On April 15, America observed the 150th anniversary of the death of President Abraham Lincoln, and B'nai B'rith International remembered his impact on the then fledgling Jewish community in the United States.
Appearing in the Summer 2015 issue of B'nai B'rith Magazine, staff curator Cheryl A. Kempler examines the recently published book "Lincoln and the Jews: A History" by Jonathan D. Sarna and Benjamin Shapell. Among other things, she highlights B'nai B'rith's early advocacy efforts with the 16th president, and how his actions on behalf of the Jewish community set the tone for Jews in America.
Additionally, B'nai B'rith Magazine editor Eugene L. Meyer critiqued for the Washington Independent Review of Books. He too notes how "the Great Emancipator was a Philo-Semite."
Read excerpts from Kempler and Meyer's reviews of the book and President Lincoln, below:
B'nai B'rith International joined a chorus of Jewish organizations that voiced displeasure at a recent Vatican's move on the recognition of a "State of Palestine.”
In follow-up analysis, B'nai B'rith Director of United Nations Affairs David Michaels examined the history of the terminology, noting that the Vatican has made prior references to the "State of Palestine," and concluding that the move, while disappointing, is unlikely to affect Israelis or Palestinians.
Read media coverage from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on B'nai B'rith's statement on the Vatican:
A May 13 announcement on an agreement regarding the functioning of the church in areas under Palestinian control raised eyebrows in its reference to the “State of Palestine.”
The upset was compounded by confusion over whether Pope Francis, in a meeting over the weekend with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, praised him as an “angel of peace” or urged him to attain that vaunted status. On Tuesday, a Vatican spokesman said it was “very clear” that the pope was “encouraging a commitment to peace.”
But the Vatican’s shift from terming its Palestinian partner as the Palestine Liberation Organization — the designation Israel accepts — to calling it Palestine comports with a shift in Europe toward accommodating Palestinian statehood aspirations, the Jewish officials said.
Daniel Mariaschin, the director of B’nai B’rith International, said the recognition of Palestine raised concerns, but they must be seen in the context of an increased willingness in Europe to recognize Palestinian statehood and not of Jewish-Catholic relations.
He likened it to the French and British parliaments recent nonbinding recognition of Palestine and Sweden’s decision to recognize Palestinian statehood.
“It’s important, I won’t dismiss it, but it shouldn't be seen outside that broader context,” Mariaschin said. “It raises the expectations of Palestinians to un-meetable levels and frustrates the Israelis who say we can’t get a fair deal in the international community.”
The first meeting, held at 1:45PM, featured National Security Advisors Susan Rice and Colin Kahl. The organization leaders who attended include.
Conference of Presidents' Malcolm Hoenlein, AIPAC's Lee Rosenberg and Robert Cohen, ADL's Abe Foxman, OU's Allen Fagin, JCPA's Steve Gutow, Wiesenthal's Marvin Hier, URJ's Rick Jacobs, AJC's Jason Issacson, WJC's Ronald Lauder, Israel Policy Forum's Peter Joseph, NCJW's Nancy K. Kaufman, B'nai B'rith's Dan Mariaschin, NJDC's Greg Rosenbaum, Rabbinical Assembly's Julie Schonfeld, Federations' Jerry Silverman, past CoP Chair Alan Solow, J Street Vice-Chair Alexandra Stanton, and CoP's Chairman Robert Sugarman.
According to a source, the two hour long meeting, featured Potus speaking for around an hour with some time for questions and answers with the President and Rice.
The second meeting, tailored more for the President's longtime supporters in the Jewish community, was held at 4:45PM and lasted around an hour and forty minutes.
The meeting featured President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Susan Rice, Valerie Jarrett, and Robert Malley. According to two sources with knowledge of the meetings, the President began by detailing the day's previous meeting, with no notes, for around twenty minutes and then went around the room allowing each attendee to ask multiple questions on issues including Iran, Israelis and Palestinians, and the U.S. - Israel relationship.
One source told Jewish Insider that they had never seen the President as "passionate, emotional and connected to the issues" as he was [today] but added that the President was also candid and honest about expressing frustration with the way some of his views have been portrayed and attacked by others.
Project H.O.P.E. works with the community family service agencies and local Jewish social services and with B’nai B’rith members and synagogue volunteers. Jewish organizations provide the lists of people who need packages and the facilities for collecting, storing, and packing the food. B’nai B’rith volunteers assemble and deliver the packages. Begun in New York, the program has spread to Boston, Philadelphia, Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.
Last year in Philadelphia, 540 families received Passover food.
As a once a year Mitzvah Project, the Sunday before Passover, deliver Kosher for Passover food to our most needy, elderly and isolated Jews in the Philadelphia Region. The Project involves planning, fundraising, and volunteers to ensure success annually.
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.
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.”
B'nai B'rith expressed optimism that Noah would be responsible and sensitive in his new role. Read highlights from the news coverage below:
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (and other outlets) highlighted B'nai B'rith's remarks, an excerpt of which can be found below:
Ninety-two years ago, The Independent Order of B'nai B'rith in Texas conducted a social experiment with Jewish immigrants that had landed in Mexico with the intention of crossing the border into the United States.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency vault revisits the experiment, which inspired many of the immigrants to put down roots south of the border. As of 2010, more than 67,000 Jews call Mexico home.
Read excerpts from the JTA Vault article, below:
Large numbers of Jews who entered Mexico with intention of crossing into the States from there are now prospering in Mexico and entirely contend to remain there. A report to this affect has been received by the Independent Order B’nai Brith from Rabbi Martin Zielonka of EL Paso who conducted an investigation for the Order.
In the last two years more than 800 of these Jewish immigrants have landed in Mexico, Rabbi Zielonka hears. “The only problem seems to be that all the young men want to get married and from all conversations with them they want wives of their own nationality, “writes Ed. Saunders of El Paso who has met the young men.
“The work of the B’nai Brith should convince the most sceptical that Mexico offers opportunity to immigrants willing to work, to suffer some privation and to settle in a strange environment. The opportunities are especially good for those whose relatives can give them a sufficient fund to start their business.”
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