The Jerusalem Post published an op-ed by B'nai B'rith International President Charles O. Kaufman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin B'nai B'rith's hand in establishing the National library in Israel.
As anticipation builds for the opening of Israel’s new National Library sometime next year, it is important to recall its more-than-a-century long antecedents.
B’nai B’rith established its first lodge in Jerusalem in 1888, when the organization, founded in New York, was already 45 years old. The lodge attracted a mix of rabbis, academics, translators and other professionals to its mission of fostering Jewish identity and public service. Indeed, the first mazkir – or secretary – of the Jerusalem Lodge was none other than Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the father of the modern Hebrew language.
Early attempts to found libraries in Jerusalem were short lived, due in no small part to a lack of funding. In 1884, several residents of the city, who would become members of the B’nai B’rith lodge, organized a small 1,200-volume library. In a letter published in the July 1889 issue of the B’nai B’rith publication The Menorah Monthly, Ben-Yehuda, then-editor of Hazevi, informed readers of the existence of the library, and tactfully solicited donations to support it.
In 1892, B’nai B’rith established the “Midrash Abarbanel,” Israel’s first permanent public library, named after the Sephardic Jewish scholar of the Middle Ages, Don Isaac Abarbanel. Five years before Theodor Herzl convened the first Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, the library served to promote the pioneering spirit afoot in the land, and the supremacy of Hebrew.
A decade after its founding, the library moved to a permanent home in a handsome, modern building on B’nai B’rith Street. The library’s collections grew to many thousands of volumes reflecting the collective Jewish academic and religious endeavor. The library was perhaps the one place in Jerusalem where one could find books on mathematics, science, secular philosophy, modern educational methods and other subjects.
The library’s reading and meeting rooms served as a cultural and educational center for the city’s residents. Herzl himself recognized the significance of the library when he wrote a letter to Joseph Chazanovich, who brought his personal library of 10,000 books from Bialystok, Poland, to Jerusalem. Herzl also made a 300 ruble contribution to the library. In honor of Chazanovich’s gift, the library’s committee renamed the library “Midrash Abarbanel Ginzei Yosef.” By 1903, the library’s collection topped 22,000 volumes.
A photograph of the library’s reading room, posted on the National Library’s website, shows readers surrounded by shelves of books and tables of newspapers and periodicals.
The names of those leaders of B’nai B’rith in Jerusalem who created and supported the library have become legendary figures in Jewish and Zionist history. In addition to Ben-Yehuda, the group included Zeev Hertzberg, David Yellin, Yosef Meyouchas, Yehiel Michel Pines, Aaron Masie and others. They understood that a modern Jewish state would need a strong intellectual and educational underpinning.
World War I saw the closure of the library by order of the ruling Ottoman authorities. At that point, the collection totaled more than 30,000 volumes. After the war, with a view toward the evolution of its library into a larger, national institution, B’nai B’rith’s Jerusalem Lodge ceded the library’s collection to the World Zionist Organization. Within a few short years – by 1925 – the collection was transferred to the Hebrew University. The rest, as they say, is history. In that act, the dreams of Ben-Yehuda, Chazanovich and others were realized with what would become the Jewish National and University Library.
The new National Library, with its expanded space, special programs and 21st century research facilities will not only be a well-received addition to Israel’s cultural scene and a monument to the tradition of Jewish scholarship but will surely attract scholars and visitors from around the Jewish world – and beyond.
We hope that as the library plans its permanent exhibition, it will suitably, and in perpetuity, honor those early B’nai B’rith leaders who, in the closing decade of the 19th century, shared Herzl’s prescience about the establishment of a Jewish state. They foresaw the possibility of a nation for “the people of the book.” The library they founded 128 years ago proved to be the seminal contribution, not only to what has become the National Library, but to the growth of academic and intellectual life in the State of Israel.
The Jerusalem Post covered our exclusive conversation with Ambassador Danny Danon, outgoing permanent representative of Israel to the United Nations.
The international community should pressure the Lebanese government to oust the militant group Hezbollah from Lebanon in the aftermath of the explosion in the port of Beirut, outgoing Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon told the Jewish group B’nai B’rith on Thursday.
“We should all demand more from the Lebanese government to push Hezbollah out of the government out of the border with Israel,” said Danon who has just finished a five year term as Israel’s Ambassador to the UN in New York, where he was a vocal critic of Hezbollah.
He spoke with B’nai B’rith in an virtual interview that was posted on YouTube on Thursday in the aftermath of the massive explosion at the Beirut Port that killed at least 154 people.
The cause of the explosion has yet to be determined, but Danon told B’nai B’rith that while he was UN ambassador he warned the UN Security Council that Hezbollah was storing weapons at the port.
“Last year when I spoke in the security council, I said very clearly that the port of Beirut had become the port of Hezbollah,” Danon said.
His words, he said, were base on intelligence reports.
“We got the intelligence and I spoke about it publicly, that [Hezbollah is] actually using the airports and the ports to transport the weapons and other things that are dangerous,” Danon said.
“We all respect the Lebanese people. We know that they are suffering… We send our condolences to the people there,” Danon said.
“But we do criticize not only Hezbollah, but also the Lebanese government, because they allow Hezbllah to do those activities,” Danon said.
But he also leveled criticize against Western countries, including the United States and France, for providing financial assistance to the Lebanese government and its army while not doing enough to ensure that action was taken against Hezbollah.
“I tell them that it’s okay to support the Lebanese government, the Lebanese military, but you have to demand more,” Danon said.
“When we see cooperation between Hezbollah and the Lebanese army, you ask yourself why the US or other countries should give any funding to this army that has allowed Hezbollah to take over,” Danon said.
In 2018, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also warned the UN about Hezbollah, telling the UN General Assembly that Hezbollah had missile sites in Beirut. He showed a map of four sites, including by the city’s port.
Lebanon's President Michel Aoun said on Friday an investigation into the biggest blast in Beirut's history would examine whether it was caused by a bomb or other external interference, as residents tried to rebuild their shattered lives after the explosion.
The search for those missing has intensified, as rescuers sifted rubble in a race to find anyone still alive after Tuesday's blast that smashed up a swathe of the city and sent seismic shockwaves around the region.
"The cause has not been determined yet. There is a possibility of external interference through a rocket or bomb or other act," Aoun said in comments carried by local media and confirmed by his office.
He said it would also consider whether the explosion was due to negligence or an accident. He previously said highly explosive material had been stored in unsafe conditions for years at the port. A source has said an initial probe blamed negligence related to storage of the explosive material.
The United States has previously said it has not ruled out an attack. Israel, which has fought several wars with Lebanon, has also previously denied it had any role.
The Jerusalem Post covered the news that the Texas House of Representatives passed an anti-BDS bill, quoting B'nai B'rith International CEO Dan Mariaschin welcoming its passage and mentioning senior B'nai B'rith leader Charles Kaufman for testifying in its favor.
Scroll down to read the story or click below to read it on JerusalemPost.com.
In a groundbreaking legislative act to blunt economic warfare against Israel, the Texas House of Representatives unanimously passed on Thursday an anti-boycott bill that bars the state from engaging in business with companies that are involved in the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement targeting the Jewish state.
The bill was passed 131-0 and the author of the legislation was Representative Phil King. Pro-Israel organizations welcomed the vote.
Joel Schwitzer, the Regional Director of the American Jewish Committee in Dallas, told The Jerusalem Post, "AJC together with other community leaders worked diligently to ensure that every legislator received multiple contacts about the importance of passing this bill. We’re excited that this brings this legislation one step closer to being law of the land in Texas, strengthening its relationship with Israel, Texas’ 4th largest trading partner. We appreciate the leadership of Representative Phil King in authoring the bill. It is gratifying to see our elected officials sending such a clear and principled message that Texas will not do business with those who boycott our friend Israel."
Sen. Brandon Creighton, the author of the Senate anti-BDS bill, said Texas should not do business with companies that participate in the BDS movement.
“I want to thank the government of Texas for seeing the true, hateful intentions of BDS and banning such state-sponsored bias,” said The Israel Project CEO and President Josh Block. He added, “The people of the Lone Star State and Israel share an unbreakable bond based upon mutual values, and by passing this legislation – ensuring that taxpayer dollars do not fund discrimination – Texas has reaffirmed this important friendship."
Christians United for Israel (CUFI) said in a statement that ," CUFI has been working closely with lawmakers in support of the legislation since its conception. These efforts included bringing Texans from across the state to Austin to lobby lawmakers in support of the bill, testifying before both the Senate and House committees to which the legislation was assigned, and distributing an action alert earlier this week letting Texas State Representatives know that CUFI’s membership is behind the bill."
CUFI founder and Chairman Pastor John Hagee said “Texas is CUFI’s home state and among the most pro-Israel states in the union. The relationship between the Jewish State and the Lone Star State is built upon shared values, including a rock-solid commitment to standing up for liberty – especially when it is threatened by radical Islamic extremism."
“I am very proud that Texas will join with those states that have told the BDS movement that America is unimpressed by efforts to demonize Israel. And I am equally proud of the hard work CUFI members, leaders and staff have done in order to see this and similar legislation advance in state capitols around the country,” Hagee added.
The Texas State Senate passed its version of anti-BDS bill in March. Texas Governor Greg Abbott is expected to sign a merged version of the anti-BDS bills in early May.
“In addition to the unwavering support of Gov. Abbott, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, this legislation would not have been possible without the steadfast leadership of the bills’ authors, State Sen. Brandon Creighton and State Rep. Phil King,” said CUFI Action Fund Chairwoman Sandy Hagee Parker.
CUFI has 3.3 million members in the United States. Daniel S. Mariaschin, the CEO of B'nai B'rith International, told the Post, "We are grateful by the overwhelming support for this measure in the Texas Legislature. It remains vitally important for government figures and legislative bodies to join the growing number of people who recognize the abject injustice of the BDS movement."
Charles Kaufman, who chairs B’nai B’rith’s International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy and is based in Austin, delivered testimony in the Austin legislature in support of the anti-BDS bill. Mariaschin told the Post last month that the Dallas-based bank Comerica should close an account that it maintains with the pro-BDS organization the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL).The IADL ”excuses the actions of terrorist organizations and denies Israel’s right to defend itself," Mariaschin said.
B'nai B'rith International CEO and Executive Vice President Dan Mariaschin was quoted in The Jerusalem Post article on a bill in the Texas legislature that would prevent the state from doing business with companies that support the BDS movement.
“Comerica should close the account,” said Daniel S. Mariaschin, executive vice president of B’nai B’rith, an organization that testified on Wednesday in Texas in support of the anti-BDS bill. The IADL 'excuses the actions of terrorist organizations and denies Israel’s right to defend itself.'"
Check out the article, that includes testimony from the B'nai B'rith International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy Chair Charles Kaufman given at the Texas legislature in support of the bill.
Scroll down to read the piece or click here to read it on JerusalemPost.com.
Texas has been a hotbed of anti-BDS activity in recent days, with the passage of a bill in the Senate on Wednesday that will bar state contracts and investment in companies that boycott Israel, and mounting criticism by Jewish organizations of a local bank’s BDS activity.
Chuck Lindell from the American-Statesman paper reported that the Texas Senate passed the bill opposing BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) by a 25-4 vote and that it was sent to the Texas House of Representatives for a vote. “No senators spoke in opposition to [bill] SB 29 before the vote,” the paper reported, adding that the bill’s author, Sen. Brandon Creighton, said Texas should not do business with companies that participate in the BDS movement.
One such company, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), maintains an account with the Dallas-based Comerica bank.
“Comerica should close the account,” said Daniel S. Mariaschin, executive vice president of B’nai B’rith, an organization that testified on Wednesday in Texas in support of the anti-BDS bill. The IADL ”excuses the actions of terrorist organizations and denies Israel’s right to defend itself.”
Like other financial institutions, Comerica does not have to provide everyone with an account or a loan, he said. “Banks have recognized that they should not truck or have business with these types [BDS] of accounts.”
The IADL supports Iran’s nuclear program and has a chapter in communist North Korea.
Jan Fermon, the secretary-general of IADL and a Belgium-based lawyer, wrote the The Jerusalem Post by email in early March that, “Regarding BDS, IADL supports this movement.”
He added, “IADL engaged in solidarity with the Palestinian people in a very early stage of its existence because it considers the violations of international law and human rights law... by the Israeli authorities as a major obstacle to a just and lasting peace in the region.”
Charles Kaufman, who chairs B’nai B’rith’s International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy, delivered testimony in the Austin legislature in support of the anti-BDS bill. Kaufman, who lives in Texas, said, “In another time, in another place in history, people who wanted to rid the earth of the Jewish people boycotted their businesses. Filled with fear, these good citizens, stripped of their possessions, separated from their families, would subsequently fill boxcars... and you the know rest.
“Today is different, the Jewish people have a state, Israel, their ancestral homeland, a home shared with Christians and Muslims and many other faiths,” he said. “And yet, there are people who still want to rid the earth of Israel and demonize Jews in a shocking reply of antisemitism. The talk of a boycott is back. It is back in the form of an appalling spreading disease called BDS – against Texas’s fourth largest trading partner.
“The BDS movement would like you to believe that this effort will pressure Israel to make existential concessions to enemies who seek its destruction. This is simply the latest in a litany of false narratives that is threatening a democracy and a free world,” said Kaufman.
“Do Texans share the values of individual freedom, tolerance, mutual respect and pluralism with Israel? Absolutely, yes. Do we share a spirit of discovery, enterprise and security with the State of Israel? Yes. Do we need an anti-BDS law in Texas? In the face of a threatening movement? Sadly, yes.”
Joel Schwitzer, the American Jewish Committee’s regional director in Dallas, told the Post: “AJC recognizes that Comerica Bank, and other financial institutions, are clearly free to do business with whomever they choose. AJC urges banks to consider carefully what it means to extend an account to a discriminatory movement like BDS, which seeks to de-legitimize a single country – and that often intersects with antisemitism.”
Wayne Mielke, a spokesman for Comerica, responded to the Post by email, saying, “We don’t discuss customer relationships, and want you to know (again) that we have a robust compliance program at the bank.”
Mielke’s response is “not good enough. It is a legalistic answer,” said Mariaschin. The question for Comerica is: “Do you want to do business with an organization [IADL] that engages in this type of activity?” Mielke declined follow-up Post queries about whether the bank had launched an investigation into the IADL account and about Comerica’s views on BDS.
The 2016 B’nai B’rith World Center Award for Journalism Recognizing Excellence in Diaspora Reportaģe ceremony was held on July 7, 2016, and was covered by The Times of Israel and Haaretz.
Winners of the award, which recognizes excellence in Diaspora reportage in Israel print, broadcast and digital media, were Amanda Borschel-Dan, the Times of Israel’s Jewish World editor and Allison Kaplan Sommer, staff writer at Haaretz. Both journalists submitted an impressive array of articles on Diaspora communities and Israel-Diaspora relations published during 2015.
>> Click here for a full recap, including video and photos
Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer delivered the keynote address, which was also covered by The Times of Israel.
Scroll down to read clips of the coverage and links to the full articles...
On Ron Dermer
Israeli Ambassador to the U.S.
On the ceremony
The latter was awarded to the totally charming Idan Raichel, who, though he had to rush off to a performance, nonetheless decided not to cheat the audience at the awards ceremony at the Konrad Adenauer Center in Jerusalem and performed briefly before exiting. In accepting the citation, he spoke with a degree of modesty tinged with pride, saying that in several countries he and his group are regarded as the sound track of Israel, just as Édith Piaf is regarded as the sound track of France, and Miriam Makeba the sound track of Africa.
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.
The European Union started Passover on a sour note, announcing that the much-anticipated upcoming conference on combating rising anti-Semitism in Europe will not share equal billing with Islamophobia.
While B'nai B'rith International has been an outspoken global advocate of diversity and worked to combat prejudice and discrimination of all kinds, the concern is that adding other issues to the discussion of anti-Semitism allows government officials to avoid real action.
B'nai B'rith International Director of Legislative Affairs Eric Fusfield spoke on behalf of the organization to the Jerusalem Post, highlights of which can be found below:
Jewish organizations worldwide expressed shock and dismay over the weekend following the announcement that the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency is planning on holding a conference that implies an equivalence between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
It will focus on the rise of anti-Jewish sentiment and violence across the continent and the “growing evidence in many European countries, especially in the past two years, of very high rates of anti-Muslim incidents, including acts of verbal and physical violence,” according to the organizers.
Jewish community leaders in Europe and elsewhere told The Jerusalem Post that despite being largely supportive of the FRA’s work, they believed it inappropriate for it to juxtapose hate directed against Muslims with anti-Semitism as if both were one and the same.
“The challenge of combating anti-Semitism would be better served by a stand-alone colloquium fully focused on the problem,” said Eric Fusfield, the legislative affairs director of the B’nai B’rith International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy.
“Opponents of anti-Semitism have tried for years to promote greater understanding of anti-Semitism as a distinct phenomenon with unique dimensions sometimes requiring unique solutions,” he said.
“It is true that some strategies for combating anti-Semitism may apply to other forms of intolerance as well, but the fact is that, for too long, the tendency of governments and international organizations to conflate anti-Semitism with other social illnesses has served as a means of avoiding the problem rather than addressing it head on, even as the crisis facing Jewish communities has intensified in Europe and elsewhere,” he added.
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