B'nai B'rith International was one of 12 American Jewish organizations in a pair of off-the-record meetings with President Barack Obama on Monday, discussing the merit of a nuclear deal with Iran.
Following the P5+1 announcement on April 2, B'nai B'rith took a skeptical approach, expressing concern over Tehran's past double-speak and anti-Israel agenda.
With a June 30 deadline set for a final deal, B’nai B’rith has been monitoring the specifics of the deal, urging all parties to carefully and stringently review the agreement during that time as well.
Read CNN's recap of the meeting, below:
A range of both liberal and conservative Jewish-American groups met with President Barack Obama and other top White House officials Monday to hear the administration's pitch on its nuclear deal with Iran.
The president spoke for 45 minutes before taking questions at the first of the two meetings. That first gathering lasted two hours, doubling its expected length of one hour.
Obama demonstrated the "depth of his commitment to Israel," said one source who is supportive of the president's efforts to constrain Iran's nuclear program. But he also heard from participants "expressing fear and anxiety in the Jewish community" about the current framework agreement announced on April 2.
According to a list of the participants obtained by CNN, Obama met with representatives from the following groups: J Street, the National Council of Jewish Women, Union for Reform Judaism, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Jewish Federations of North America, AJC, Anti Defamation League, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Conference of Major American Jewish Organizations, B'nai B'rith International, Orthodox Union, and the Rabbinical Assembly.
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.
In addition to this historically significant prediction at the 1941 convention, Weizmann also appears in the B'nai B'rith history books alongside B'nai B'rith member Eddie Jacobson.
Jacobson, a long-time business partner and friend of President Harry Truman, arranged a secret meeting between Weizmann and Truman that is said to have turned the president's opinion in favor of the partition plan and recognize the state of Israel.
Read coverage of his 1941 speech via the Jewish Telegraphic Agency's archive:
March 31, 1941
B’nai B’rith’s triennial national convention today heard Dr. Chaim Weizmann predict a Palestine Jewish commonwealth side by side with an Arab federation after the war and Vice-President Henry A. Wallace stress the importance of equality for all races and religions in the Western Hemisphere.
Addressing a luncheon session at the Drake Hotel, Dr. Weizmann asserted that “the floating and homeless five millions of Jews” could not survive without Palestine. “We have before us the greatest problem of salvaging the lives of Jews in the entire history of Jewish dispersion,” he said.
Speaking of the “difficult Arab problem,” the world Zionist leader asserted: “A solution to that problem must be found in order to achieve our objective. The Jews and the Arabs must live side by side as neighbors and cousins.
“After the victory of the democracies there must come a federation of the great Arab countries. This confederation will extend from the Euphrates to Libya. The democracies too, will realize the historic connection between the Jews and Palestine and that we are entitled to develop an autonomous Palestine, free from shackles, where we can bring these millions of our suffering people so that they can build a country that can fructify and revitalize the whole Middle East. It is possible to have a Jewish commonwealth side by side with this Arab federation.”
“The 500,000 Jews in Palestine who are ready to lay down their lives represent a great arsenal of human freedom as we stand sentinel at the entrance to the Suez Canal,” he declared. “Every man, woman and child in Palestine would rather die than to yield that frontier which is one of the most strategic approaches to the Western Hemisphere.”
Stressing the necessity of “unity of purpose as we prepare against the time when we shall have a word to say in the settlement of our destiny,” Dr. Weizmann urged that Jews be united “on two great purposes–on the restoration of the Jewish rights of which we are brutally deprived outside of Palestine and on the affirmation of a right to build our homeland, unshackled and unfettered, in Palestine.” Dr. Weizmann was introduced by Dr. Solomon Goldman.
Vice-President Wallace addressed 4,000 delegates and guests of the convention at the “inspirational session” at the Civic Opera House this evening. His speech was broadcast over a CBS network and rebroadcast in Spanish to Latin American countries. The subject was “Democracy and the Dignity of Man.”
“The cost of Nazi terrorism in terms of suffering to Europe is great beyond measurement,” he asserted, “but we in the New World owe a great debt of gratitude to the Nazis for forcing us to make clear our thinking about the meaning of democracy and the part which racial and religious groups must contribute if democracy is to be worthy of its name.
“B’nai B’rith, I know, has caught this vision and will work for it whole heartedly in all of the hemisphere. The New World is a chosen land, not for the Jew or the German or the Anglo-Saxon of the Spaniard or any other one people. The New World is a chosen land in which all of us, tolerantly living together, can allow the dignity of man to be expressed, free from the compulsions of the Old World, but with that sense of duty which is necessary to preserve that which is precious beyond life itself–an efficient yet tolerant constitutional democracy, free from the Gestapo and a greedy ruling class.”
A message was read from President Roosevelt, who praised B’nai B’rith’s splendid work in the fields of charity and philanthropy” and said “its activities in advancing education and promoting true Americanism are likewise widely known and appreciated.”
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (and other outlets) highlighted B'nai B'rith's remarks, an excerpt of which can be found below:
With Israel's elections in the rear-view mirror, the debate over Israel-U.S. relations continues among American Jewish organizations, as noted in the Jerusalem Post on Monday.
B'nai B'rith International has reiterated its support for Israel regardless of its ruling party, and likewise calls upon the United States and Israeli governments to resolve any differences.
Read quotes from Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin in the New York Jewish Week, below:
With tensions between the United States and Israel running at a fever pitch, even the benign, ritually symbolic words of the Passover seder have suddenly become charged with divisiveness and political import.
At the State Department, deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters that the U.S. is now looking to Israel for “actions and policies that demonstrate genuine commitment to a two-state solution, not more words.”
And Obama repeated Tuesday that his dispute with Netanyahu is substantive and not personal.
Dan Mariaschin, executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International, said the “temperature needs to be turned down” and the U.S.-Israel relationship restored.
J Street came under fire Sunday after opening its fifth annual conference in Washington over the weekend with a call for Jewish organizations to distinguish between Israel and the West Bank, including in fundraising.
Several American Jewish organizations also came out strongly against J Street’s call, including B’nai B’rith International, which said: “We totally disagree. In essence this is a call for a boycott, which is destructive for the prospect for peace.”
B'nai B'rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Marchiaschin was interviewed by The New York Jewish Week in the lead-up to the Israeli elections on Tuesday.
B'nai B'rith International has made multiple public statements since the polls closed, but Mariaschin explained beforehand that the organization was dedicated to Israel's safety and security regardless of the outcome of the elections.
Read highlights from the article, below:
Dan Mariaschin, executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International, said he is confident that American Jews will remain committed to Israel no matter the outcome of the election.
“At the end of the day, American Jews want a safe and secure Israel, one that will be strong in the face of the tremendous challenges that surround it and that maintains a good relationship with the U.S.,” he said.
“There is no question that those in our community may have a favorite candidate or want a certain outcome, but everyone understands that Israelis will make their choices,” Mariaschin observed. “After the coalition is sealed, there will be one government in Israel … and we will all be working together.
“The threats from ISIS, Islamic extremists, terrorist organizations and Iran will remain the same. … The threats are far more important and the stakes far higher than one issue or another. Whoever winds up leading the coalition will still have to deal with the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. And we know that the major parties in Israel — if not all — have the same view of the Iranian threat. So regardless of who wins, the fundamental relationship between us and Israel will remain. We have too many issues in common.”
On Tuesday, nearly 72 percent of eligible Israeli voters participated in its 20th elections, exercising a defining feature of the Middle East's only democracy. B'nai B'rith celebrated this feat throughout the election process.
Forty-six years prior to this election, on March 17, 1969, Golda Meir was selected as the nation's fourth prime minister. In April, 1969, B'nai B'rith's National Jewish Monthly noted her premiership by revisiting her heroic meetings with Emir Abdullah of Transjordan in the lead up to Israel's independence.
Read the entirety of the piece, written by Bernard Postal and Henry W. Levy, below:
Golda Meir's Secret Missions (National Jewish Monthly, April 1969)
Mrs. Golda Meir, the septuagenarian grandmother who became Israel's Prime Minister on the eve of the Jewish State's 21st anniversary, once made a bold undercover attempt to prevent the Arab invasion of Israel in 1948.
In October, 1949, before the United Nations had voted to partition Palestine but after the British had announced their impending withdrawal, the Jewish Agency tried to reach an understanding with Emir Abdullah of Transjordan. In the closing weeks of the Mandate his attitude became crucial. If he did not move against the Jews, neither would the other Arab states. If he ordered his Arab Legion to march, the other Arab armies would follow, not only because of treaty commitments, but because Egypt, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon did not trust Abdullah. The Arab states were united in opposition to Zionism but at loggerheads on how to prevent the emergence of the Jewish state. The chief reason for the disunity was Abdullah's ambition to grab the areas of Palestine the UN had set aside for an Arab state, as well as Jerusalem. Abdullah was well aware that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, as well as Syria, was scheming to set up an independent Arab state in Palestine, with the Mufti as its head. To thwart this planned encirclement by his enemies, Abdullah was willing to come to terms with the Jews.
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.”
Making his historic third address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke for approximately 40 minutes, addressing reported details of a deal over Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
Following his address, B'nai B'rith International released a statement concurring with the overall themes and tone of the speech, citing specific quotations that resonated with the organization.
This statement was featured in The Jerusalem Post, J-Weekly, JBS TV and more. View a recap of the B'nai B'rith media coverage, below:
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