middle East politics are nothing new and that this year’s Passover would not necessarily be a departure from previous year’s holidays.
B'nai B'rith International World Center is excited to announce a first-of-its-kind live, virtual tour of Israel. Friends and members of B'nai B'rith are invited to watch the three-hour tour of the Old City of Jerusalem on March 11, at 10 a.m. (EDT), or catch it archived after the fact.
The announcement was picked up by the New York Jewish Week, which conducted an interview with Alan Schneider, director of the B’nai B’rith World Center.
Read highlights from the article below, and view a mention in a JBS (formerly Shalom TV) broadcast (4:40 mark):
“But we know that many people are not able to visit or have not yet visited, and we thought this would be a good way to expose them to the different sights and sounds of the city. It will be an unedited, live look at Jerusalem using high speed video streaming technology so that it can be done in an affordable way.”
He said the current plan is to use one cameraman/producer, Shmuel Benhamou. And viewers will be instructed in how to text questions about the sites being visited.
“The plan is to go to one site for 45-minutes, then take a 10 or 15-minute break while we travel to another site,” Schneider said. “We’ll take another break before we get to the third site, and so on. And as we go along, we may stop tourists to ask them about their experiences. We might go to the shook [market place] and stop at a shop and bargain for a chatzka [small item]. We also may stop for lunch in the Jewish quarter. It will not be a formal show. It is designed to give people a sense that you are here on a tour.”
In June, the B'nai B'rith World Center presented the 22nd annual awards for Excellence in Diaspora Journalism, honoring a trio of Israeli journalists noted for their work in covering the Diaspora issues.
The following video covers the highlights of the evening, including the acceptance speeches from each of the three journalists. Most of the speeches are given in Hebrew with English subtitles. Here is an excerpt from each acceptance speech:
"I would like to thank again the honorable heads of B'nai B'rith, and the members of the jury as well, for this great honor in receiving this award, and I promise to make an effort to stay worthy of it in the continuation of my journalism career."
"I would like to use this stage to thank the B'nai B'rith World Center for their decision to dedicate a special award for covering this important field [with] the yearly award in memory of Wolf and Hilda Matsdorf."
"Thank you members of the jury...I greatly appreciate this lifetime achievement award."
Watch the awards ceremony highlights, below:
The B'nai B'rith World Center in Jerusalem coordinated a delegation from B'nai B'rith Europe last week, to express solidarity with Israel.
The visit was covered by InfoPublico.com, the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA, 01:26:05 mark) and Telavivi.net:
The B'nai B'rith World Center in Jerusalem coordinated a delegation from B'nai B'rith Europe this week, to express solidarity with Israel.
The visit was covered by the Times of Israel in an article detailing daily updates on Operation Protective Edge:
A six-member group from B’nai B’rith Europe is visiting on a solidarity mission.
The group was briefed by government officials on the ongoing conflict with Hamas, learned first hand about the realities faced by Israelis in the most heavily shelled areas, and conveyed a message of unity with the people of Israel.
It visited Ashkelon, Sderot, areas in the Merhavim and Hof Ashkelon regional councils, and an Iron Dome battery.
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