B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin penned an op-ed for Algemeiner analyzing the dangers of mainstreaming anti-Semitism in the media.
Hardly a day passes without reading of someone, somewhere uttering an antisemitic trope. That part is not new; for millennia, this has been the norm. In the pre-Internet era, one could read, primarily in the Jewish media, about an antisemitic public official, a neo-Nazi, or a desk clerk at a restricted hotel uttering hateful comments or spinning conspiracies about Jews.
What is new, or relatively so, is that today we’re learning of Jew-hatred in real time, within hours of it being spouted. It comes from expected, and from unexpected, quarters. And sometimes it’s simply the portrayal of Jews that sends an antisemitic message.
Take the recent Canadian-produced NBC series “Nurses,” whose premise centers around five nurses and the lives and people they interact with. The most recent episode involved a young Hasidic accident victim named Israel and his father, whom we meet in a hospital room, where they’re engaged in conversation with one of the nurses.
The young Hasid needs a bone graft, he is told, and that will require using the bone of a cadaver. Israel expresses shock at the idea of having a “dead leg” inserted into his body, to which his father — dressed in a Hasidic black hat and coat, and wearing payot — says disgustedly: “A dead goyim leg — from anyone. An Arab, a woman.” The nurse, belittling both the father and son, responds: “Or, God forbid, an Arab woman.”
Never mind that Orthodox practice would allow for this graft, much more important, is that the picture presented to the viewer is classic antisemitism. Dressed in black and closed-minded (with one of them literally named Israel), the message is that these Jews are both peculiar and bigoted.
Any stereotyping is dangerous. But the Orthodox community often gets the brunt of this kind of instant presumptuousness. They are portrayed as an oddity or as an easy foil. The show made no attempt to give any kind of context to Orthodox Jewry or its medical worldview. The writers of this episode needed highly identifiable Jews to make the story work — and who cares about who might be hurt as long as it fits neatly into the one-hour timeframe.
But murderous attacks on Jews in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Poway, California, or Monsey, New York, are just a few examples of how antisemitic rhetoric can turn violent.
My guess is that most viewers of this program are not Jewish. Those who know us only at a distance would understandably not know about how diverse we are. We have a communal spectrum that runs from left to right, and everything in between, and includes the religious and the secular. Is the viewer’s education about the Jewish people to be gleaned from the likes of “Nurses” and other highly watched programs that traffic in biased presentations about sectors of our community?
I’m old enough to remember episodes of “Dr. Kildare,” “Gunsmoke,” and other TV dramas, that treated Jewish subjects with compassion and a seriousness of intent. That those programs aired at a time when Jews were subjected to admissions quotas, restricted neighborhoods, corporate glass ceilings, and other forms of discrimination made this treatment of Jews all-the-more important in fostering mutual respect.
Today though, in the broader world around us, there seems to be a growing tolerance toward anyone saying anything about whomever they wish, without any filter or fear of opprobrium. And increasingly, Jews have become the target.
“Saturday Night Live’s” Michael Che delivering a blood libel about Israel and the COVID vaccine masked as a “joke”; Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA)’s assertion that a Jewish space laser and the Rothschild family were responsible for California’s wildfires; and Lowell, Massachusetts, School Committee board member Robert Hoey’s referring to a former city employee as a “kike” on live public access TV are just a few very recent examples of what is becoming a frightening trend.
The Canadian producer of “Nurses” has apologized for the offensive episode, and NBC has pulled this episode and others from the air.
“Contrition tours,” where networks, politicians, comedians, and others offer a quick, “If I offended anyone, I’m sorry,” or give apology interviews with friendly journalists, is one way of getting these kinds of controversies quickly out of the way. But that is not enough.
The media can play a large role in sensitivity training for the public at large, but first it needs to take a course or two itself. Playing off Jewish stereotypes for shock value, or for a few laughs, is both irresponsible and reckless.
We need to see more positive programming about the Jewish community and its many contributions — in so many fields — to this country. School systems need to utilize textbooks that teach about our story as an immigrant people who came to America from dozens of countries to find a land of opportunity denied to them in the darker corners of Europe and elsewhere. And while people may know a bit about the Jewish religion, more attention needs to be paid to its history, customs, and traditions. Doing that might prevent a repeat of the “Nurses” debacle.
In May, we will observe the 15th anniversary of Jewish American Heritage Month. While positive programming about our community should be a 12-month-a-year endeavor, this special designation on the national calendar offers many opportunities for educators, government officials, media operatives, and others to spotlight our community in a positive way.
The danger we face is the mainstreaming of antisemitism. Where once these expressions of hatred were confined to the margins or were never discovered because there simply was no Internet megaphone, today they are seemingly everywhere, including network television.
As is often said, it may start with the Jews, but it never ends there. It’s not just about us: just follow what is written or said on social media, TV and talk radio, statements from political figures, and off-handed comments by celebrities; they are everywhere. It is one long parade of insults, put-downs, threats, loose talk, and worse.
Is the “Nurses” episode a wake-up call, or just another statistic in a week or month of egregious incidents? Our task is to speak up each time this happens, and as important, to ensure that our friends, neighbors, colleagues, and others beyond our community do not become inured to the threats before us.
NBC-Dallas/Fort Worth (KXAS-TV) highlighted our relief efforts in Texas as part of its roundup of organizations helping those impacted by the Texas winter storm, Who is Donating to Texas Storm Relief Efforts?
Many companies and groups across the nation are rushing to provide aid to Texans after last week's winter storm left millions without power, food, water and access to other resources.
The range of establishments providing donation efforts is large, and the list of helping hands continues to grow.
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) took to Twitter last week and, through Sunday, had raised more than $5 million for relief in Texas. The money raised is going to 12 organizations including the Food Bank of West Central Texas, Central Texas Food Bank, Southeast Texas Food Bank, Feeding Texas, The Bridge Homeless Recovery Center, South Texas Food Bank, Corazon Ministries, Houston Food Bank, Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley, ECHO (Ending Community Homelessness Coalition), North Texas Food Bank, and Family Eldercare.
The Dallas Mavericks donate $1.25 million to the Mayor's Disaster Relief Fund and other sources, such as the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, Our Calling, Austin Street Shelter, the Stewpot, the Family Place, Genesis Women’s Shelter, the Wilkinson Center, Housing Crisis Center, Voice of Hope, and 14 YMCA locations. Players such as Dwight Powell, Luka Doncic, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Maxi Kleber, etc., owner Mark Cuban, and CEO Cynt Marshall all chipped in to provide for the city. Committee members and The Dallas Foundation have begun discussions for distributing the money to help as many residents in need as possible, city officials said.
One million meals, bottled water, and other supplies will be donated by Tyson foods for its' employees and other Texans impacted by the recent storm. The 10 Texas cities receiving the donation are Amarillo, Carthage, Center, Dallas, Haltom City, Houston, North Richland Hills, Seguin, Sherman, and Vernon. The food company said it will contact local authorities to coordinate distribution details.
Chobani donated $100,000 to Operation Homefront to support Texan military families impacted by the dangerously cold weather last week. The funds come from Chobani's Hero Batch greek yogurt and are given to the national nonprofit's Critical Financial Assistance program. The program provides assistance with home repair, food insecurity, rent and mortgage payments, auto repairs, and other critical family needs. The company has also opted to give 100,000 cups of greek yogurt to Tarrant Area Food Bank, after delivering water to Fort Worth residents over the weekend.
CarParts.com is donating 1% of revenue generated through their website from Monday, Feb. 22, through the end of February, having already advanced $100k for immediate relief to Texans in need.
With the help of Lowe's volunteers, the home repair store is giving away 500 buckets stuffed with flashlights, trash bags, DampRid moisture absorber and other items at two stores in DFW (while supplies last), one in Arlington and one in Dallas. The buckets can be picked up at the Lowe's along Arbrook Boulevard, facing Interstate 20, in South Arlington and at the store on 8520 S. Hampton Road in Dallas beginning Monday morning. In addition, the home repair store will offer repair tips for repairing burst pipes, gutters, and damaged lawns and can make recommendations for professional help in removing wet carpet and drywall, tarping and replacing damaged roofs, and replacing water heaters and HVAC systems.
The city of Garland is partnering with Inspected.com, a company that offers remote virtual inspections with city officials via their phones, to pair residents with a professional who can walk them through repairs. "For some homeowners in Texas it's a leaky valve or their pipes have burst from the cold weather," Founder of Inspected.com Anthony Perera said. "Through Inspected.com, they are given access to stay in their homes and fix it themselves with the knowledge of professionals talking to them through the app via video." In addition, Garland residents will be able to video chat with city officials for any home concerns they may have.
The Coca-Cola Company donated 100 pallets of bottled water to the city of Waco -- that was enough water to fill six tractor-trailers.
B'nai B'rith will be accepting donations from the public and will match up to $10,000 from their Disaster and Emergency Relief Fund to help Texans attempting to recover after the weather. The company will assess the needs of different communities in the state and will work with partners to provide solutions. Donors can give through the B'nai B'rith website or by calling 800-573-9057.
The Algemeiner noted our criticism – along with other American Jewish organizations – of anti-Semitic comments made by SNL's Michael Che regarding Israel's vaccine rollout.
Jewish leaders, groups, and educators on Sunday condemned as “antisemitic” a “Saturday Night Live” skit in which a cast member joked about Israel’s vaccine campaign.
In the regular news parody segment “Weekend Update,” broadcast on Feb. 20, cast member Michael Che said, “Israel is reporting that they vaccinated half their population, and I’m gonna guess it’s the Jewish half.”
Israel has not discriminated against religious groups as part of its vaccination drive, and large segments of the country’s non-Jewish population has already been vaccinated.
David Harris, CEO of the American Jewish Committee, tweeted, “This 8-second segment by Michael Che on ‘Saturday Night Live’ is totally outrageous.”
“He accuses Israel of vaccinating only Jews. Not true. Every Israeli — Jew, Muslim, Christian, etc. — is eligible for the COVID jab,” Harris observed.
“He should apologize ASAP for spreading an antisemitic lie,” Harris asserted.
Leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said that the “ill conceived ‘joke’ adds to the heap of lies and conspiratorial allegations surrounding the Jewish people and COVID-19 that recalls medieval accusations of Jews being responsible for disease and plagues.”
“NBC should know better, and must not only stop spreading harmful misinformation, but take action to undo this damage caused by propagating Jew-hatred under the guise of comedy,” continued Chairman Arthur Stark, CEO William Daroff, and Vice Chair Malcolm Hoenlein in a statement.
Avi Mayer, the AJC’s managing director of global communications and a former IDF spokesman, also commented, saying, “It’s all fun and games until you start promoting antisemitic myths, @NBCSNL.”
“Every Israeli citizen — Jewish and Arab, Muslim, Christian, of any or no faith — is eligible to be vaccinated; 2/3 of Israel’s Arab citizens over 60 already have been,” he pointed out.
“Apologize,” Mayer urged.
“#antisemitic blood libels against Israel and Jews are not funny,” said B’nai B’rith International. “Che should issue an immediate apology. This gratuitous swipe at Israel is unacceptable.”
Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWithUs, said in a statement that “this lie has been perpetuated by antisemitic groups, eager to poison public discourse with misinformation about Israel’s rapid vaccinations drive.”
Zionist Organization of America President Morton A. Klein and ZOA Chair Mark Levenson called for “SNL” producer Lorne Michaels to “apologize for and terminate the writer of a ‘joke’ which was not funny and in reality was a dangerous Jew-hating, Israel-bashing blood libel. In addition, this blood libel should be removed from NBC’s website and other fora where it may appear.”
The media watchdog group HonestReporting said, “Promoting antisemitic myths isn’t remotely funny … Shameful.”
Joel M. Petlin, the superintendent of the heavily Orthodox Kiryas Joel School District in New York State, commented, “I’m old enough to remember when Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live @nbcsnl was actually funny & didn’t resort to Antisemitic stereotypes about Jews not caring for anyone but themselves.”
“The fact that Israel is actually vaccinating ALL of its citizens makes the joke even worse,” he said.
Jewish Scene Magazine covered our donation, together with members of the Sam Schloss Lodge, of 100 COVID-19 relief kits to Wendy and Avron B. Fogelman Jewish Family Service (FJFS) at the Memphis Jewish Community Center (MJCC) and Plough Towers.
Members of the Sam Schloss Lodge #35 of B’nai B’rith presented Wendy and Avron B. Fogelman Jewish Family Service (FJFS) at the Memphis Jewish Community Center (MJCC) and Plough Towers with 100 COVID-19 relief kits. The kits, provided by B’nai B’rith International, contained a cloth face mask and travel-sized hand sanitizer both imprinted with the B’nai B’rith logo.
“Sam Schloss Lodge and B’nai B’rith have a long history of helping people in need,” said Harold Steinberg, a member of the B’nai B’rith International Executive Board of Directors. “This is just the latest example of our organization’s disaster relief efforts that began over 150 years ago.”
Memphis was one of only a dozen cities selected.
Recipients include seniors who are part of the FJFS home-delivered kosher meals program and those who ride the FJFS Shalom Shuttle, as well as seniors in the Memphis Jewish Community Center/Memphis Jewish Federation’s Scheidt-Hohenberg Hot Meal Program and participants of other MJCC programs.
“We’ve been so very careful in planning for our MJCC members for the past 11 months, especially our seniors,” said Marcy Stagner, program director for Cultural Arts & Senior Services at MJCC. “This is another great way to help protect them.”
“Anything we can do to help ease the stress of this global pandemic is important,” said Leigh Hendry, executive director of Plough Towers. “We would never have dreamed it would still be going strong 10 months later! Support from B’nai B’rith and others in our community has meant so much.”
This donation is one of many made as part of B’nai B’rith’s project to provide 3,000 COVID-19 relief kits to communities around the United States.
“Every community in America is facing the challenge of responding to the needs of vulnerable populations,” said Rebecca Saltzman, senior vice president and chair of the B’nai B’rith Disaster and Emergency Relief Committee. “We want to be part of the solution and help make sure everyone stays safe.”
WMAR-TV (ABC) in Baltimore, Maryland covered our joint virtual awards ceremony with the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement (CAM) where we honored winners of the “Students Speak Out Against Anti-Semitism. A Creative Video Production Contest." They noted in particular Baltimore-area winner, Madeleine Stern.
ARNOLD, Md. — Madeleine Stern is a junior at Broadneck High School in Arnold. She entered a video contest put on by B'nai B'rith and Combat Antisemitism Movement.
This contest challenged every high schooler in the world and Stern's message was so strong that she won this international award.
"I have faced antisemitism, even my sister," said Stern.
She knew her sister, but she needed to find others who faced it as well, so she used Instagram to find them.
Her award winning video is less than 3 minutes long, but it will stay with her forever.
"I'm very proud of the award and even when I look back at 90 I'll say 'Wow, I did that,'" replied Stern.
The Algemeiner noted our condemnation – along with other American Jewish organizations – of the International Criminal Court’s ruling that it has jurisdiction to investigate Israel and the Palestinians for supposed "war crimes."
American Jewish organizations spoke out strongly against the International Criminal Court’s ruling that it has jurisdiction to investigate war crimes in Gaza and the West Bank, calling the ruling “politically and ideologically motivated” and the result of “systemic bias in multilateral organizations.”
The decision, released Friday, would place both Israel and the ruling Gaza terror group Hamas under possible investigation should the court choose to pursue one. In particular, Israeli officials are worried about war crimes charges related to Israel’s 2014 defensive war against Hamas.
Chairman Arthur Stark, CEO William Daroff, and Vice Chair Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations released a statement saying they “reject” the court’s ruling, calling it a “politically and ideologically motivated attempt by the ICC to impose itself into matters that are well beyond its mandate.”
In doing so, they said, the court “violates its purpose, distorts international law, and undermines its own legitimacy as an unbiased judicial forum.”
The statement accused ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of “demonstrated anti-Israel bias” and asserted that “Palestinian leaders are attempting to dictate a political end through judicial means and thereby avoid negotiations.”
“These actions serve to exacerbate existing tensions, and will not achieve progress toward a viable and lasting resolution to a conflict that can only be resolved through direct negotiations between the parties,” the statement said.
The American Jewish Committee said in a statement that it “deeply regrets” the ICC’s decision. The Palestinian Authority, it said, “is not a state” and as such “the ICC is an inappropriate forum to adjudicate its claims.”
The AJC lamented that formal submissions by Australia, Austria, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, and Uganda asserting that “Palestine” is not a state were “not given due weight” by the court.
“It is only by reaching a negotiated settlement with Israel that the Palestinian people can fulfill their legitimate national aspirations,” the AJC stated. “Reverting to the old ways of confrontation, such as promoting one-sided UN resolutions or seeking the indictment of Israelis in the ICC, will only prolong the conflict and the suffering of both peoples.”
Citing criticism of the ruling by the US State Department, the Anti-Defamation League said, “We are deeply concerned by the problematic ruling from the @IntlCrimCourt as it has the very real possibility of leading to abuse against Israel with implications for the wider international community. We welcome the @StateDept’s ‘serious concern.’”
B’nai Brith International President Charles O. Kaufman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin said “we reject” the ruling, and added, “We see again that Israel is subject to systemic bias in multilateral organizations.”
They also expressed anger that “the ICC puts Hamas and Israel on the same playing field, even though Israel’s actions were defensive in the face of Hamas attacks.”
The World Jewish Congress said it was “dismayed” by the ruling, “which sets a dangerous precedent and does nothing to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center called the ruling, “Another wholly political decision by International Criminal Court targeting #Israel.”
The SWC claimed the international community, including the ICC, holds Israel to a double standard, saying, “Here’s how it works. When it comes to Covid, #Israel is occupying power allegedly responsible for vaccines for Palestinians. When it comes to attacking Israel, Palestinian territories = independent entity. Making up new rules as long as Israel demonized.”
“Instead of serving justice #ICC politicizes and corrupts it,” the group asserted. “#Israel haters call Israel an occupying power when it comes to Covid vaccinations and #Palestine a state when they can demonize Israel!”
JBS Coverage of B'nai B'rith Awards Ceremony Honoring Winners of the Students Speak Out Against Anti-Semitism Contest
JBS covered our joint virtual awards ceremony with the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement (CAM) where we honored winners of the “Students Speak Out Against Anti-Semitism. A Creative Video Production Contest." This unique public awareness campaign was created to strengthen the fight against anti-Semitism, hatred and discrimination. View coverage here (beginning at 3:03) or below.
The Memphis Hebrew Watchman covered our donation, together with members of the Sam Schloss Lodge, of COVID-19 relief kits to local organizations in the Memphis area.
Israel Hayom referenced former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman's first speech as ambassador in 2017, which he made at a ceremony hosted by B'nai B'rith International.
(January 26, 2021 / Israel Hayom) One winter morning in 2017, a young man arrived at the Kesher Israel synagogue in the heart of Washington. He prayed fervently, as if his heart was filled with a special request. His tallit bag bore the name “Friedman,” and it was the only time he had come to the famous synagogue. That same day, his father, David M. Friedman, was undergoing Senate confirmation for his appointment as U.S. ambassador to Israel.
In the best tradition of Jewish divisiveness, powerful forces were aligned against Friedman Sr., led by the J Street lobby. But a few weeks later, in a ceremony organized by B’nai B’rith International, Friedman made his first speech as ambassador.
“If you were wondering about my middle name, Melech, it’s not because my parents expected great things of me, but because my grandmother was named Malka [the feminine version of the name],” he began, causing the audience to double over with laughter.
His son’s prayers were answered—not only was the appointment approved, but David Melech Friedman became the most influential U.S. ambassador in the history of U.S.-Israeli relations. And not only through the steps known to everyone—stamping down Iran, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, relocating the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, recognizing the Golan Heights as Israeli and shaping the Trump peace plan—but also through endless moves that never made headlines in the dramatic Trump era. For example visits to the Golan Heights, to Ariel in Samaria and the City of David in Jerusalem—all of which would have been inconceivable prior to Freidman’s arrival.
For decades, the American consulate on Jerusalem’s Agron Street served as a conduit through which the Palestinian Authority would spread its lies and incitement into Washington. Friedman shut down the consulate and turned it into the official residence of the American ambassador in Jerusalem.
After four intense years, Friedman sat down with Israel Hayom for an “exit interview.”
Q: Now that this journey is coming to an end, what are your feelings? Your thoughts?
A: I haven’t looked backwards yet, but it’s starting to sink in, especially after being at the Knesset and being with the Cabinet [last week] and people saying nice things about me. It’s been the honor of my life, and I wish I could keep this job forever. I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished, I feel good about the last four years. It’s not just me, it includes the entire team both in Washington [and here,] from the president on down.
Read the rest of Ambassador Friedman's interview in JNS here.
The Jerusalem Post covered our virtual joint event with the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) honoring the late Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara, who helped thousands of Jews escape the horrors of the Holocaust.
Chiune Sugihara, known affectionately as the "Japanese Schindler," was honored today at a digital ceremony on Monday ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The reception, sponsored by the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) and B'nai B'rith International, focused on the efforts of Sugihara, who defied his own government’s orders by issuing travel visas to more than 6,000 Lithuanian Jews to escape the horrors of the Holocaust.
“At great risk to himself and his family, Sugihara dared to do what was right to save lives. He stood up when the world was largely silent," said CEO of B'nai B'rith International Dan Mariaschin. Like all rescuers her never saw his actions as remarkable. As Sugihara’s actions teach, one person’s actions can make a difference.
”Sugihara was stationed as a diplomat in Lithuania up until all foreign diplomats were requested to leave in the summer of 1940. In the haste to return to Japan, and the impending Holocaust, Sugihara issued visas to the Jewish refugees and it is thought that tens of thousands of Jews are alive today because of his quick action.
“It is estimated that 40,000 people are living today because of Sugihara. I am also a survivor. Another kind of survivor. I am alive today because my grandparents were saved during the Holocaust and I am alive today because of people who stood up to the darkness," said Executive Director of CAM Sacha Roytman Dratwa. "What we learned today is that it is possible to stand up. The heroes of the past must teach us how to be better people.”
The Jewish refugees were then transported to a Dutch colony Curacao, under the permissions of Sugihara who defied Japanese government orders to ensure the safety of thousands.
One of the survivors, Nathan Lewin, who was saved by Sugihara as a child, recalled his family's story at the reception.
Sugihara “opened the door for thousands of refugees to be able to find a free haven in countries across the world.” Lewin said. “It is both an honor and a blessing for me to be here today to share my admiration and thanks for an individual who embodied the role that our rabbis specified, saying you should not do a good deed with the expectation that you will be rewarded, but for the good deed itself. That is what Chiune Sugihara did.”
His daughter Alyza Lewin added "There are many people like me, descendants of the lucky ones, who experienced Sugihara’s humanity.
"Thanks to his moral compass, we deeply appreciate that living life is a blessing," she continued. “Today, Jews are being targeted on the basis of our ethnicity. The Jewish homeland, the Jewish nation state of Israel is the only nation state today targeted as illegitimate. This is today’s contemporary form of antisemitism and we must unite to combat it.”
The Japanese Ambassador to the United Nations, who gave the keynote address laid down call to remember those who perished in the Holocaust and the heroic actions of few who saved many.
“By the grace of Sugihara’s pen, thousands of lives were saved," said ambassador Kimihiro Ishikane. “We must remember the Holocaust to honor those who perished and to achieve a better society. We know that no country is immune from the forces of racism and fascism. So, we have to do the right thing when necessary. Chiune Sugihara is one of those who did the right thing in the most difficult hour.”
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