JNS highlighted B'nai B'rith International praising Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa for hosting a Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony in Lisbon with Israeli Ambassador to Portugal Dor Shapira.
Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa hosted a Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony in Lisbon on Friday with Israeli Ambassador to Portugal Dor Shapira.
De Sousa wished a happy Hanukkah to all Israelis, to the Israeli community in Portugal and to Portuguese living in Israel.
Shapira noted that “we appreciate very much the president’s long-lasting friendship with the Jewish community in Portugal and with the State of Israel.”
B’nai B’rith International welcomed de Sousa’s “warm show of solidarity,” calling it “heartening.”
“Great to see President of Portugal Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa light Chanukah candles with Israel em Portugal Ambassador Dor Shapira—the first time a Portuguese president has done so since Jorge Sampaio, who himself had Jewish roots,” the group posted on Facebook.
JNS noted that as part of a special ceremony held at the Holocaust Museum in Oporto, Portugal, honoring the victims of the Nazi genocide of the Jews, a certificate of tribute was presented to museum director Michael Rothwell. The International Observatory of Human Rights, which sponsored the event, said it would make sure B'nai B'rith International receives a copy of the certificate as "the oldest Jewish organization in defense of human rights."
B'nai B'rith International has consistently supported the Oporto, Portugal Jewish community and the Holocaust Museum of Oporto.
A special ceremony was held in Oporto, Portugal on Friday honoring the victims of the Nazi genocide of the Jews, according to the International Observatory of Human Rights (IOHR), which initiated the event.
The ceremony took place at the Oporto Holocaust Museum—managed by members of the city’s Jewish community whose relatives were murdered by the Nazis—and was attended by 200 teenagers from the city’s schools.
“The event is part of a world cordon of solidarity for universal peace and for a better world for all humanity,” said IOHR president Luis Andrade, adding, “This appalling mass assassination took the lives of millions of Jews, as well as an untold number of other human beings.”
As part of the ceremony, Andrade presented a certificate of tribute to Oporto Holocaust Museum director Michael Rothwell.
“It is a privilege to receive such a tribute, meant for all Holocaust victims, such as my grandparents, Jewish people who were targeted for scientific and industrial annihilation, the likes of which had never before happened in the history of humanity,” said Rothwell upon receiving the certificate.
OIHR said in a statement that “to ensure that the memory of the horrendous massacre remains alive, the Jewish Community of Oporto will make sure that all Holocaust Museums around the world, the Anti-Defamation League and B’nai B’rith International, the oldest Jewish organization in defense of human rights, receive a copy of this certificate.”
Inaugurated early this year by the Jewish Community of Oporto (CIP/CJP), in partnership with the Holocaust Museums of Moscow, Hong Kong, the United States and Europe, the Oporto Holocaust Museum contains a replica of the barracks at Auschwitz, a room of names, photo galleries and more.
JNS noted our letter, together with 20 other major Jewish organizations, to the heads of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to confirm Deborah Lipstadt as the next U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.
Some 21 Jewish organizations wrote to the heads of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday urging them to swiftly approve Deborah Lipstadt as the next anti-Semitism envoy.
“As Jewish organizations dedicated to protesting the rights and security of the Jewish people, we believe that the U.S. Special Envoy position is crucial to addressing the global rise in antisemitic violence, harassment, vandalism, attitudes and incitement,” the groups wrote in a letter to Foreign Relations chairman Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and ranking member James Risch (R-Idaho).
The letter adds: “Every day that we delay filling this critical position, we are endangering people’s lives. We cannot let antisemitism become a wedge issue in today’s polarized politics.”
The organizations signing the letter include American Jewish Congress, Anti-Defamation League, Central Conference of American Rabbis, B’nai B’rith International, Hadassah, J Street, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Jewish Labor Committee, Jewish War Veterans, Jewish Women International, National Council of Jewish Women, NCSEJ, ORT America, Rabbinical Assembly, Reconstructing Judaism, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, Jewish Federations of North America, Union for Reform Judaism, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, Women’s League for Conservative Judaism and World Jewish Congress.
It is the latest in a series of calls by American Jewish organizations urging the Senate to approve Lipstadt. Last week, the Orthodox Union, Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Federations of North America also sent a letter to the Senate urging her approval.
Republicans have raised concern over Lipstadt’s past tweets, including calling Sen. Ron Johnson’s (R-Wis.) statements white supremacy when he said during a radio interview that he was not concerned by the mostly white insurgents at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, but would be concerned if former President Donald Trump had won the election and those rioting at the Capitol were Black Lives Matters protesters or members of Antifa. She has also been criticized for appearing in an ad last year where she likened Trump’s rhetoric to Nazi Germany.
The Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University in Atlanta, Lipstadt is a Holocaust historian and author known for defeating a libel lawsuit from British Holocaust-denier David Irving in the late 1990s. She was nominated for the envoy position by Biden in July. The position was created in 2004, but upgraded to the rank of ambassador in 2020, requiring the nominee to be confirmed by the Senate.
The Algemeiner and JNS included our statement prominently in coverage of American Jewish organizations calling for the swift confirmation of Deborah Lipstadt to serve as the next U.S. anti-Semitism envoy.
Several US Jewish groups have called for the swift confirmation of Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt to serve as the Biden administration’s antisemitism envoy, following reports of delays in her Senate hearing process.
A professor of Jewish history at Emory University in Atlanta, Lipstadt was appointed in Julyas the State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. The post will hold the rank of ambassador for the first time due to bipartisan legislation passed in January, thus requiring Senate confirmation.
Jewish Insider reported Wednesday that Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee were still in the process of reviewing past tweets by Lipstadt that were harshly critical of committee members, including charges of “white nationalism.”
On Friday, B’nai B’rith International President Charles O. Kaufman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin called on the senators to lift any hold on Lipstadt’s confirmation.
“Her distinguished academic background, along with her active engagement in the fight against antisemitism, makes her eminently qualified for the post,” they said in a statement. “The special envoy position is vitally important to the fight against the dramatic rise in antisemitism globally in all of its manifestations.”
In a letter sent Thursday to Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Ranking Member Jim Risch (R-ID), the Jewish Federations of North America, the Orthodox Union, and the Anti-Defamation League called the hearing “overdue.”
“Even for those of our organizations that generally have a policy to neither endorse nor oppose nominees pending before the Senate for confirmation, we are compelled to urge you to hold the Committee’s hearing on Prof. Lipstadt’s nomination without further delay,” the groups said.
“The global Jewish community needs the United States to be a leader in the fight against antisemitism and we must not waste more time leaving our lead official in this fight off the field.”
Lipstadt was the founding director of its Institute for Jewish Studies, and has penned works on the American press during the Holocaust, the trial of Adolf Eichmann, and her own successful court battle against British Holocaust denier David Irving.
If confirmed, she would succeed former Los Angeles prosecutor Elan Carr, who was appointed by President Donald Trump in 2019.
A JNS op-ed by Miriam Assor, a member of the Lisbon Jewish community, notes B'nai B'rith International's role in creating the Jewish Museum of Oporto, which recounts the 1000-year history of the city’s Jewish presence.
The European Commission announced in early October that Jewish life will be fostered in a Europe that was home to 9.5 million Jews before the Second World War and whose remaining 1.5 million are abandoning the Old Continent.
“We want to see Jewish life thriving again in the heart of our communities,” said E.C. president Ursula von der Leyen. “This is how it should be.”
In recent years, Portugal has become home to thousands of Jews. The choice of this country may provide the inspiration and serve as a model for what the European Union does, in fact, need.
Once again, Portugal is on the Jewish map. Small Jewish communities, mainly consisting of recently arrived Sephardim, are growing and strengthening throughout the country, even in less populated areas than the capital.
Cascais, a town in the district and metropolitan area of Lisbon, is home to the largest Chabad center in Europe, and two families in the organization work together to aid the whole country. Their enthusiasm is unmistakable. They believe that Portuguese Judaism will be a serious matter in the future. The most recent Chabad couple is Sephardic, not Ashkenazi, which is unusual in that New York-based organization.
The best example of the revitalization of Jewish life in Portugal is the Jewish Community of Oporto (CIP/CJP). According to Gabriela Cantergi, an official at CIP/CJP, “Our Community does not exist to please everyone, but rather to honor the Jewish community that was expelled from this city in the late 15th century, and to be a strong religious, cultural and social organization in Portugal and abroad.”
Led by Israeli rabbis, the main synagogue of the city—the Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue, although there are others—has seven hundred official members originating from more than 30 countries. These congregants are engaged in the arts, sciences, medicine, music, law, banking and sports. The overwhelming majority, however, are business people who have invested billions of euros in Portugal in recent years.
The community also strives to welcome foreign Jewish students enrolled at the universities of Oporto, including them in community activities and creating meeting centers for them.
“Our aim is to foster friendship and possibly future marriages between students who come on their own to this country, mainly from France,” said Noemie Amar, of CIP/CJP’s department of religion.
Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa paid a visit to the Oporto community in 2019, and was visibly impressed by the Jewish ambience of “Portugality” he found there. This was also the case recently with a much-travelled Jewish author who commented about the last Yom Kippur ceremony that she had never heard search passionate prayers and songs in a synagogue. That is the result of six years of non-stop minyanim on Shabbat and holidays.
In 2012, the synagogue building looked to be on the verge of collapse. It was extensively refurbished the following year, and important religious ceremonies were held there. In 2014, the Community inaugurated a kosher hotel and Jewish tourists poured into the city. After 2015, the law granting Portuguese nationality to Sephardic Jews increased both the number of community members and Jewish cultural events.
The Jewish community of Oporto has built and developed new Jewish centers, prayer rooms, kosher restaurants, a Jewish museum, a Holocaust museum and a library. It also organizes conferences and concerts and has established a newspaper.
It will soon be opening an art gallery with the millennial story of the Jews in Oporto. Flor Mizrahi, a professional painter and longstanding member of CIP/CJP, is the project coordinator and eager to see it completed.
“I won’t live forever,” she said. “And, as a Sephardic Jew, I wish to leave my personal mark. In early 2022, the group of artists coordinated by me will have the gallery-museum ready.”
The Jewish Museum of Oporto, created by CIP/CJP in partnership with B’nai B’rith International, recounts the millennial history of the city’s Jewish community, its expulsion, the return of Moroccan, Gibraltarian and Venetian Sephardic Jews in the 19th century, the failed attempt to convert the Bnei Anousim to Judaism in the 1920s and 1930s and German, Russian and Polish Ashkenazi Jews in the 20th century, as well as the “major Sephardic influx of the 21st century,” basically motivated—said Rose Mousovich of CIP/CJP’s department of culture—”by the nationality that Portugal grants to Jews of Portuguese origin.”
Read the rest of the article in JNS.
JNS, Israel Hayom and Cleveland Jewish News included B'nai B'rith International's condemnation of the resolution adopted by the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) that commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action (DDPA) in its coverage of Durban IV (during UNGA).
A number of American Jewish organizations slammed a resolution adopted on Wednesday at a high-level meeting at the UN General Assembly that commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action (DDPA) stemming from a notoriously anti-Semitic World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, in 2001.
"The resolution predictably claimed that the DDPA offered 'a comprehensive United Nations framework and solid foundation for combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance,' and reaffirmed commitment to its 'full and effective implementation,' " stated B'nai B'rith International in a news release on Friday.
The original Durban declaration was censured by Jewish groups and nations such as the United States for allowing the presence of overt anti-Semitic and anti-Israel hate, as well as including Palestinians as the only group named as victims of racism.
B'nai B'rith wrote that it has worked over the past few weeks in partnership with the Jewish Broadcasting Service on Durban, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. The organization featured luminaries such as Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky, intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévi, former US National Security Advisor John Bolton and others, culminating in an hour-long interview with B'nai B'rith honorary president Richard Heideman, who led the Jewish delegation at the Durban conference and his wife, Phyllis Heideman, president of the International March of the Living.
In the past year, B'nai B'rith also lobbied other nations to join the United States and Israel in boycotting the anniversary conference, also known as Durban IV, leading to a total of 35 countries that declined to participate in the commemoration.
"This public disassociation by a substantial moral minority at the UN represents a meaningful victory against efforts to hijack the world body and the critical fight against racism – specifically, racism against people of African descent – for the purposes of delegitimizing Israel by obscenely equating only it and Jews' national liberation movement, Zionism, with racism," B'nai B'rith wrote in the statement.
Countries that boycotted the proceedings included Albania, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, the Dominican Republic, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Moldova, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States and Uruguay.
'A vicious slander against the Jewish state'
AIPAC also strongly condemned Durban IV on its Twitter account, while individually tweeting appreciation for countries that joined the boycott.
"The UN #DurbanIV conference is a cesspool of discriminatory, anti-Israel propaganda," AIPAC tweeted on Tuesday. "'Zionism=Racism' is a vicious slander against the Jewish state and its supporters. America and many allies stand proudly with Israel in boycotting this despicable conference."
Alex Safian, associate director at CAMERA, which monitors bias in reporting on Israel and the Middle East, noted that there was no improvement in Durban IV and the passed resolution than in the previous three conferences.
"The original Durban Conference in 2001 created the firestorm of renewed and growing anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, and the statements yesterday from Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and her radical colleagues are just an example of this in our own Congress," he said in an email. "The United Nations was founded as a reaction to Nazism and the Holocaust, but the Durban process proves that fascists and bigots are still much more comfortable in the UN than Jews."
Anti-Israel members of the Democratic Party also motivated Zionist Organization of America national president Mort Klein to make a few phone calls to UN offices he had connections with to urge them not to attend Durban IV. His organization put out a news release lauding nations that announced they would not participate, though after that acknowledged following the proceedings only a little bit.
Klein said during one of his calls, one official him that "anti-Semites" in Congress had inspired a number of countries that were thinking of not participating in Durban IV to join.
"This one guy told me, you should know that inadvertently or directly, they've had an impact on several countries that participated, figuring they have to cover it because there are a dozen anti-Semites in Congress," said Klein, adding that the official also told him that he believed Jew-hatred will continue to grow in the United Nations.
JNS and the Cleveland Jewish News covered the opening of a permanent exhibit on the historic Entebbe raid at the Jewish Museum of Oporto, which was inspired by a B'nai B'rith Portugal Jewish young adults conference in Oporto in June that B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin and President Charles O. Kaufman attended.
The Jewish Museum of Oporto in Portugal on July 19 opened a permanent exhibit dedicated to “Operation Thunderbolt,” Israel’s historic 1976 hostage-rescue raid in Entebbe, B’nai B’rith International announced.
“The [exhibit] is aimed at educating young Jews who lack awareness of the many counter-terrorism actions that the Israel Defense Forces and Mossad have undertaken in the past and are prepared to undertake in the future,” said B’nai B’rith Portugal president Gabriela Cantergi.
“The idea of building a room dedicated to the Entebbe operation arose out of an event on June 21 in Oporto that brought together young Jewish leaders of various nationalities, and their main concern was whether Israel could stop a new Holocaust in any country in the world,” she explained.
Israeli Ambassador to Portugal Raphael Gamzou said that the exhibit teaches “that neither distance, logistics nor any other challenge would ever prevent Israel from doing the utmost to save the lives of its citizens.”
B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel Mariaschin concurred.
“The hostage-rescue operation in Entebbe exemplified Israel’s strength and resolve,” he said, adding, “Dedicating an exhibit to that historic moment enables all visitors to the museum to know that Israel protects its people, wherever they may be.”
B’nai B’rith International President Charles Kaufman said the raid was not only the greatest hostage-rescue operation in Israel’s history, but also represents Judaism’s “commitment to the value of preserving life.”
“’Operation Thunderbolt’ in Entebbe ushered in a new high watermark of recognition and admiration for the Jewish state throughout the world,” said Kaufman.
“Operation Thunderbolt” was carried out on July 4, 1976, by an elite unit of Israeli commandos, led by Yonatan Netanyahu, at Entebbe Airport in Uganda. Netanyahu, the brother of Benjamin Netanyahu—who would become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister—was killed during the operation.
The Jewish Museum of Oporto says that its mission “is to inform about the historic and cultural importance of the Jews in Portugal and of Portuguese Jews worldwide, with particular emphasis on the Diaspora of Sephardic Portuguese Jews and the history of the Jewish community in Oporto that is older than the foundation of Portugal.”
B’nai B’rith International is honored to have co-sponsored a visit to Israel by ambassadors to the United Nations and the United States, led by Ambassador Gilad Erdan, along with the American Zionist Movement and March of the Living.
See how media outlets covered the visit:
Enlace Judio (Spanish)
Erdan Guía a Embajadores Internacionales en Gira Por Israel
i24 News (French)
L'ambassadeur d'Israël à l'ONU Organise un Voyage Pour Ses Homologues du Monde Entier en Terre Sainte
Ambassadors Tour Israel to Better Comprehend Its Multifaceted Security Challenges
(Also in Israel Hayom)
The Jerusalem Post (English)
Erdan: We’ll Defend our Right to Jerusalem Against Hamas Lies
The Jerusalem Post (English)
Ambassadors to U.S. and U.N. Meeting with Herzog
The Jerusalem Post (English)
Texas Looking Into Divestment From Unilever Over Ben & Jerry’s Boycott
The Jerusalem Post (English)
Bennett on Ben & Jerry’s: Boycotting Israel Will Be Bad Business Decision
The Times of Israel (English)
Erdan leads international ambassadors to US and UN on tour of Israel
The Times of Israel (English)
Lapid Meets with Delegation of International Ambassadors to U.S. and U.N.
The Times of Israel (French)
Gilad Erdan Accompagne 26 Ambassadeurs en Israël
JNS noted B'nai B'rith International's support of the Oporto, Portugal Jewish community and the Holocaust Museum of Oporto in its coverage of the Holocaust Museum donating its guestbooks to Yad Vashem in Israel.
(July 19, 2021 / JNS) The Holocaust Museum of Oporto is donating its guestbooks to Israel’s Yad Vashem via the Israeli embassy in Portugal, according to a museum representative.
“Two reasons led the museum to donate the guestbooks to Yad Vashem,” said Gabriela Cantergi. “The first is that there are many people who say they will defend Jews throughout their lives; the second is that there is great popular support for Israel [in Portugal].”
Opened to the public in April, the Holocaust Museum in Oporto has already welcomed 22,000 people, most of them young, according to Cantergi. In the first month, it was the most visited museum in Portugal. Seventy percent of visitors are young people, for whom the museum is free.
“Of [those] 22,000 people, and guestbooks with thousands of comments from the visitors, there isn’t a single criticism of Israel,” said Cantergi. “On the contrary, there is a lot of praise for the small state.”
A video released by the museum features some of these comments, such as: “A great nation has grown, after being nearly decimated by enemies in 1948”; “Let not a single day go past that we do not remember Israel”; “I feel pain for the suffering inflicted then and now on the Jews”; “Those who still today silence the Holocaust perpetuate it.”
In the same video, which also includes statements by leaders of the Portuguese-Jewish communities, the chief rabbi of Oporto’s Jewish community says that 80 percent of the families in the community were expelled from Arab or Muslim countries in the 20th century, while the rest of the families suffered the horrors of the Holocaust firsthand. Some were victims of infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele’s experiments, and others were forced to dig their own graves before being shot, he says.
Under the auspices of members of the Oporto Jewish community whose parents, grandparents and relatives were victims of the Holocaust, the Oporto Holocaust Museum has cooperation partnerships with Holocaust museums in Washington, Moscow, Hong Kong and Europe.
The Jewish community of Oporto includes about 500 Jews originally from more than 30 countries and has a beit din, synagogues, mikvahs (ritual baths), kosher restaurants, a Holocaust museum, the Oporto Jewish Museum and cooperation protocols with the Israeli embassy in Portugal, Keren Hayesod, B’nai B’rith International and the Anti-Defamation League.
JNS included our statement of condemnation in its coverage of anti-Israel activists falsely accusing the IDF of exploiting the disaster in Surfside, Florida.
(July 7, 2021 / JNS) Anti-Israel activists took to social media to accuse the Israel Defense Forces of exploiting the collapse of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Fla.
Rafael Shimunov, a political activist from Queens, N.Y., questioned the motives of involvement by the Israeli military.
He tweeted: “I really don’t understand the IDF’s involvement in rescue attempts of people tragically crushed under buildings in Miami. Their expertise is crushing buildings with people in them, not rescuing them.”
He added: “As if we don’t have any expertise or technology here in the U.S. Using these tragic deaths for pro-Israel propaganda is just quite something. These forces are literally stepping over buildings they crushed with children in them to go to Miami and do a PR stunt.”
Pro-Palestinian activist Linda Sarsour replied to Shiminov’s tweet with fingers pointing downwards in agreement.
A rescue delegation from the IDF’s Home Front Command was sent to Surfside to assist in the search and recovery mission. The delegation arrived within 72 hours of the building’s collapse, helping first responders using 3D mapping and conducting a humanitarian effort to support the families of the missing.
B’nai B’rith International was “outraged and disgusted” by the tweet and retweet from Shimunov and Sarsour.
“This horrific statement comes as families are mourning the loss of loved ones and hoping for miracles in the tragic building collapse that still has 113 missing in the rubble. The IDF has worked tirelessly, as Lt. Col. Oz Gino told Hamodia, ‘on the pile as if everybody is alive,’” wrote B’nai B’rith International president Charles O. Kaufman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin.
“The tweet is not only deeply insensitive but anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic,” they continued. “A people that, sadly, has had to deal with bombs from Palestinian terrorists is now told it has the temerity to help people in Florida based on their own tragic experience.”
JNS quoted B'nai B'rith International Director of Legislative Affairs Eric Fusfield as part of its reporting on Jewish organizations pushing the U.S. administration to swiftly appoint a White House Jewish liaison and nominate a Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating anti-Semitism at the State Department.
(June 22, 2021 / JNS) For months, Jewish organizations in the United States have been lobbying to appoint a White House Jewish liaison. And after numerous meetings between Jewish organizational leaders and administration officials when violence erupted last month between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip—followed by a wave of anti-Semitic attacks—that role and that of the State Department Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating anti-Semitism have yet to be filled.
Most who spoke to JNS said that it was a matter of days or weeks before appointments are made, although they declined to speculate on particular nominees.
Jewish issues have gained a new urgency after first taking a back seat to other concerns—namely, the coronavirus pandemic and the distribution of vaccines in the five months since the inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden.
Eric Fusfield, director of legislative affairs for B’nai B’rith International, said in addition to the Mideast conflict in May, concerns include the Iranian nuclear threat and ongoing discussions towards U.S. re-entry into a deal, Israel’s new leadership and, just this week, new Iranian leadership in the form of President-elect Ebrahim Raisi. American Jewish organizations want to make the White House aware of its opinions to make sure the U.S.-Israel relationship remains strong, as well as address how Jews are being treated in the United States.
“Our community is feeling some urgency right now about several things in particular, like combating anti-Semitism, because anti-Semitism in this country has taken a very disturbing turn lately, with more violence against Jewish individuals and institutions,” said Fusfield.
The liaison’s position, he said, serves as a focal point for Jewish organizations to contact the White House to make sure their message is heard by those who have the power to augment change.
While he said that every administration has a settling-in period where it works to nominate individuals for key positions, the six-month window is approaching, and the Jewish community is experiencing urgent needs.
“We need a mailing address for voicing our concerns, and the liaison fills that need for us,” he said. “We’re feeling a great deal of anxiety about certain issues right now, and having a conduit in the administration would help further communication and help us get our point across.”
Read the full article on JNS.org.
JNS quoted B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin as part of its report on American Jewish organizations supporting Israel through the latest round of violence against the Jewish state (and increased anti-Jewish backlash).
(June 2, 2021 / JNS) The flare-up of violence between Israel and Hamas lasted 11 days until a ceasefire was negotiated, but for Jewish community organizations, the fight continues within the United States. Recent weeks have seen a surge in violence against Jews and unlike during previous conflicts, Jews and Jewish groups this time around saw the emergence of a better-organized campaign by pro-Palestinian groups to smear Israel in the public sphere, leading to increased anti-Semitism.
The result is that American Jewish organizations—both new and traditional—see the need to work together to properly combat the new threats.
Shoham Nicolet, co-founder and CEO of the Israeli-American Council, said that as tensions were ramping up in Jerusalem, he and IAC staff held a virtual meeting to decide whether or not to hold rallies in support of the Jewish state.
They already knew that the escalation of violence looked like it was going to be serious. As they contemplated dates and times for their first round of rallies, each member began receiving messages on their WhatsApp Messenger from family and friends in Israel. Hamas had begun launching rockets into the center of the country.
The participants took a break from the meeting to call their relatives, and when they returned, they said, each was motivated to proceed with rallies as soon as possible. While they originally were planning to hold rallies in a few days’ time or on the nearest Sunday, they decided to organize them within the next 24 hours.
During and after the conflict, the IAC was instrumental in hosting a number of large, in-person rallies throughout the United States, in many places joined by local Jewish organizations such as the Jewish Federations, Jewish Community Relations Councils and Jewish Community Centers.
In Los Angeles, where Nicolet lives, they held a rally in Beverly Hills, which he said was one of the largest he had ever seen. Another rally in New Jersey brought together some 3,000 people.
For the second round of rallies, another decision had to be made, said Nicolet, as the ceasefire had already been announced.
‘The community feels much less safe’
The staff had another serious discussion, realized that while the Israeli conflict was winding down, one within North America was heating up against Jewish people and those Israelis living in the Diaspora, prompting another round of rallies with the organized Jewish community.
“First of all, the demonization of Israel is getting into the mainstream, and this is a big issue that we have to deal with because these are lies and blood libels we didn’t hear at such level. It’s really extensive and on social networks, but not only,” explained Nicolet. “And the second part is that, again, it’s not a secret … the community feels much less safe.”
The violence, he continued, was not just anti-Israel. “We hear anti-Semitic statements and anti-Zionist statements, and these are concerns,” said Nicolet. “It went way beyond the military conflict that was taking place in Israel.”
Contrasting with previous times when Israel was involved in a conflict against Iranian terror proxies Hamas in the south and Hezbollah in the north, the anti-Israel presence both in the media and on the street has been far better organized and outspoken.
“If there ever was a moment where our community needs to come together, it is now. Many in our community have been stunned by the rapidity of assaults on us as supporters of Israel and as Jews,” said Dan Mariaschin, CEO of B’nai B’rith International in an email. “Unlike the past, the Internet has been the force multiplier that spreads this particular virus in ways never before. But this perfect storm of Jew-hatred knows no political or ideological nuance. Each of us—organizations and individuals alike—has an obligation to stand up now against this dangerous, ominous, and unprecedented wave of anti-Semitism.”
Unlike in other conflicts, Jewish organizations faced hurdles in organizing. First, the speed of the conflict, lasting only 11 days—as opposed to the 51 in the summer of 2014 against Hamas in Gaza—gave organizations less time to coordinate a response, especially with the Shavuot holiday in the middle of the rocket-launching.
Read the full article on JNS.org.
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.
JNS quoted B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin in its coverage of Sudan agreeing to normalize relations with the State of Israel.
(October 23, 2020 / JNS) Jewish and pro-Israel groups immediately reacted to U.S. President Donald Trump announcing on Friday that Sudan has agreed to begin the process of normalizing ties with Israel.
Sudan follows the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which normalized ties with Israel through signing the Abraham Accords on Sept. 15 in a White House ceremony. The two Gulf states were the first to normalize relations with the Jewish state. Jordan and Egypt made peace with Israel in 1994 and 1979, respectively.
In a statement, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee called the development “a historic milestone as yet another country joins the UAE and Bahrain in building a new era of Israeli-Arab relations” and “a byproduct of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.”
“Through decades of support and deepening ties, America and Israel have demonstrated that the security and viability of the Jewish state is not up for debate, and those seeking peace and prosperity benefit from a relationship with Israel,” said AIPAC.
The pro-Israel lobby continued, “We call on other Arab leaders, particularly Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, to end their boycott of Israel and engage in negotiations to bring peace and stability to more citizens across the Middle East.”
“Today’s announcement is indicative of a very positive trend—a change of heart—among Arab leaders across the region regarding Israel,” said American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris in a statement. “In this peacemaking endeavor, [Israeli] Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu’s vision and [U.S.] President [Donald] Trump’s dedication to advancing Arab-Israeli peace have been transformative.”
B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel Mariaschin told JNS, “This agreement is another critical step in expanding peace between the Arab and Islamic world. The entire region will benefit from this, and agreements yet to come between Israel and its neighbors. This trajectory of normalization is in the interest of all who seek stability in a region too often torn by conflict.”
Republican Jewish Coalition spokesperson Neil Strauss told JNS that Friday’s announcement proves that Trump “is once again proving he is the most pro-Israel president in history,” and that “today is a great day for Israel, Sudan and the entire peace-loving world.”
Even J Street expressed approval of Friday’s news, but with a caveat.
“It’s good that Israel is establishing diplomatic ties with more countries in the region,” tweeted J Street. “Let’s also be clear: Agreements like this don’t change the need for comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace.”
“While Trump has rushed these deals through for pre-election headlines, his admin[instration] continues to empower and excuse the creeping annexation that is designed to prevent an Israeli-Palestinian agreement,” added J Street.
‘Normalization is the new normal’
In a statement, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations remarked that Sudan, following the UAE and Bahrain’s lead to normalize ties with Israel, paves “the way for more Arab and Muslim countries to embrace peace and reconciliation” in which the “rapidly shifting dynamics of the Middle East signify a future that will be defined by diplomacy and cooperation, with rejectionism and extremism relegated to the past.”
Regarding a possible Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, the Conference said, “As the consensus for peace expands with more countries joining in the peaceful coexistence that will define the future of the Middle East, the Palestinian Authority finds itself even more isolated in its opposition to the Jewish state. The stubborn reluctance of Palestinian leaders to even discuss peaceful solutions leaves them increasingly out of step with the rest of the Arab and Muslim world.”
The umbrella organization called on the Palestinian Authority “to heed the wind of change, have a change of heart, choose peace over war, and finally return to the negotiating table in order to achieve a lasting peace with Israel.”
CUFI founder and chairman Pastor John Hagee in a statement, “We are thrilled to see yet another country end hostilities with Israel. Those who would attack, demonize or boycott the Jewish state have lost. The Palestinian Authority should take note; normalization is the new normal. Peace is on the march.”
Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) founder and president Sarah Stern noted that Sudan hosted the Arab League summit after the 1967 Six-Day War, where the “Three Nos” under the Khartoum Resolution was announced regarding the State of Israel: “No peace, no recognition, no negotiations.”
Friday’s news “demonstrates just how far the Sunni Muslim world has evolved since then, in acknowledging that Israel is here to stay; that peace and acceptance of Israel and the normalization of people-to-people ties with Israel can only be of benefit to the region in agriculture, medicine, high tech and cybersecurity, and that they can unite together to fight their common foe: Iran,” she told JNS.
American Sephardi Federation executive director Jason Guberman told JNS that “Sudan was once home to a vibrant, Sephardic Jewish community whose chief rabbi, Hakham Solomon Malka, exemplified the pluralist values Sudan joins the U.S. in affirming today.”
“Sudan was also once host to the Khartoum Conference, whose rejectionist declaration led to decades of strife and stagnation,” he continued. “The ascendancy and genocidal drive of Islamist and pan-Arab socialist regimes to eliminate minorities and impose ideological conformity was an aberration, an ‘evil hope’ that is at last being repudiated, fittingly in Khartoum today.”
JNS quoted B'nai B'rith International's statement on the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in its coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court Justice's death.
(September 21, 2020 / JNS) Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the first Jewish woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, died on Sept. 18 at the age of 87 at her home in Washington, D.C.
Ginsburg, a heralded liberal judicial, feminist and Jewish icon who was the second woman to serve on the nation’s highest court, died from “complications of metastatic pancreas cancer,” according to a statementfrom the Supreme Court shortly after her death.
Her passing came on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year 5781, and just six weeks before the Nov. 3 election.
Before her death, Ginsburg was hospitalized numerous times this year, including twice in July. She announced on July 17 that cancer had returned, though had often said that she would remain on the court as long as she was able to do the work.
Joan Ruth Bader was born on March 15, 1933, to Nathan and Celia Bader in Brooklyn, N.Y. Her older sister, Marylin, died of meningitis at age 6, when Ruth was a baby. Ruth’s mother died shortly before Ginsburg graduated from high school, though having been a significant factor in her education.
She earned her bachelor’s degree at Cornell University on June 23, 1954; a month later, she married Martin D. Ginsburg. One year later, they had a daughter, Jane, before Ruth started law school at Harvard University.
Ginsburg was a standout and one of the few women at Harvard Law School. She later transferred to Columbia Law School, where she jointly graduated first in her class in 1959. However, she had difficulty getting hired directly into a law firm and turned to academia, teaching at Rutgers Law School and Columbia Law School.
The couple had a son, James, in 1965.
In 1970, Ginsburg co-founded the Women’s Rights Law Reporter, the first law journal in the United States to focus exclusively on women’s rights. Two years later, she co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and in 1973, she became general counsel of the project.
After working with the American Civil Liberties Union as a volunteer attorney and as a member of its board of directors and a general counsel in the 1970s, in 1980, Ginsburg was nominated by President Jimmy Carter and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which is regarded as the second-most powerful court in the United States behind the Supreme Court.
In 1993, she was nominated by President Bill Clinton and confirmed to the Supreme Court, where she served until her death.
Ginsburg spent much of her career fighting for gender equality and women’s rights, winning many arguments before the Supreme Court. During her 40-plus years as a judge and a justice, she was served by 159 law clerks.
A 2018 documentary titled “RBG” became a hit with audiences, as did a feature film that followed, “On the Basis of Sex.”
Attorney Norm Eisen, a former U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic, told JNS that Ginsburg was a Jewish icon who personified Jewish values—an ideal Americans should look for in her successor.
“Justice Ginsburg exemplified a core Jewish principle: tzedek tzedek tirdof, justice, justice shall you pursue,” he said. “She understood it was not just a Jewish virtue but an American one.”
“That commitment to justice is, of course, what American Jews and all Americans are looking for in the next justice—much more than ethnicity or religion,” he continued. “That starts with a just manner of choosing that individual. For that reason, Justice Ginsberg’s last wish to let the new president make that choice should be honored.”
Chief Justice John Roberts said: “Our nation has lost a jurist of historic stature. We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn, but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her—a tireless and resolute champion of justice.”
U.S. President Donald Trump said shortly after Ginsburg’s death that he plans to fill the vacancy this week, putting forth a woman candidate. Trump has already seated two other Supreme Court justices: Neal Gorsuch in 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.
Attorney Nathan Lewin, who has argued in front of the Supreme Court, told JNS that Ginsburg “was a dynamic force in eliminating gender discrimination and will have a well-deserved place of honor in American legal history.”
Regarding what’s at stake for the Jewish community over the vacancy, “if you are speaking of the observant Jewish community and protection for religious rights, the future of that community and those rights is now bright,” said Lewin, citing that Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh “are strong defenders of religious liberty.”
‘A champion for civil rights’
Jewish groups expressed condolences over Ginsburg’s death.
The Anti-Defamation League tweeted on Sunday that it “mourns the loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a trailblazer and judicial giant. She dedicated her life to advocating for a more equitable and just world, and was a true champion for civil rights. May her memory be a blessing.”
In a statement on Sunday, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs said Ginsburg “rose from the humble beginnings of an immigrant Jewish family to become a Supreme Court Justice,” and that as “a lawyer and advocate she fought to change laws and policies that advanced reproductive rights and equality for all.”
“The best way to honor Justice Ginsburg’s life is to continue to fight for equality and to deter the rollback of women’s reproductive rights,” said JCPA president and CEO David Bernstein in the statement. “Her work and legacy live on in our work.”
In a statement the day after Ginsburg’s death, leaders from the Union for Reform Judaism, Central Conference of American Rabbis and Women of Reform Judaism said, “Few people have had as long or as profound an impact upon the course of a nation as did Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As an attorney, Justice Ginsburg committed herself to advancing women’s rights at a time when women were denied equal access to educational, employment, economic and other opportunities. Such injustice offended Justice Ginsburg as a woman, but also as a Jew.”
“Indeed, she spoke often of the many ways in which her Jewish upbringing and faith shaped her sense of justice, including the discrimination against Jews that was part of life even in her native New York City during her formative years,” continued the leaders.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said in a statement on Sunday, “We are deeply saddened by the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was in her own words ‘a judge, born, raised and proud of being a Jew.’ ”
“Justice Ginsburg, the first Jewish woman to serve on the high court, sought to apply the values of her faith in seeking equal justice under law and had a lifelong love for Israel,” continued the Jewish umbrella organization. “She is recognized as among the great jurists in modern history. She never ceased to advocate for gender equality while leading the way for women in the legal profession.”
B’nai B’rith said that Ginsburg “was a giant of the Supreme Court, a champion to many women and others as a strong, progressive voice on the court, with a trailblazing judicial presence. She was courageous in her many battles against cancer.”
Jewish Democratic Council of America executive director Halie Soifer said in a statementon Sunday that “Jewish Democrats mourn the enormous loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the most influential and powerful Jewish women to serve our nation. Justice Ginsberg embodied Jewish values including a commitment to tikkun olam, and our tradition’s commandment of ‘justice, justice, you shall pursue,’ which hung in her chambers in Hebrew.”
Soifer went on to say that “Ginsburg’s life was dedicated to ensuring equal protection under the law for all Americans, and we are incredibly grateful for her service.”
“Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg combined stunning moral clarity with acute legal acumen,” said Democratic Majority for Israel in a statement on Sunday. “All Americans owe her a profound debt of gratitude for her moral leadership, for the example she set as the first Jewish woman on the Supreme Court, and for her fierce advocacy of gender equality and justice for all.”
“An iconic trailblazer, Justice Ginsburg worked tirelessly and successfully to make our country more just,” continued DMFI. “A strong supporter of Israel and a lifelong Zionist, she spoke of her inspiration from heroes like Emma Lazarus and Henrietta Szold.”
The Republican Jewish Coalition tweeted on Friday, “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a trailblazer and a great patriot. We, along with all Americans, mourn her passing. May her memory be a blessing.”
In addition to her two children, Ginsburg is survived by four grandchildren, two step-grandchildren and one great-grandchild. She was predeceased by her husband, who died in 2010.
The Algemeiner also quoted our reaction to the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
JNS quoted B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin in its coverage of Jewish and pro-Israel groups praising the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain for signing historic agreements to normalize relations with Israel.
(September 15, 2020 / JNS) WASHINGTON—Jewish and pro-Israel groups applauded the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain for signing historic agreements at the White House on Tuesday to normalize relations with Israel, the first Persian Gulf nations to normalize ties with the Jewish state.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee called the ceremony “a historic event in the advancement of peace and reconciliation in the Middle East.”
“Today’s ceremony sends a clear message that it’s a new era for Israeli-Arab relations. Peace in the region is possible through diplomacy, mutual recognition and negotiation,” said AIPAC. “We hope other nations in the Middle East and the Palestinian leadership will follow this inspiring example to bring conflicts in the region to an end and promote prosperity and cooperation.”
“The historic agreements signed today show that peace is on the march and the so-called Arab-Israeli conflict is increasingly an anachronism. Israel is strong and flourishing, and the Arab world is coming to see the Jewish state not as a foe, but as an ally against Iran and a partner for peace and prosperity,” said Christians United for Israel (CUFI) chairman Pastor John Hagee in a statement. “It is my sincere hope and prayer that other Arab nations will follow the UAE and Bahrain’s lead, and that the Palestinian leadership, in particular, will accept that peace with Israel is the only path forward.”
In a statement, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said that the Abraham Accords “mark the start of a new phase in relations between the Jewish State and the Muslim world. These landmark understandings represent a realignment, a paradigm shift wherein peace is prioritized over conflict. In becoming the third and fourth Arab countries to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel, the UAE and Bahrain lead the way for others to follow.”
President of the American Zionist Movement Richard Heideman told JNS that the occasion was a “historic breakthrough for Israel and her relations with not only the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, who have signed agreements today at the White House, but for the future of Israel, Zionism and the Jewish people with all people.”
He added that “we are witnessing another significant achievement on the road to Middle East peace and an important step towards establishing a better day for Israel and all her Arab neighbors. We hope that the day will come when the Palestinian Authority itself will be prepared to achieve a permanent peace with the State of Israel for the benefit of all people in the region.”
Sarah Levin, executive director of JIMENA: Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa, expressed to JNS hope that these deals are “a meaningful first step towards warm, active relations between Israel and other countries throughout the Middle East region” in that “peace and normalization should be preferred to the alternative, and this exciting development gives us a renewed feeling of hope and optimism.”
“NORPAC strongly applauds the Abraham Accords signing at the White House. The agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain represent a diplomatic breakthrough for the Middle East and a remarkable achievement in United States diplomacy,” the organization’s executive director, Avi Schranz, told JNS. “These agreements will serve to further halt Iran’s aggression and improve Israel’s security.”
“The Abraham Accords show the world that Jews and Arabs can live, work and grow together in the Middle East,” he continued. “The leaders of Israel, the Kingdom of Bahrain and the UAE have taken this bold step forward, and it’s our sincere hope that this fast-tracks peace in the Middle East between Israel and all Arab neighbors.”
B’nai B’rith International Daniel Mariaschin emphasized to JNS that the “importance of today’s signing ceremony cannot be overstated,” and that the Arab-Israeli conflict “is becoming undone one country at a time. This holds great promise for Israel and its neighbors, but also sends an unmistakable message to those who desire to undermine normalization that the future is not in their hands.”
American Sephardi Federation executive director Jason Guberman told JNS that the signing ceremony “reasserted the classical Middle Eastern values of moderation, pluralism and future-mindedness by recognizing the rightful place of Israel in the region.”
“The Middle East is the heartland of Jewish history, the home to our prophets, historical and holy sites,” he said. “Greater Sephardic Jews, whose roots are in Muslim lands and now constitute more than 50 percent of Israel’s population, were once one of a plethora of peoples who made Cairo, Tyre, Aleppo and Baghdad bustling hubs for trade and innovation.”
‘A potential security risk’
Not all Jewish and pro-Israel groups were as positive about the development.
“While we welcome openings between Israel and Gulf states, we see the signing ceremony for what it is—a recklessly planned foreign-policy stunt driven first and foremost by Trump’s political calculations, and a potential security risk to Israel given Trump’s reported plans to sell advanced fighter jets to the UAE,” said Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, in a statement.
While the Israel-UAE deal calls for cooperation in areas such as tourism, commerce and health care, Israel has objected to the United States giving F-35s to the UAE.
However, in a statement, Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matt Brooks said that the Emirati and Bahraini normalization deals with Israel demonstrate that “the countries of the region are moving towards real peace with Israel,” and that following “decades of failed diplomacy and bloodshed, the Middle East is at the dawn of a historic moment when Israel and its neighbors will benefit from cooperation in trade, security, technology, and other fields that will make life better for all the peoples of the region.”
Asaf Romirowsky, executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, told JNS that the Abraham Accords “debunked” the “conventional orthodoxy of Israeli-Arab relations that all roads must go through Ramallah.”
“For years, standard operating procedure in terms of Israeli-Arab relations in general and for the Palestinians in particular has been rooted in rejectionism and anti-normalization,” he said. “The [Palestine Liberation Organization’s] goal of maintaining the Palestinian question as the essential ingredient to all Israeli-Arab relations has been eroding since 1979.”
Moreover, said Romirowsky, the signing of the accords “should finally convince the Palestinians that notwithstanding their diplomatic temper tantrums, their strategy of insisting that all peace agreements between Israel and Arab countries be conditioned on a prior agreement between the PLO and Israel has failed.”
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