Mariaschin: The first distinguishing factor is that B’nai B’rith is the oldest of the Jewish organizations – we’re now into our 172nd year. We’re also an international organization made up of members in nearly 50 countries around the world.
We concentrate on three main areas: One is pro-Israel advocacy and fighting global anti-Semitism. We've had credentials at the United Nations since 1947, and we spend a good deal of our time there fighting bias against Israel.
The second area is senior housing and advocacy. The Jewish community has probably the largest proportion of senior citizens of any ethnic group in this country, so for more than 40 years now we have been sponsoring affordable housing for seniors in conjunction with the Department of Housing and Urban Development – we have more than 40 properties around the United States. We’re also involved in senior advocacy – issues like Social Security, Medicare, etc.
The third area is disaster relief. We help victims of hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis – all kinds of natural disasters around the world.
You were recently involved in fighting HarperCollins after a Catholic news website reported that the publisher had omitted Israel in atlases it was selling in the Middle East. What’s your take on the story?
This is only the latest in a long series of these kinds of omissions. We’ve seen it particularly with airlines omitting Israel on route maps, for example. But HarperCollins’s omission was especially egregious because it is a major general and educational publisher. You know, if we’re going to talk about peace and a peace process, it’s not only for diplomats – it’s for everybody. When a major publisher leaves Israel off a map, what kind of message does that send to schoolchildren in the Arab world?
This incident ended well for a change.
Yes, HarperCollins decided to call the atlases back and pulp the rest, as they say. Hopefully it will serve as a lesson for others because this was just a microcosm of the larger issue of the delegitimization of Israel. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a speech at the United Nations; it can be a decision made in an editorial office somewhere to say, “Look, we don’t want to offend our readers so we think we’ll just leave Israel off.” Hopefully the firestorm around this story will send a message to others that a) it’s unacceptable and b) there are people out there watching who will raise the red flag when they do this kind of thing.
What kind of work does B’nai B’rith do at the UN?
We were actually present in 1945 when the UN was founded in San Francisco, and we received our first credentials as an NGO in 1947.
What has happened over the last 25 years, unfortunately, is that much of our UN activity relates to the demonization and delegitimization of Israel. We feel very strongly about trying to keep the UN honest on this issue. So, for example, in March every year we go for a week to Geneva where the UN Human Rights Council is based and meet with ambassadors. We’re also in Paris at UNESCO.
It was a devastating start to the new year in France, as a total of 17 innocent civilians were executed by Islamic terrorists in four separate incidents in Paris.
After a major attack on the satirical publisher Charlie Hebdo on Thursday, the Jewish community was specifically targeted with a deadly hostage situation on Friday in the kosher supermarket Hyper Cacher.
While anti-Semitic attacks in France have largely flown under the radar in recent years, they are increasingly common for the French Jewish community.
B'nai B'rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin was quoted in an article in the Jewish News Service, urging European leaders to be proactive against fanatical Islam.
Read excerpts from the story, below:
Since the March 2012 attack in which Mohammed Merah killed three children and a rabbi at Jewish school in Toulouse, the threat of Islamic terrorism has not let up for Jews and the general public in France.
B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin told JNS.org that those outside of France and Europe should “call on leadership to really begin to address this growing menace” of Islamism.
“These threats are threats [not only to Jews but also] to the democratic fabric of post-war Europe,” and European leaders cannot go on much longer without well-organized efforts to deal with the problem, Mariaschin said.
The following letter was sent to the editor at Reuters, following their publication of an article entitled “Palestinian woman stabs Israeli, shot by security forces.”
To the Editor:
From top to bottom, “Palestinian woman stabs Israeli, shot by security forces” follows Reuters ongoing bias against Israel.
Starting with your carefully crafted headline, Reuters displays a false equivalence between the Palestinian terrorist who attacked an Israeli civilian and the fate of the attacker.
Through your selective memory, you are fueling a false narrative of Israel oppressing Palestinians, with no regard for relentless terror attacks by Hamas and other Palestinian terrorists.
This story fits in with a long-standing Reuters narrative, casting Israel as the aggressor and Palestinians as victims. Where is any mention of the recent spate of attacks on Jews at train stations and street corners? Where is a recap of the four rabbis murdered as they prayed at a synagogue last month by axe-toting terrorists? Where is discussion of constant Palestinian incitement?
This summer, Israel embarked on a defensive military operation, launched in the aftermath of relentless Hamas rocket attacks into Israel. But the Reuters narrative omits that fact and focuses on a false game of casualty counting.
As a global news agency, Reuters has a powerful platform. Unfortunately, it continues to shape global public opinion according to its own narrative rather than the facts.
Allan J. Jacobs Daniel S. Mariaschin
B’nai B’rith International President B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President
Caption: B'nai B'rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin discussed “Issues Facing World Jewry Today” at the October B’nai B’rith Real Estate luncheon at the The Cornell Club in New York City.
Pictured (L-R): Robert Shapiro, Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, Gerald Morganstern,Goetz Fitzpatrick LLP, Pres. Allan Jacobs, B'nai B'rith International, Mariaschin, Lydia Sklar, Sklar Realty Group, Greg Kraut, Avison Young, Jeff Mitzner, First American Title Insurance, and Harry Zlokower, Zlokower Company Public Relations.
Yormark also oversees all facets of Barclays Center, including operations, event programming, sales and marketing. Under Yormark’s leadership, Barclays Center has redefined the arena customer service and culinary experience. Its more than 2,000 employees are trained by Disney Institute, the business advisory arm of The Walt Disney Company, and its BrooklynTaste food program features selections from 55 well-known restaurants and vendors in the borough.
In addition to the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center community initiatives, Yormark started the Yormark Family Foundation to help re-develop basketball courts at Boys & Girls Clubs in Brooklyn. He also sits on the board of the City Parks Foundation to help improve New York’s vital outdoor spaces.
B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said, “It’s clear that, when discussing the sports entertainment industry, Brett and the Brooklyn Nets are at the forefront. Brett and the Nets are not only leaders and innovators, but have also demonstrated a commitment to the community that has resulted in an overwhelmingly positive impact on Brooklyn and its residents — exactly what B’nai B’rith looks for in a Distinguished Achievement Award winner.”
A high point of this year's Policy Forum was the Aug. 31 dinner at the Hebrew Club, where attendees dined with President Juan Carlos Varela, who was officially addressing the Panamanian Jewish community for the first time.
The president took to the podium and thanked B'nai B'rith for bringing the Policy Forum to Panama and that it was a great honor to host it, with this being only the second time the meeting has left the United States. Varela said he was impressed by the longevity of the organization and the work B'nai B'rith has done for 171 years. He conveyed respect for B'nai B'rith's commitment to human rights and said Panamanians share B'nai B'rith's principles of respect and tolerance. Varela also affirmed his country's support for the State of Israel and its right to defend itself. He offered Panama's support for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the region.
B'nai B'rith had the privilege of being joined by Julio Maria Sanguinetti, a former president of Uruguay. Sanguinetti discussed the issues and "evils" pervading the world today and the diametrically opposed worldviews between the West and the radical Islamist influence that is not only a force in the Middle East, but in Latin America as well. Sanguinetti spoke on globalization and the consumer and knowledge based society in which we live, and how the fundamentalist Islamic movement isn't just a clash of ideas against the West, it's a clash of civilizations.
Sanguinetti compared this ongoing "clash of civilizations" to the Cold War, where any friend of the United States or the Western World was an enemy of the Soviet Union. He noted we're seeing something similar with some governments of Latin America attacking Israel and recalling their foreign delegations.
Sanguinetti reaffirmed that Western ideals of "freedom, schooling and capitalism" are worth standing up for, but said it will be difficult for societies and governments to face these new threats because people would rather ignore it and carry on with their lives.
"It's a mix of fear, a mix of desire, not wanting to see," Sanguinetti said. "It's like people who don't want to go to the doctor for fear of bad news. That happens with societies too."
B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin and Director of U.N. and Intercommunal Affairs David J. Michaels penned an op-ed that appeared in the New York Times on Aug. 27.
The piece urged the United Nations to place Yom Kippur, the most sacred day of the Jewish year, on the list of officially recognized holidays. A committee will convene on the matter next month.
Read the op-ed in its entirety, below:
THE emblem of the United Nations shows the planet brought together in the embrace of two olive branches. Its charter affirms the “equal rights” of “nations large and small.” But in the “family of nations,” some members are more equal than others. No example of this inequity is starker than that of Israel.
The State of Israel was created, in the Jewish ancestral homeland, as a result of a United Nations resolution. Its 1948 proclamation of independence refers to the United Nations seven times. Israel tries to contribute to international peace in every area in which it can help, from disaster relief to medical innovation to agricultural technology. Jewish hope in the organization — created in the aftermath of the Holocaust — can be discerned in the words from Isaiah inscribed beside the Sharansky Steps, which face the United Nations headquarters in New York City: “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
But over time, Israel has been a target for exceptional mistreatment at the United Nations. A pluralistic democracy facing extremists sworn to its destruction, Israel is routinely condemned by the body’s Human Rights Council, more than any other member state. Israel’s assailants at the United Nations often assert that they respect Jews and Judaism — and reserve their shrill disdain only for Israeli policies and Zionism. But the demonization of Israel calls their motives into question.
The United Nations is headquartered in the United States, the country with the most Jews outside Israel, and in New York City, which has the single largest Jewish population in the Diaspora. Judaism, of course, is an ancient, biblical religion — a precursor of the two dominant world faiths — and Jewish communities can be found in at least 120 member states.
In 1997, the General Assembly added two Muslim holidays (Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr) to the official calendar of the United Nations headquarters. Two of the 10 holidays are Christian (Good Friday and Christmas) and the other six are American federal holidays. None is Jewish.
Important United Nations events — even, sometimes, meetings related to Israel — have repeatedly been scheduled on major Jewish holidays, forcing Jewish diplomats and representatives of civil society to choose between their professional duties and their faith and families.
Yom Kippur, the most sacred day of the Jewish year, unites Jews of all nationalities, political orientations and degrees of observance. The Day of Atonement, as it is known — traditionally spent in fasting, prayer and introspection — represents the universal aspiration to self-improvement and to making amends. Last month, 32 nations — including Argentina, Canada, Israel, Nigeria and the United States — declared their support for adding Yom Kippur (Oct. 3-4 this year) to the United Nations calendar. Next month, a committee will take up the matter.
In 1999, Secretary General Kofi Annan acknowledged that, to observers, “it has sometimes seemed as if the United Nations serves all the world’s peoples but one: the Jews.” In 2006, his successor, Ban Ki-moon, told our organization, B’nai B’rith, that the United Nations should always be “a place where Jews and the State of Israel can feel at home.” Recently, Mr. Ban felt compelled to condemn an “upsurge in anti-Semitic attacks.”
One way to combat bigotry is by demonstrating respect. The Yom Kippur proposal is a nonpolitical one — unrelated to Israel’s recent hostilities with Hamas — and a test of inclusiveness. All 193 United Nations members, including the 56 in the Muslim bloc, should support it.
B’nai B’rith sent the following letter to the editor to the New York Times on Aug. 14.
Read it in its entirety, below:
The lumping together of "Israel, Sri Lanka and Syria" is precisely what is perverse about the record of High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay and the Human Rights Council.
Israel is condemned by the council more than all other countries. Syria, though, has killed more Arabs in three years than Israel has in sixty-six.
Ms. Pillay has never criticized the council’s repressive members for a permanent agenda item singling out Israel alone for harsh scrutiny.
Irresponsibly, she suggests equivalence between Israel, a democracy, and Hamas, a terrorist movement. She emphasizes Israel's "occupation," ignoring the 2005 Gaza withdrawal and Hamas’s rejection of Israel’s existence within any borders. She also rushed to claim disproportionate Palestinian civilian casualties when most Gazans recently killed appear to have been males of fighting age.
Ms. Pillay awaits Israeli countermeasures to incessant violence before sounding any alarm. Her valuing of certain lives above others was made explicit when she said she opposed Palestinian attacks but "most especially" Israeli responses.
Discrimination has no place in the pursuit of human rights.
Daniel S. Mariaschin, Executive Vice President
David J. Michaels, Director of U.N. and Intercommunal Affairs
B'nai B'rith International
The position for United States ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom is likely to be filled by Rabbi David Saperstein, in a move that was praised by B'nai B'rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin.
Saperstein, one of the most influential rabbis in the United States, currently serves as the director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. If he is approved, he will fill a position that has sat vacant for almost a year.
Jewish and Israel news, JNS.org, wrote an article on the nomination, including extensive quotes from Mariaschin.
Read an excerpt of the article below:
Daniel Mariaschin, executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International, called the nomination an “outstanding choice” and noted the decades during which he has witnessed Saperstein’s work on religious freedom.
“I think David got nominated to this position because of his experience, his expertise, his caring, his sensitivity to these issues, and his being able to speak out,” Mariaschin said. “The commendatory part of this here is that someone who was so deserving and who can do so much good, has been nominated for the position.
"David is very well connected internationally and his reputation, his writings, his speaking—all of those things are known in so much of the world in which we operate and we’re going to operate, so I think that’s a big plus.”
B’nai B’rith’s Mariaschin said a new religious freedom ambassador “is going to be welcomed in a lot of places, and in those places where religious freedom is being abridged, they should know that they’re going to have in our [ambassador] someone who is keeping a very close eye on what they’re doing.” In particular, Mariaschin noted the proliferation of violence against Christians at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria terrorist group, as well as religious persecution in Africa, South Asia, and Iran.
“There are many [instances of religious persecution], it’s almost as if you don’t know where to start, and unfortunately the list is long and it is growing longer,” he said.
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