In honor of our 174th anniversary, Eurasia Diary interviewed President Gary P. Saltzman about the history of our organization and the growth of anti-Semitism around the world.
Saltzman notes about our organization: "We advocate for Israel, the Jewish people globally, and for all people wherever they are for decency and acceptable human rights that all people are entitled to."
Mr. Saltzman, your organization celebrates its 174th anniversary on 13 October. I congratulate you and your team on occasion of this important date. Please, tell us how you managed to keep the organization.
When B’nai B’rith was created there was a need to help fellow Jews, and the 12 men who created B’nai B’rith saw a value in helping others. For 174 years, we have moved forward and changed and delivered services to people whenever and wherever they were needed. Hospitals, orphanages, libraries, disaster help for those in need, looking after Jews, focusing on Jewish continuity—we have always evolved and grown. For 174 years, we have been at the forefront of change and that allows us to stay as relevant today as we were at our founding.
Are you satisfied with the activity of your organization?
I am extremely satisfied with the efforts of our professional staff and our volunteers in carrying out the mission of our organization. The purpose of our existence today is as vital as it ever has been and we never take our eye off of our ultimate goals: helping people, tikkun olam (repairing the world). We advocate for Israel, the Jewish people globally, and for all people wherever they are for decency and acceptable human rights that all people are entitled to. We look out for seniors and for those in need of extra care, to make sure older citizens can live a life with dignity in their later years.
One of goals of the organization is to fight against anti-Semitism. How effectively does your organization stand against the spread of anti-semitism in the world?
We were there in 1945 when the United Nations was founded and received our NGO credentials at the U.N. in 1947. Our presence around the world with members and supporters affords us the opportunity to reach out to the leaders of the various nations to speak about the issues of anti-Semitism in the United States and globally, in Europe, in Asia, in Latin America, in Australia, New Zealand and in the Middle East: We are out there advocating with our professionals and volunteers to remind the world that anti-Semitism is not just a Jewish issue but leads to a global issue of hatred that can extend anywhere.
How do you assess the level of anti-Semitism in post-Soviet countries?
We have found a welcome response from the leaders of many of these nations who understand the importance of fighting anti-Semitism. Some have initiated programs and when they see signs or evidence of this activity, they are quick to respond to try to remind their countrymen about the evils of anti-Semitism and how it will not be tolerated under their leadership. Nothwithstanding that, we still see a disturbing increase in acts of anti-Semitism throughout Europe and we need to redouble our efforts in many capital in terms of education and law enforcement to counter this phenomenon.
What are your organization's plans for the near future?
During the remainder of my term as president, we will continue to be the global advocate for all people. We look to further our presence in the European theater while we are already there in many ways through the U.N. system and the parliamentary system of the European Union and we look to strengthening our outreach and further strengthen our determination and efforts to bring about a fair treatment for Israel and all people who suffer at the hands of human rights violations where they exist. We look to work on behalf of Israel for a just two-state solution and peace and offer our efforts wherever they may be helpful to further this possibility.
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