In JNS, Miriam Assor, a member of the Portuguese Jewish community in Lisbon, highlighted B'nai B'rith's involvement in the creation of the Oporto Holocaust Museum – the city's first Holocaust museum.
(April 11, 2021 / JNS) The new Oporto Holocaust Museum, the only one in the Iberian Peninsula, has already been referred to by Timeout magazine as the best museum in the city. Oporto is one of Europe’s oldest and most popular tourist destinations, and before the COVID-19 pandemic, it received hundreds of thousands of European tourists every year.
As a daughter of the rabbi who led the Jewish community of Lisbon for 50 years, born in a country where Jews were expelled five centuries ago—and living in a Europe where more and more people hate Jews, Judaism and Israel—I am infused with a sense of security from the museum. It is a reminder that the phrase “Never again”—about the savage murder of six million Jews in a genocide designed down to the last millimeter—cannot and must not be reduced to an epigraph.
I have read the works of Elie Wiesel, Samuel Pisar, Primo Levy and Anne Frank. I was privileged to be friends with someone who breached the Warsaw Ghetto wall. I have interviewed survivors. I met Imre Kertész.
I have visited the Nazi extermination camps, where the air smells of corpses and remnants of dead Jews were on display: stacks of suitcases, shoes, artificial limbs, glasses, crutches, human hair used for fabrics. I have been to Yad Vashem and Kibbutz Lohamei HaGeta’ot in Israel, and many other Holocaust museums elsewhere in the world, viewing photos of so many tattooed arms with deadly numbers. I have pored over archives and scoured libraries, examining blood-stained documents.
To be remembered, the Shoah needs to be known and deeply understood. Understanding is perhaps the only way not to allow the crime to be repeated. “Never again” translates into solidifying the truth with justice, with the strength that does not come from weapons, but from actions such as the building of the Holocaust museum, run by Oporto’s Jewish community, whose parents, grandparents and other family members were direct victims of that tragedy: enslaved, gassed, shot, buried in mass graves, forced to play the violin in Theresienstadt, subject to Mengele’s experiments, escaping Treblinka in the middle of the night.
Built by complementary teams of experts in areas as diverse as history, design, architecture, civil construction and carpentry, under the direction of the board and local rabbinate, the Oporto Holocaust Museum was erected in just two months. In cooperation with B’nai B’rith International and Holocaust museums around the world, it portrays Jewish life before the Holocaust; Nazism and Nazi expansion in Europe; the ghettos, refugees, concentration, labor and extermination camps; liberation; the Jewish population in the post-war period; the foundation of the State of Israel; and the Righteous Among the Nations.
Visitors will have the opportunity to see a reproduction of the Auschwitz dormitories, a room of names, a memorial flame, a study center and, in the image of the Washington Holocaust Museum, photographs and video footage of the period before, during and after the tragedy.
The museum also contains archives relating to refugees who passed through the city of Oporto, including official documents, testimonies, letters and hundreds of individual files. Two Torah scrolls offered to the synagogue in Oporto by refugees who had arrived in the city after the war are also on display.
The new museum is part of a strategy of the local Jewish community to combat anti-Semitism—a strategy that also includes school visits to the Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue; four films about the history of Jews in Portugal (as part of an interfaith project with the Diocese of Oporto); pedagogical training programs for secondary-school teachers and other civil servants on themes related to Judaism, the history of the Jews and the Holocaust; and visits to the city’s Jewish Museum to observe the historic and cultural importance of the Jews in Portugal and of Portuguese Jews worldwide, with particular emphasis on the Jewish community in Oporto, which is older than the foundation of Portugal.
The board of directors of the Jewish community of Oporto has it right when it says, “Jews are off the political agenda in many countries, as they are seen as plutocrats of an obscurantist religion and culture with their own state in Israel. Jews don’t count, and the Holocaust itself has been instrumentalized mainly to combat discrimination in general, although nine out of 10 victims were Jewish. Nazism also persecuted other minorities, but it just feared the Jewish culture that was 3,000 years old and present on all continents. The Jews were considered as the greatest threat to the ‘Master Race.’ Hatred of Jews extended far beyond the territories occupied by Germany. The Holocaust aimed to exterminate the Jewish people!”
JNS covered, along with other pro-Israel and Jewish organizations, our push for members of the U.S. Congress to sign a letter to the U.N. secretary general urging him to end anti-Semitic content found in the curriculum of schools run by UNRWA.
(April 8, 2021 / JNS) Several pro-Israel and Jewish organizations are urging U.S. legislators to pressure the United Nations to end hateful anti-Semitic content found in the curriculum of schools run by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
The letter to Congress—spearheaded by Hadassah and signed by more than a dozen leading Jewish and pro-Israel groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith, the Orthodox Union, the Zionist Organization of America, the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement and Christians United for Israel—calls on lawmakers to urge “U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres to shield students in U.N.-run schools from lessons steeped in anti-Semitism and supportive of violence.”
“It is critical that we stand together to demand systemic reform to educational materials used by … UNRWA before one more child is taught from textbooks riddled with hateful lessons,” the letter states.
It cited a recent report by IMPACT-se that discovered how UNRWA staff have authored and disseminated educational content, which in some cases was “more egregious than that of the Palestinian Authority.”
It further adds that “Guterres can play an important role to ensure transparency, accountability and oversight that will stop the decades-long practice of teaching children to hate.”
The letter comes as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced it is restoring $150 million in aid to UNRWA that had been cut under the Trump administration.
The Algemeiner, JNS and JBS all quoted B'nai B'rith International's statement in their coverage of U.S. Jewish organizations condemning the International Criminal Court's decision to investigate Israel and Palestine for alleged war crimes since 2014.
Leading American Jewish and pro-Israel groups condemned the International Criminal Court’s decision Wednesday to open an investigation into alleged war crimes in the West Bank, Gaza and eastern Jerusalem.
“The ICC’s effort to intrude into matters outside its mandate undermine its credibility and legitimacy, and cast significant doubt on its future as an unbiased judicial forum,” said leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in a statement.
“By continuing these efforts to weaponize a judicial institution for political purposes, the Palestinian Authority inflames existing tensions and obstructs the path to peace,” continued Conference Chairman Arthur Stark, CEO William Daroff and Vice Chair Malcolm Hoenlein. “We call on the international community to speak out in forceful objection to this disgraceful action by the ICC.”
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda — whose term ends in June — announced the investigation in a statement Wednesday, several weeks after an ICC ruling that the court had jurisdiction in the territories.
B’nai B’rith International President Charles O. Kaufman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin argued that the ICC had no such jurisdiction, and that Israel’s legal system was capable of investigating any alleged offenses.
“The acquiescence of the prosecutor to politicize the ICC and exploit it as a propaganda tool not only batters the standing of the court and distracts it from truly grievous and systematic crimes around the world, but also intolerably stands to handicap law-abiding nations’ abilities, rights and fundamental duties to combat the brutal asymmetric warfare of terrorist organizations,” they said.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee called the probe “a baseless and discriminatory attack on the Jewish state” in a statement.
“The outrageous investigations into America & Israel represent significant overreaches of the ICC’s mandate and jurisdiction that must be condemned by the administration and Congress,” it continued.
Israel Hayom referenced former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman's first speech as ambassador in 2017, which he made at a ceremony hosted by B'nai B'rith International.
(January 26, 2021 / Israel Hayom) One winter morning in 2017, a young man arrived at the Kesher Israel synagogue in the heart of Washington. He prayed fervently, as if his heart was filled with a special request. His tallit bag bore the name “Friedman,” and it was the only time he had come to the famous synagogue. That same day, his father, David M. Friedman, was undergoing Senate confirmation for his appointment as U.S. ambassador to Israel.
In the best tradition of Jewish divisiveness, powerful forces were aligned against Friedman Sr., led by the J Street lobby. But a few weeks later, in a ceremony organized by B’nai B’rith International, Friedman made his first speech as ambassador.
“If you were wondering about my middle name, Melech, it’s not because my parents expected great things of me, but because my grandmother was named Malka [the feminine version of the name],” he began, causing the audience to double over with laughter.
His son’s prayers were answered—not only was the appointment approved, but David Melech Friedman became the most influential U.S. ambassador in the history of U.S.-Israeli relations. And not only through the steps known to everyone—stamping down Iran, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, relocating the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, recognizing the Golan Heights as Israeli and shaping the Trump peace plan—but also through endless moves that never made headlines in the dramatic Trump era. For example visits to the Golan Heights, to Ariel in Samaria and the City of David in Jerusalem—all of which would have been inconceivable prior to Freidman’s arrival.
For decades, the American consulate on Jerusalem’s Agron Street served as a conduit through which the Palestinian Authority would spread its lies and incitement into Washington. Friedman shut down the consulate and turned it into the official residence of the American ambassador in Jerusalem.
After four intense years, Friedman sat down with Israel Hayom for an “exit interview.”
Q: Now that this journey is coming to an end, what are your feelings? Your thoughts?
A: I haven’t looked backwards yet, but it’s starting to sink in, especially after being at the Knesset and being with the Cabinet [last week] and people saying nice things about me. It’s been the honor of my life, and I wish I could keep this job forever. I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished, I feel good about the last four years. It’s not just me, it includes the entire team both in Washington [and here,] from the president on down.
Read the rest of Ambassador Friedman's interview in JNS here.
JNS covered our virtual joint event with the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) honoring the late Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara, who helped thousands of Jews escape the horrors of the Holocaust.
(January 26, 2021 / JNS) Ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27, a virtual event on Monday honored a hero often referred to as the “Japanese Schindler” for helping to save thousands of Jews from the Holocaust.
Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat stationed in Lithuania, defied his own government’s orders by issuing handwritten transit visas in 1940 to more than 6,000 Lithuanian Jews, enabling them to escape Nazi-occupied Europe. He continued to do so for over a month until the Japanese consulate was closed. More than 40,000 descendants of those Jews are believed to be alive today because of his courageous actions.
Sugihara died in 1986 at the age of 86.
The online event highlighted Sugihara’s heroic deeds and the lessons we can learn from him in battling contemporary anti-Semitism. The reception was hosted by the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement and B’nai B’rith International.
Sacha Roytman Dratwa, executive director of the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement, told JNS, “While Sugihara has gotten more attention in recent decades, particularly after Yad Vashem gave him the ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ title in the 1980s, most people, including Jews, are still unaware of his heroic deeds. So, it is important that we honor those, such as Sugihara, who came to the aid of the Jewish people in the darkest hour of their history.”
“With fewer and fewer survivors of the Holocaust alive to tell their stories, it is vital that its lessons continue to be shared,” he continued. “The Sugihara lesson is about what one person can do in the face of evil—which, with anti-Semitism on the rise around the world, is as relevant as ever.”
The well-known attorney Nathan Lewin, 84, recalled his family’s personal story of how they were saved by Sugihara. He was born in Lodz, Poland, and in September 1939, when Adolf Hitler invaded, he and his family, including his maternal grandmother and uncle, smuggled across the border and made their way to Vilnius, Lithuania. Lewin was 3 years old at the time.
They hoped to travel even farther away from Hitler’s grasps but were unable to get travel documents. Lewin’s mother then went to Sugihara at the Japanese consulate and received the first handwritten “Sugihara visa” given to Jews. Sugihara’s transit visa allowed Lewin’s entire family to travel to Curaçao and Suriname via Japan.
However, Lewin and his family did not go to Suriname or Curacao but traveled to Japan and came to the United States as refugees when he was 5.
He said at the event, “It is both an honor and a blessing for me to be here today to share my admiration and thanks for an individual who embodied the role that our rabbis specified, saying you should not do a good deed with the expectation that you will be rewarded, but for the good deed itself. That is what Chiune Sugihara did.”
Lewin told JNS, “It’s necessary and important to honor those people who took personal efforts and really jeopardized their own professional status to help people who were fleeing from the Holocaust. And Mr. Sugihara did just that.”
‘He gave them hope and life’
Lewin’s daughter, Alyza Lewin, also an attorney, discussed the relevance of Sugihara’s story to combating modern-day anti-Semitism.
President of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, she told JNS: “The lesson we learn from Chiune Sugihara is that we must recognize that even if we come from different backgrounds, different faiths, different cultures, different races, different genders, different ethnicities, we are all human beings deserving of respect and fairness, entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
She further praised Sugihara, saying “at a time when Jews were being stigmatized and marginalized, he treated them as human beings. He gave them hope and life when others sought to rob them of their dignity.”
She added that Jews are again being stigmatized and marginalized today, but this time because of their ethnicity.
“Jews who take pride in our sense of Jewish peoplehood and in the Jews’ deep, religious, ethnic, cultural, and ancestral connection to the Land of Israel, are being pressured to shed that ethnic pride,” she said. “The Jewish homeland, the Jewish nation-state of Israel—where all races, religions, ethnicities and genders are equal under the law—is the only nation-state today that is targeted as illegitimate. It is the only country that some say has no right to exist. This is today’s contemporary form of anti-Semitism, and we must unite to combat it. Because anti-Semitism is not just a Jewish problem. It is a cancer that rots away at and ultimately destroys societies that fail to curb it.”
Another Holocaust survivor, Ada Winsten, whose family also obtained transit visas from Sugihara, paid tribute to the man she called “the Japanese Schindler,” saying “if not for him, I would not be here. I would not have my children [or] my grandchildren. If not for Sugihara, we would not even have this story to tell.”
The event’s keynote speaker was Ambassador Kanji Yamanouchi, Consul General of Japan in New York, who said that “by the grace of Sugihara’s pen, thousands of lives were saved.”
He added, “We must remember the Holocaust to honor those who perished and to achieve a better society. We know that no country is immune from the forces of racism and fascism. So, we have to do the right thing when necessary. Chiune Sugihara is one of those who did the right thing in the most difficult hour.”
JNS noted our statement in its coverage of the storming of the United States Capitol by rioters.
(January 6, 2021 / JNS) Jewish and Israel-related groups reacted to the mob invasion of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday by Trump supporters as members of Congress gathered in a joint session on Wednesday to certify U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
Eric Fingerhut, a former member of Congress, and currently the president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, told JNS that he was “horrified” by what happened, calling it “appalling” and blaming the rhetoric by U.S. President Donald Trump in part leading up to the overrunning of the Capitol.
Violence erupted in the afternoon when some of the protesters of the certification process scaled walls and scaffolding, and smashed windows to enter the building. One woman was shot during the chaos inside the Capitol and transferred to a nearby hospital; she was pronounced dead around 6 p.m. Multiple injuries to law enforcement have also been reported.
Jewish groups from both sides of the aisle unwaveringly condemned the chaos on Capitol Hill, with Democratic and liberal groups blaming the president for inciting the violence. Conservative Jewish groups focused on the breakdown of the rule of law, which they vociferously lamented.
“Protesters must stop now. We support peaceful protest, but storming the halls of Congress and the Capitol building is unacceptable. We condemn these actions. G-d bless the [Capitol Police],” tweeted the Republican Jewish Coalition.
“Shame on Donald Trump, who has incited violence, sedition, anarchy & insurrection, playing out in real time. He is risking the lives of Republicans and Democrats alike in order to stop the peaceful transfer of power. Praying for the safety & security of those in the Capitol,” tweeted Jewish Democratic Council of America CEO Halie Soifer.
“The orderly transfer of power is a hallmark of and essential to American democracy. We are disgusted by the violence at the US Capitol and urge the rioters to disperse immediately. Law and order must be restored, and the peaceful transition of administrations must continue,” tweeted the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
“The peaceful transition of power is the bedrock of our democracy. We are shocked and horrified by the violent riots taking place on Capitol Hill at this time. We urge @POTUS to call for an immediate end to the riots and respect the certification process currently underway,” tweeted the American Jewish Committee.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) tweeted, “We share the anger of our fellow Americans over the attack at the Capitol and condemn the assault on our democratic values and process. This violence, and President Trump’s incitement of it, is outrageous and must end.”
Zionist Organization of America president Mort Klein told JNS that his organization “condemns and deplores the several dozen idiotic lunatics who broke into the Capitol building. The First Amendment does not permit any part of a protest to be violent. And Trump should have made a stronger speech urging this travesty to stop.”
In a statement, Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said “extremists must be taken at their word. First, there was volatile rhetoric online, then explicit calls to violence, and now people are acting on those calls in the nation’s capital and flagrantly breaking the law. It must end now.”
He went on to state, “The president has promoted sedition and incited violence. People assaulting law-enforcement officers or breaching government buildings must be arrested and held accountable.
Additionally, Greenblatt called for social-media companies to “suspend his accounts ASAP as they would do for anyone else advocating disinformation and promoting violence.”
On Wednesday night, Twitter suspended Trump’s account for 12 hours, threatening a permanent ban.
‘One of the saddest days in our nation’s history’
In a statement, the Simon Wiesenthal Center called Wednesday “a dark day for all Americans.”
“The right to protest is sacrosanct in American life,” said the organization. “But the very values and rights bestowed by our democracy are degraded and diminished when police officers have to draw their guns to protect our duly elected officials in the heart of our nation by violent protesters who have stormed Congress and by their reckless and dangerous behavior have inflicted grievous wounds on our nation.”
“Nothing,” it added, “not even the emotional charges of voter fraud in a presidential election, can ever legitimize or excuse such behavior.”
B’nai B’rith International called the mob invasion of the Capitol “one of the saddest days in our nation’s history” and called for Trump “to publicly condemn the rioters.”
“The United States Capitol building represents the heart of our democracy,” said the organization. “We condemn those who are engaging in this senseless disregard for the democratic values of our nation.”
“Though it’s horrifying to see the U.S. Capitol under siege, the seeds for this have been planted and nurtured for many years,” continued B’nai B’rith. “We decry the divisiveness in the country that led to this day, and we must re-engage in a political process of compromise, one issue at a time. The election season is over.”
The Jewish Community Relations Council called Wednesday “a sad and dangerous day for our democracy.”
“The violence taking place in Washington, including the attempt to storm the United States Capitol, is despicable,”said the organization. “These actions have been encouraged by the highest officeholders in our nation, reminding us that rhetoric matters and words have consequences.”
“Make no mistake: If order, decency and rational decision making do not prevail, the underpinnings of our social fabric are in jeopardy,” they added.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) said what transpired “was a direct assault on our democratic process, and nothing less than an attempt to disrupt the peaceful transition of power in a presidential election and an act of sedition.”
JNS mentioned our statement on the COVID-19 relief package deal reached by Congress.
(December 22, 2020 / JNS) Jewish and pro-Israel groups expressed appreciation to Congress for passing a 5,593-page spending package on Monday night that includes $1.4 trillion to fund the government, in addition to annual U.S. assistance to Israel, and as much as $900 billion in relief for those affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The bill now goes to U.S. President Donald Trump to sign it into law.
Relief includes $600 stimulus checks per adult and child. Single people earning up to $75,000 will receive $600, while married couples earning up to $150,000 will receive $1,200. Checks will be reduced by $5 for every $100 in income for those above those thresholds. Single people who earn more than $87,000 or married couples who earn more than $174,000 will not receive money.
The relief also allocates $300 per week in enhanced unemployment insurance for 11 weeks, more funds for vaccine distribution and COVID-19 testing.
It also consists of $319 billion for small businesses, including $284 billion in loans for the Paycheck Protection Program from the Small Business Administration (SBA). This included $20 billion through the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) program and $15 billion for theaters, live venues and museums.
The bill allocates $82 billion in education funding, including $2.75 billion to support Jewish, Catholic and other nonpublic schools.
The spending bill includes $180 million in funding for security for nonprofit institutions.
In a statement applauding the legislation ahead of it being passed, the Jewish Federations of North America said—citing a record number of anti-Semitic attacks in the United States in 2019— that “this bolstered funding will help to secure thousands of synagogues, Jewish community agencies and organizations, as well as other faith and communal groups who have too frequently been the victims of deadly attacks.”
The bill also includes the seventh year of funding for Holocaust survivors and older adults with a history of trauma and their families. JFNA said that its “Center for Advancing Holocaust Survivor Care, which benefits from federal funding, will be able to continue to its work.”
In a statement ahead of the legislative package being passed, B’nai B’rith International expressed gratitude for the economic relief and extension of the Paycheck Protection Program, though said it was “disappointed that there were no provisions made for low-income senior housing in this stimulus bill.”
“As the largest national Jewish sponsor of low-income, nonsectarian housing for seniors in the country, we are focused on the urgent needs of this population,” continued the organization. “We would have appreciated funds for more supplies, staffing, service coordinators and Wi-Fi accessibility for subsidized housing for seniors.”
Ahead of it being passed, the Orthodox Union also applauded the government spending and relief package, especially for K-12 schools.
In the American Jewish community, almost 1,000 Jewish day schools educate approximately 300,000 students and employ many thousands of teachers and other staff. As with so many other institutions, the impact of the COVID-19 crisis has been terribly disruptive and costly to these schools, it explained.
“That is why it is essential for this latest federal relief package to include a great amount of support for these schools and, among them, America’s Jewish, Catholic and other nonpublic schools,” said OU executive director for public policy Nathan Diament. “We are all in this together. We cannot beat back the pandemic, much less educate children, in some schools but not others. Thus, we are very thankful that congressional leaders set aside $2.75 billion to help our schools in this emergency.”
‘Ensuring critical support for Israel’s security’
Moreover, the bill includes legislation protecting victims of terrorism and restoring Sudan’s immunity from terror-related lawsuits in the aftermath of the Northeast African nation recently agreeing to normalize ties with Israel.
The legislative package includes the annual $3.8 billion in assistance to Israel in accordance with the 2016 10-year $38 billion memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the United States and Israel. It consisted of $3.3 billion in security assistance and $500 million for U.S.-Israel missile defense cooperation authorized by the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which passed earlier this month.
The bill also allocates $47.5 million in anti-tunnel technology and $25 million for counter-unmanned aerial systems, two burgeoning areas of cooperation in addressing threats from tunnel attacks and drones.
Additionally, the legislation includes $2 million to fund a new U.S.-Israel cooperative initiative on COVID-related and health technologies research; $2 million to fund a new Israel-U.S. Agency for International Development international development cooperative program to support local solutions to address sustainability challenges; $4 million for the U.S.-Israel Center of Excellence in Energy and Water; $2 million for the Israel Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation supporting U.S.-Israel energy cooperative programs; and $2 million for U.S.-Israel cooperative efforts related to border security, maritime security, biometrics, cybersecurity and video analytics.
Finally, the bill allocates $2 million to fund a new strategic dialogue of the Eastern Mediterranean Partnership among the United States, Israel, Greece and Cyprus; and $50 million to fund and authorize the Nita M. Lowey Middle East Partnership for Peace Fund aimed at investing in economic and people-to-people partnerships between Israelis and Palestinians, named for Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), who is retiring and has been known as a stalwart ally of the Jewish state in Congress.
Following the legislation’s passage, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee heralded Congress “for ensuring critical support for Israel’s security and strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship.”
JNS quoted B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin in its coverage of Morocco's decision to normalize ties with the State of Israel.
(December 10, 2020 / JNS) Jewish and pro-Israel groups reacted positively to Morocco’s announcement on Thursday of its intention to normalize ties with Israel.
It’s the fourth normalization deal in the past four months between Israel and Arab countries, after the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan. These nations follow in the wake of Egypt and Jordan, which made peace with Israel in 1979 and 1994, respectively.
In applauding what he called “another outstanding accomplishment for the current administration,” Rabbi Yaakov Menken, managing director of the Coalition for Jewish Values, highlighted the difference between those peace agreements and the four normalization deals with Israel that have been made this year.
“Normalizing ties with Israel is the new normal in the Middle East, which decades of expert commentary told us was the ‘impossible dream,’ ” he told JNS. “And instead of a cold détente attained via surrender to unreasonable demands, these new agreements promote true peace based upon common security needs and mutual medical, technological and financial benefits.”
“History has once again been made with the announcement that Israel and Morocco will normalize diplomatic relations,” said the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in a statement.
In a statement, American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris said, “Morocco’s announcement is further affirmation of the growing recognition by Arab leaders that establishing relations with Israel will be mutually beneficial.”
Republican Jewish Coalition national chairman and former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) called the announcement “historic” and an “important step towards greater stability and peace in the region.”
“Morocco and Israel have agreed to reopen their liaison offices, with the intention of opening embassies later. Official contacts, economic cooperation and direct flights between the two countries will also commence,” he said in a statement. “All of these steps—and we hope to see even more to follow—will enhance the security and prosperity of both countries.”
B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel Mariaschin told JNS that “official ties between Morocco and Israel make sense for many good reasons, not the least of which is the storied history of the Moroccan Jewish community, and its many contributions to life in Morocco and Israel. We want to recognize the important role played by the United States in bringing this about. This is yet another vital building block in bringing peace and stability to the Middle East and North Africa.”
Nathan Diament, executive director for the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, told JNS that the latest “agreement will help unite nations in the Middle East region to deter Iran’s aggression and improve Israel’s security and economic bonds with its neighbors.” He added that his organization looks forward to more countries joining the expanding circle of “peace and security.”
The agreement included the United States recognizing the disputed territory of Western Sahara as part of Morocco, becoming the only Western country to do so. The deal also includes agreeing to grant overflights and also direct flights to and from Israel for all Israelis. Israel and Morocco also agreed to open reciprocal embassies in Rabat and Tel Aviv, respectively, immediately.
‘A recognition of two historical realities’
“These landmark diplomatic agreements set the Middle East on a different path, where reconciliation replaces rejectionism and old enemies become new friends,” said a statement from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
“We salute the American, Israeli and Moroccan diplomats who achieved this historic agreement,” continued the organization. And “we look forward to the exchange of ambassadors and embassies, economic cooperation, and greater cultural bonds between Israel and Morocco in the days ahead.”
Christians United for Israel founder and chairman Pastor John Hagee said that “with each of these announcements, we get one step closer to true peace in the region. It is our sincere hope that the Palestinians see the benefit of ending their conflict with Israel and will one day soon choose to finally ‘beat their swords into plowshares,’” told JNS, citing a phrase from the Book of Isaiah.
There’s not only a political, but also historical, significance about the development, according to American Sephardi Federation executive director Jason Guberman.
He said the announcement “is a recognition of two historical realities: the Kingdom of Morocco’s territorial integrity, which includes sovereignty over the Moroccan Sahara, and the kingdom’s independent leadership in forging a decades-old relationship with Israel.”
In an email, Guberman said Morocco agreeing to establish diplomatic, economic and other ties with Israel “must be understood in its context,” as “900,000 Moroccan-Sephardic Jews live in Israel and keep the sacred chords of memory with the kingdom alive through their traditional observances, building bridges with Moroccan Muslims, and travels to Morocco.”
In fact, he noted, “Israel issued a postage stamp in honor of Morocco’s Chief Rabbi and the Rabbi of Jerusalem Hakham Yosef Massas that included praise (in four languages) for the royal family.”
Israel Hayom noted B'nai B'rith International awarding the Shalva Band a special citation for fostering Israel-Diaspora relations through the arts as part of its World Center Award for Journalism.
The Shalva Band will be awarded a special citation for fostering Israel-Diaspora relations through the arts as part of the B'nai B'rith World Center Award for Journalism, Israel Hayom has learned.
Formed in 2005 by the Shalva organization, which seeks to empower individuals with disabilities, the group, which comprises eight musicians who all live with some degree of disability, rose to fame in Israel after participating in Rising Star, a singing competition that aired on Channel 12. The band's guest-performance at the Eurovision semi-finals in 2019 earned it international acclaim and invitations to perform worldwide.
The award ceremony will take place on Nov. 25 at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem. The ceremony will allow for a limited attendance due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it will be livestreamed on Facebook and Youtube.
Branu Tegene and Danny Kushmaro of Channel 12 News will receive the award in the Broadcast Media category for their five-part series Split Up: The Story of the Ethiopian Jewish Community.
Haaretz correspondent Dina Kraft will receive the award for Print Media for articles on Jewish communities in the United States and Britain.
Since its establishment in 1992, the B'nai B'rith World Center Award for Journalism has recognized excellence in reporting on contemporary Diaspora Jewish communities and the state of Israel-Diaspora relations in the Israeli print, broadcast, and online media.
The awards are presented in memory of the late Wolf Matsdorf, journalist and editor of the organization's journal "Leadership Briefing" and his wife, Hilda, a pioneer in social work in both Australia and Israel, and in memory of Luis and Trudi Schydlowsky. The award is made possible through donations from the Matsdorf family and B'nai B'rith World Center-Jerusalem board member Daniel Schydlowsky.
JNS quoted B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin on the news that U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem will be allowed to list Israel as their place of birth on their U.S. passport.
(October 28, 2020 / JNS) U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem will be allowed to list Israel as their place of birth on their U.S. passport, alluded the Trump administration on Wednesday.
Politico first reported the development, citing a U.S. official, adding that the announcement could be made as soon as Thursday.
Despite the United States recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017 and relocating its embassy to there from Tel Aviv months later, Americans born in Jerusalem have still been unable to list Israel as their place of birth on their U.S. passport. Currently, those people can only list “Jerusalem” as such on their U.S. passport.
The official told Politico that the new policy, at least as of Wednesday, is that U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem can request to have Israel listed as the country or have it show “Jerusalem.”
For U.S. citizens born outside the United States, U.S. passports usually show countries, not cities, for places of birth. Therefore, there would be no third option to list “Jerusalem, Israel” as a place of birth. U.S. passports for citizens born in the United States include the city of birth.
In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the executive branch has the sole power to grant recognition of sovereign states, striking down a move by Congress to command the executive to change its position on Jerusalem. While at the time the ruling was a victory for the Obama administration, which had been upholding a policy recognizing no state as having sovereignty over Jerusalem, it now has allowed the Trump administration to change course on the passport issue.
Sarah Stern, founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) said this important move “shows America has not only recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by moving the embassy, but that American citizens born in Jerusalem will no longer be stateless.”
B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel Mariaschin told JNS “this is a most welcome development.”
“Like establishing the U.S. embassy there, this recognition of Israel’s capital is a further affirmation of the crucial principle that Jerusalem is, and always will be, Israel’s capital,” he said.
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