The Hebrew Watchman (Jewish Scene Magazine) included letters from both B'nai B'rith International President Charles O. Kaufman and Memphis-area B’nai B’rith leader Harold I. Steinberg to Germantown Municipal School District superintendent Dr. Jason Manuel in response to a district administrator comparing vaccine papers to yellow stars.
Several prominent Jewish community leaders, rabbis, organizations and Congressman Steve Cohen have responded to a Facebook post by an administrator in the Germantown Municipal School District comparing vaccine papers to yellow stars.
Within days, Memphis-area news outlets aired and published information concerning the comments by the administrator, Janna Matykiewicz, at Houston High School. The post, which has since been taken off Facebook, read “What’s the difference between vaccine papers and a yellow star? 82 years.”
Rabbi Jeremy Simons of Temple Is- rael commented to NBC Action News 5 that “to know this came from an ed- ucator... it was shocking and deeply distressing.”
Rabbi Sarit Horwitz of Beth Sholom spoke with ABC Local 24 saying “vac- cines are about giving life and uphold- ing life for everyone, for ourselves, for our families, for our larger community whereas the mass genocide of the Jew- ish people was about killing people.”
Letters were also sent to Dr. Jason Manuel, superintendent Germantown Municipal School District concerning her remarks. A student started a petition to fire the administrator at change.org, which at the time of this article had re- ceived 2,417 signatures.
Read more in the Hebrew Watchman.
Charles O. Kaufman, president B’nai B’rith International and local B’nai B’rith member Harold I. Steinberg sent the following letters to Dr. Manuel.
Letter from B'nai B'rith International President Charles O. Kaufman to Dr. Jason Manuel, superintendent Germantown Municipal School District:
Dear Dr. Manuel,
There is no confusion surrounding the message behind Janna Matykiewicz’s Facebook post: “What’s the difference between vaccine papers and a yellow star? 82 years.”
By invoking the yellow star used by Nazis to segregate and identify Jews as a population to be demonized, your colleague has entered something more than simply a poor use of a metaphor from history. Imagine the message that already is filtering through the Germantown school community, not just Houston High School.
This is an administrator who has a problem relating events in history to the management of today’s Covid-19 pan- demic, which has exploded into a most serious health concern with the current wave of variants. It is a matter of ignorance, pure and simple, a lack of sen- sitivity and perhaps latent hatred. This was no slip of the tongue or an example taken out of context.
A severe reprimand, a suspension or dismissal is certainly in order. In the meantime, it is important for Ms. Matykiewicz, faculty and students to understand why such parallels are so abhor- rent, and I trust you will wisely guide your colleagues to make this circumstance a teaching opportunity.
Frankly, Jews around the world have enough problems with anti-Semites casually accusing Jews and Israel of acting like “Nazis” or practicing “Apartheid.” And now the unmistakable 82-year time frame of wearing yellow stars. These are false narratives, if not blood libels, of modern times.
Today’s education system has many successes, to be sure, but this incident is proof that education is sliding into a very deep hole of learning deficits.
B’nai B’rith has worked in the Memphis area and around the world to serve the good of the community and stamp out anti-Semitism and we stand ready to assist you in solving this problem.
President, B’nai B’rith International
Letter from Memphis-area B’nai B’rith leader Harold I. Steinberg to Dr. Jason Manuel, superintendent Germantown Municipal School District:
Dear Dr. Manuel,
As a member of the Sam Schloss Lodge of B’nai B’rith, founded in Memphis in 1854 (yes, in 1854), I am proud of its long record of service. As an example, following the assassination of President Lincoln, the entire lodge marched in a local memorial procession. In addition, B’nai B’rith has an unmatched record of support to the United States and members of the military service. President Truman sent a letter to B’nai B’rith thanking the organization for its “amazing amount of national service.” There are many other examples I could cite.
I am also a member of the Germantown Financial Advisory Commission. I have long been proud of the commission’s steadfast support for quality education in our city and the Germantown Municipal School District. But the recent news report about Janna Matykiewicz’s post on Facebook tells me that there is more work to do.
Simply stated, Ms. Matykiewicz must be disciplined, suspended or terminated. GMSD cannot allow such remarks to go unanswered.
Students at Houston High School should benefit from administrators who clearly understand that America is stronger for its diversity. I ask that you ensure this message is received by students, faculty and staff, not only at Houston High School, but throughout the entire GMSD.
I stand ready to assist you in any way.
Harold I. Steinberg
Israel Hayom covered the B'nai B'rith World Center in Jerusalem awarding a special citation to Israeli musician and author Danny Sanderson for his contributions to Israel-Diaspora Relations through the Arts during his 50-year career.
The B'nai B'rith World Center in Jerusalem announced Sunday that Israeli singer, songwriter and author Danny Sanderson will receive a special citation for Fostering Israel-Diaspora Relations through the Arts.
The citation was established in 2014 and has been presented to Nurit Hirsh, David D'Or, Idan Raichel, David Broza, Yehoram Gaon and the Shalva Band.
B'nai B'rith International has advocated for global Jewry and championed the cause of human rights since 1843.
JNS quoted B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin as part of its report on American Jewish organizations supporting Israel through the latest round of violence against the Jewish state (and increased anti-Jewish backlash).
(June 2, 2021 / JNS) The flare-up of violence between Israel and Hamas lasted 11 days until a ceasefire was negotiated, but for Jewish community organizations, the fight continues within the United States. Recent weeks have seen a surge in violence against Jews and unlike during previous conflicts, Jews and Jewish groups this time around saw the emergence of a better-organized campaign by pro-Palestinian groups to smear Israel in the public sphere, leading to increased anti-Semitism.
The result is that American Jewish organizations—both new and traditional—see the need to work together to properly combat the new threats.
Shoham Nicolet, co-founder and CEO of the Israeli-American Council, said that as tensions were ramping up in Jerusalem, he and IAC staff held a virtual meeting to decide whether or not to hold rallies in support of the Jewish state.
They already knew that the escalation of violence looked like it was going to be serious. As they contemplated dates and times for their first round of rallies, each member began receiving messages on their WhatsApp Messenger from family and friends in Israel. Hamas had begun launching rockets into the center of the country.
The participants took a break from the meeting to call their relatives, and when they returned, they said, each was motivated to proceed with rallies as soon as possible. While they originally were planning to hold rallies in a few days’ time or on the nearest Sunday, they decided to organize them within the next 24 hours.
During and after the conflict, the IAC was instrumental in hosting a number of large, in-person rallies throughout the United States, in many places joined by local Jewish organizations such as the Jewish Federations, Jewish Community Relations Councils and Jewish Community Centers.
In Los Angeles, where Nicolet lives, they held a rally in Beverly Hills, which he said was one of the largest he had ever seen. Another rally in New Jersey brought together some 3,000 people.
For the second round of rallies, another decision had to be made, said Nicolet, as the ceasefire had already been announced.
‘The community feels much less safe’
The staff had another serious discussion, realized that while the Israeli conflict was winding down, one within North America was heating up against Jewish people and those Israelis living in the Diaspora, prompting another round of rallies with the organized Jewish community.
“First of all, the demonization of Israel is getting into the mainstream, and this is a big issue that we have to deal with because these are lies and blood libels we didn’t hear at such level. It’s really extensive and on social networks, but not only,” explained Nicolet. “And the second part is that, again, it’s not a secret … the community feels much less safe.”
The violence, he continued, was not just anti-Israel. “We hear anti-Semitic statements and anti-Zionist statements, and these are concerns,” said Nicolet. “It went way beyond the military conflict that was taking place in Israel.”
Contrasting with previous times when Israel was involved in a conflict against Iranian terror proxies Hamas in the south and Hezbollah in the north, the anti-Israel presence both in the media and on the street has been far better organized and outspoken.
“If there ever was a moment where our community needs to come together, it is now. Many in our community have been stunned by the rapidity of assaults on us as supporters of Israel and as Jews,” said Dan Mariaschin, CEO of B’nai B’rith International in an email. “Unlike the past, the Internet has been the force multiplier that spreads this particular virus in ways never before. But this perfect storm of Jew-hatred knows no political or ideological nuance. Each of us—organizations and individuals alike—has an obligation to stand up now against this dangerous, ominous, and unprecedented wave of anti-Semitism.”
Unlike in other conflicts, Jewish organizations faced hurdles in organizing. First, the speed of the conflict, lasting only 11 days—as opposed to the 51 in the summer of 2014 against Hamas in Gaza—gave organizations less time to coordinate a response, especially with the Shavuot holiday in the middle of the rocket-launching.
Read the full article on JNS.org.
The Jewish Journal included B'nai B'rith International's tweet calling out Kamau Bobb, Google’s Global Lead for Diversity Strategy and Research, for his offensive 2007 blog post, "If I Were A Jew."
Kamau Bobb, Google’s Global Lead for Diversity Strategy and Research, is under fire for a 2007 blog post in which he said if he were Jewish, he would be concerned about Israel’s “insatiable appetite for vengeful violence.”
The post, which was first unearthed by the Washington Free Beacon, began with the following: “If I were a Jew today, my sensibilities would be tormented. I would find it increasingly difficult to reconcile the long cycles of oppression that Jewish people have endured and the insatiable appetite for vengeful violence that Israel, my homeland, has now acquired. This reconciliation would be particularly difficult now, in November, 79 years after Kristallnacht – the Night of Broken Glass.”
Bobb’s post went on to criticize Israel for invoking “collective punishment” against the Gaza Strip and for “destroying buildings and breaking the glass” in the West Bank. The post eventually concluded: “If I were a Jew I would be concerned about my insatiable appetite for war and killing in defense of myself. Self defense is undoubtedly an instinct, but I would be afraid of my increasing insensitivity to the suffering others. My greatest torment would be that I’ve misinterpreted the identity offered by my history and transposed spiritual and human compassion with self righteous impunity.”
Jewish groups condemned Bobb’s blog post. The Simon Wiesenthal Center tweeted that Google should “fire this #antisemite.” Stop Antisemitism similarly tweeted, “How is the obscene, antisemitic bigot still employed there?”
B’nai Brith International similarly tweeted that Bobb’s post was “appalling.” “How did #Google promote someone with such hateful, anti-Semitic views to lead their diversity strategy?”
StandWithUs Israel Executive Director Michael Dickson tweeted that Bobb also wrote a blog post about how if he were an Arab, “the ability of the United States and Israel to not only dictate the terms of my subjugation, but characterize my desire to be free as rooted in hatred would burn.” The post also stated that “you cannot beat a people and demand that they not fight back in order to peacefully negotiate an end to the beating.”
“All of this begs the question whether (1) @Google did due diligence when selecting @kamaubobb for the sensitive position of global Google DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) Director and (2) whether he should remain in these positions,” Dickson tweeted. “@Google – what say you?”
Meghan McCain, co-host of ABC’s “The View,” said during a June 2 segment that Google “should’ve googled him” and that she’s tired of “having the conversation over and over about why antisemitism is the last passable form of bigotry in the United States.” “If they said this about Black people, or Asian people, or LGBT people, he would be fired already. And he’s not, which says that Google’s okay with a little bit of soft antisemitism.”
Tablet Magazine senior writer Yair Rosenberg, on the other hand, argued that Bobb should have been “given a chance to account for how he’s changed/grown over the last 10 years when it comes to understanding Jewish people” and he could have “emerged as a better ally… instead, we get gotcha pieces in conservative outlets that aren’t interested in helping people empathize with each other and move beyond past problems, but rather in fashioning 10-year-old errors into the latest ammo in a culture war.”
The New York Post reported that they obtained an email from Bobb to Google’s “Jewgler” Employee Resource Group stating that he was “deeply sorry” for the post. “What I wrote crudely characterized the entire jewish community. what was intended as a critique of particular military action fed into antisemitic tropes and prejudice. i think we can all agree, there is no easy solution to this situation. but that’s beside the point. the way I expressed my views on that conflict were hurtful.”
Google did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.
The San Marcos Record previewed a conversation B'nai B'rith International President Charles Kaufman will be having with the Rotary Club of San Marcos, Texas on the challenge of tackling rising anti-Semitism.
Charles Kaufman, president of B’nai B’rith International, will discuss the continuing challenge of antisemitism at the May 12 meeting of the Rotary Club of San Marcos. Rotary meets at noon at the San Marcos Academy and visitors are welcome.
B’nai B’rith, founded in 1843, has fought against various forms of antisemitism, from the blood libels of centuries past and pogroms of Europe, to negative narratives about the state of Israel. B’nai B’rith is also a service and humanitarian organization with chapters in more than 50 countries on five continents. It is a major sponsor of nonsectarian, affordable senior housing in the U.S., and has engaged in disaster relief services for 150 years.
In addition to his leadership role at B’nai B’rith, Kaufman is on the faculty of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Texas State University. His early career was in newspaper journalism, from which he transitioned to owning a public relations firm in Austin. He teaches public relations and advises a student public relations agency at the University. He also co-authored a textbook titled, “Engaging Public Relations.”
Rotary is a nonprofit, nonpolitical, and nonreligious service organization. The San Marcos Club celebrates its 100th Anniversary on Dec. 1, 2021. The club provides scholarships and does a wide range of local service projects, as well as participating in international projects sponsored by Rotary International and the Rotary Foundation.
For more information about B’nai B’rith: https://www.bnaibrithorg/aboutus.htmland the Rotary Club of San Marcos: https://smtxrotary.com/.
The Algemeiner included B'nai B'rith International's response to the U.S. administration's decision of continuing not to attend any events celebrating the 20th anniversary of the infamous Durban Declaration in its roundup of responses from Jewish and pro-Israel organizations.
Leading Jewish organizations welcomed the Biden administration’s decision to stick to the US policy of not attending any events to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Durban Declaration in September due to their “anti-Israel sentiment.”
A US State Department spokesperson told The Jerusalem Post Monday that the US would not take part in planned Durban anniversary events, saying that it “remains deeply committed to combating antisemitism at home and abroad. Furthermore, the United States stands with Israel and has always shared its concerns over the Durban process’s anti-Israel sentiment — used as a forum for antisemitism and freedom of expression issues.”
Commenting on the decision, B’nai B’rith International said it “salutes the US administration for taking a principled decision, like its predecessors, to deny legitimacy to a UN framework that purports to fight prejudice but is fundamentally marred by it.”
“The 2001 conference was poisoned by manifestations of virulent anti-Zionism and open antisemitism. We urge all countries of goodwill to do similarly — and we will continue to insist that all forms of hate, including those targeting Jews, not be given a platform by foremost international institutions,” B’nai B’rith stated.
The UN is scheduled to hold a special “Durban IV” event on Sept. 22 to mark the 20th anniversary of the World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa, from which the US and Israel previously withdrew over objections of anti-Zionism. Israel was singled out from the Durban conference declaration and was depicted as being racist and as committing “crimes against humanity,” “ethnic cleansing,” “apartheid” and “genocide” against the Palestinians.
“Kudos for rejecting hate. The 2001 Durban Conference was an orgy of hate so vile that the US and Israel pulled out in disgust,” Avi Mayer, Managing Director of Global Communications at the American Jewish Committee (AJC), tweeted in response to the US decision. “It was so bad that even the UN’s Mary Robinson, who chaired it, said there was ‘horrible antisemitism present.'”
New York, NY, May 5th, 2021 . . . Dianne Lob, Chair, William Daroff, CEO, and Malcolm Hoenlein, Vice Chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, issued the following statement:
“We applaud the Biden Administration’s decision to refuse to participate in commemorations of the 20th anniversary of the UN World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa, which openly embraced antisemitism and anti-Israel extremism.
Michal Cotler-Wunsh, a former member of Knesset for Israel’s Blue and White Party, said: “Durban was the ecosystem for declared escalation in the war waged on Israel, weaponizing international law and it’s institutions. The orchestrated, systematic implementation of this strategy threatens not only Israel, but shared values and foundations of democracy and human rights.”
“In declining to participate in celebratory events, the United States is rightfully rejecting the despicable hatred that was leveled against the Jewish State and the Jewish people twenty years ago. We encourage other nations to join the US in continuing to fight racism, bigotry, and antisemitism, while rejecting and not participating in such odious proceedings,” said Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Chair Dianne Lob, CEO William Daroff, and Vice Chair Malcolm Hoenlein, in a statement.
The Jewish Link covered B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin's meaningful conversation with the Torah Academy of Bergen County's (NJ) Israel Advocacy Club.
Israel Hayom quoted B'nai B'rith International President Charles Kaufman in its coverage of the Holocaust Museum of Oporto (Porto) opening its doors, something B'nai B'rith has been encouraging for several years.
The Holocaust Museum of Oporto (Porto) opened its doors to the public on April 5th, the first day after Portugal eased lockdown measures and allowed cultural institutions to reopen, all the while adhering to coronavirus restrictions.
Within two days, 500 visitors made it to the museum, among them young people, senior citizens, Jews, and members of other religions. This is the first time a museum dedicated to the Holocaust is inaugurated in Portugal.
The museum portrays Jewish life spanning decades, from before the Holocaust, during the Nazi era, including life in ghettos, labor and concentration camps, the Final Solution, the death marches, and the liberation, all the way to the establishment of the State of Israel.
The museum has reproductions of Auschwitz barracks, a name room, a flame memorial, a study center, and photographs and screens showing actual footage of before, during, and after the genocide.
It also exhibits archives relating to refugees who passed through Oporto, including official documents, testimonies, letters, and hundreds of individual files.
Moreover, the museum has signed a cooperation protocol with Oporto's Jewish Museum to combat antisemitism in Europe.
"These museums in Oporto should serve as a beacon of light to the rest of Europe, a land darkened today by resurgent antisemitism," President of B'nai B'rith International Charles Kaufman said.
"For the growing Jewish community of Portugal, we urge you to teach future generations the glory of our past and the Holocaust as they repel attempts to disparage us in the future," he said.
The Texas Jewish Post covered our donation of COVID-19 relief kits to local organizations in the Texarkoma Region of the United States.
A donation of COVID-19 relief kits will help local organizations combat coronavirus. Alex Nason, B’nai B’rith community coordinator and president of B’nai B’rith in the Texarkoma Region, presented local organizations with COVID-19 relief kits provided by B’nai B’rith International.
Jewish Family Services of Tarrant County, the Tarrant County Molly and Max Barnett B’nai B’rith Apartments, and Strengthening After-School Programs through Advocacy, Resources and Collaboration (SPARC) received kits containing a cloth face mask and travel-sized hand sanitizer, both imprinted with the B’nai B’rith logo.
These kits, made possible by B’nai B’rith International, will help ensure that recipients stay safe during the pandemic.
Jewish Family Services of Tarrant County, a program that provides transportation for seniors to bring them together for activities and meals, received 25 kits. Hedy Collins, senior program director, accepted the kits from Nason.
The Tarrant County Molly and Max Barnett B’nai B’rith Apartments house 95 low-income seniors. Each resident received a COVID kit, accepted on behalf of the residents by Board President Dan Sturman and Property Manager Tiffany Bell.
SPARC provides after-school programming and training to serve all Fort Worth schools. Tobi Jackson, executive director of SPARC and first vice president of the Fort Worth Independent School District board of trustees, accepted the kits.
“Seeing the appreciation from the kit recipients who are familiar with B’nai B’rith International was very nice,” Nason said. “And hearing how surprised and appreciative people were who didn’t know about B’nai B’rith International and its disaster relief doings was priceless. It made me very proud to be a part of B’nai B’rith.”
These donations are some 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. B’nai B’rith community coordinators around the country are donating kits on behalf of B’nai B’rith to local agencies dedicated to serving their community.
“Every community in America is facing the challenge of responding to the needs of vulnerable populations. We want to be part of the solution and help make sure everyone stays safe,” said Rebecca Saltzman, senior vice president and chair of the B’nai B’rith Disaster and Emergency Relief Committee.
As the U.S. experiences a high level of transmission of the virus, this project will help people follow the CDC recommendation for the “consistent and correct” use of face masks, as well as guidance to use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not readily available. Since it began in March 2020, the B’nai B’rith COVID-19 relief campaign has supported projects around the world to help keep people safe and alleviate the effects of the pandemic.
The B’nai B’rith Disaster and Emergency Relief Fund has responded to man-made and natural disasters around the world since 1865.
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.
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