B'NAI B'RITH IN YOUR COMMUNITY AND AROUND THE GLOBE
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Ukraine Update
- Priorities & Perspectives: B’nai B’rith International 2021 Leadership Forum
- Virtual Holocaust Remembrance Day Event Emphasizes Importance of International Cooperation
- At International Conference in Sweden Examining Anti-Semitism, B’nai B’rith Makes Presentation
- World Center-Jerusalem Ramps Up Partnerships and Diplomacy in 2021
- B’nai B’rith 2021 Year in Review
- Report on EU Funding to Palestinian Authority and Palestinian Organizations Initiated by B’nai B’rith, Launched in December 2021
- Latin America’s November 2021 Kristallnacht Commemorative Event
- Congratulations to President Seth J. Riklin
- B’nai B’rith Extra
- Furry Friends Donations Comfort Disaster Victims
- The B’nai B’rith Center for Senior Services: Where Seniors Come First
- New Collaboration Formed with World War II Museum in Israel
- Atlanta: Achim/Gate City Lodge’s Christmas Extravaganza 2.0: “A Gift of Talent”
- Backstory: Memories of the Hanafi Siege
Crisis in Ukraine
Russia’s invasion of the sovereign nation of Ukraine has created a humanitarian crisis not seen in Europe since World War II.
B’nai B’rith—in partnership with community agencies and local B’nai B’rith groups—is working tirelessly to help those whose lives have been upended.
To date we’ve sent thousands of items to help refugees fleeing the fighting, including sweatshirts, shampoo, baby food, generators, medical devices, antibiotics and more.
But still, the needs remain staggering, and are only expected to grow.
Please consider making a gift today to our Ukraine Assistance Fund. Every dollar helps bring vital supplies to refugees—to children, mothers, young, old, and to community members in Ukraine.
FROM THE PRESIDENT
Tikkun Olam – Personally and Professionally
Shalom. Hola. Bonjour. Ciao. Hallo. Witaj. Privet. Hello.
I want to introduce myself to you and thank you for taking time from your busy day to read my first column for B’nai B’rith IMPACT. My name is Seth Riklin and I am the newly elected president of B’nai B’rith. Like my predecessor, Chuck Kaufman, I am from Texas. In fact, I am a native Texan, which has given me a unique lens through which I view the world. Texas is a special place. It is the second largest state by population and by land area. Its economy would be the 9th largest of all sovereign countries by Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Texas is the worldwide leader in energy. Most people know us as the leader of the oil and gas industry, but those same people are often surprised to discover that Texas is also a leader in wind and solar energy.
Let me explain what this has to do with my commitment to B’nai B’rith.
I chose to leave my law practice to develop renewable energy projects because of my faith in Judaism. You see, my parents taught me from a young age the importance of Tikkun Olam, healing the world.
My dedication to improving the world traverses my business and B’nai B’rith.
I am fortunate to be part of the renewable energy industry in Texas and the United States, having started a wind project development company in 2009. It has been exciting watching the technology develop and improve over the last decade. We are fortunate that power generation from wind has become the lowest cost way to generate electricity. Onshore and offshore wind projects are blossoming all over the world.
As an institution, B’nai B’rith also has as its goal repairing the world, with projects blossoming globally. B’nai B’rith is committed to Tikkun Olam in many ways: through our robust global disaster and emergency relief response—helping communities navigate and revive after disaster strikes. By amplifying Israel’s many contributions to the world, in technology and medicine and so many other innovations. We do this by supporting peace efforts such as the Abraham Accords—a pact to normalize and grow nation-to-nation connections to Israel across the Middle East. We help repair the world by offering educational materials on tolerance. We work to repair the world by engaging with the United Nations to focus on universal human rights. And we practice Tikkun Olam as the largest national Jewish sponsor of affordable, non-sectarian housing in the United States. This commitment to the wellbeing of seniors—to honor our mothers and fathers—is how I was introduced to B’nai B’rith. I began my volunteer work here through the Goldberg B’nai B’rith Towers in Houston, where my aunt lived. I was so impressed with B’nai B’rith’s care and concern for the needs of all seniors that I got more involved in the totality of the work of this organization, locally and nationally and now as international president.
The guiding focus of Tikkun Olam is that we all must live in peace here on Mother Earth and we must help one another live better lives. We must work together to solve the problems that we all face, whether it’s anti-Semitism, racism, hunger, thirst, ignorance or climate change.
More than a decade ago, on a clear day on a flight to London from New York, I was able to get a great view of Iceland and Greenland. Vast areas that had been covered with snow and glaciers were simply tundra desert, as the temperatures had risen to the point that the frozen moisture that had been there had melted. I began doing my own research and confirmed for myself what the vast majority of climate scientists had been saying for years: Humankind’s industrial revolution has put our home in peril.
The Spring 2010 edition of B’nai B’rith Magazine’s cover story, “The Future of Alternative Energy: A Jewish Obligation,” featured a picture of a young woman looking up at a wind turbine. Twelve years ago, B’nai B’rith called attention to efforts to support the work necessary to slow climate change and to save our planet. It was that article that helped convince me to take my own effort to the next level, both individually and with B’nai B’rith. I hope that you will decide to make your own Tikkun Olam effort at your own comfort level.
We can all conserve energy and reduce our carbon footprint. I am a father and hope one day to be a grandfather. I want my daughter and my grandchildren to have a healthy, clean and safe earth to live in and grow old on.
Repairing the World, for me professionally as well as personally through B’nai B’rith, is how I plan to focus my time. Join me. Together we can heal the world in so many impactful and beautiful ways.
FROM THE CEO
A version of this column appeared in the Algemeiner (algemeiner.com) in February.
Holocaust Remembrance: Responsibilities for All Society
When I began my career nearly 50 years ago, Holocaust remembrance events were few and far between. One of my first assignments out of graduate school, working in the Boston Jewish community, was to organize an annual event, held on the campus of Brandeis University where a bronze statue of Job by renowned sculptor Nathan Rapoport stands outside the Jewish chapel.
The attendees at those events were largely survivors and their families. One, whom I recall quite well, was a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, whose face was etched with sorrow in a way that told me almost everything I needed to know about the ordeal he endured. The survivor with whom I worked to arrange that program just passed away some months ago, at the age of 96.
Last year, it is estimated that some 15,000 survivors passed away. Even child survivors are approaching 80 or even older. One of the major challenges to remembrance is the reality that witnesses to, and victims of, Nazi barbarity will, at some point, not be here to testify to the worst crimes known to humankind.
Now that we’ve just come through the annual observance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day—Jan. 27, the date in 1945 that Auschwitz was liberated—this may be a good time to take stock of how we go about the immense task of remembering. For the commemoration this year, B’nai B’rith hosted a program reflecting the international scope of the challenge before us. New German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and U.S. Secretary for Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, himself the son of a Holocaust refugee, were keynote speakers, and were joined by a host of experts on Holocaust remembrance and the battle against Jew-hatred, including Fernando Lottenberg, the newly appointed commissioner for monitoring and combating anti-Semitism at the Organization of American States.
As the program unfolded, I thought back to the small gathering of survivors on the Brandeis campus decades ago, and what it is we need to do to ensure that remembrance does not fall victim to insufficient attention or to distortion or denial.
We are fighting the passage of time, as well as the passing of survivors. But it is not only that. We are seeing the uneven results of Holocaust education—some states and local school boards require courses, but many do not. Modern definitions of the word “genocide” are often applied to situations and events that do not meet the intent of the man who coined the word—Rafael Lemkin—and so have lessened the uniqueness of the Holocaust. We’ve seen a proliferation of Holocaust denial and minimization from the Far Right, the Far Left, Islamists, the Palestinian leadership and its media and allies, and Iran. Now we are also seeing trivialization of the Holocaust by militant anti-vaccination activists. There are a growing number of examples of the latter, Robert Kennedy Jr.’s being only the latest, where he suggested that at least during the Holocaust, victims could escape over the Swiss Alps or hide in attics, like Anne Frank. Talk about the need for Holocaust education.
Further aggravating all this is the internet and social media, which provide platforms for negationists and conspiracists, trumpeting all manner of Holocaust denial theories. What used to be shared in books sent in plain brown wrappers or in occasional newsletters by anti-Semites to anti-Semites, who would gather to feed on such intentional distortion, is now out there for all to see, in real time on your tablet, phone or watch.
The dangerous spike in global anti-Semitism has added a multiplier effect to the toxic environment in which hatred thrives in the early part of the 21st century. How do we best combat a virus that has become, for us, a challenge of pandemic proportions?
Fortunately, we have a growing number of allies in this fight. Government representatives and agencies connected to the European Union are working closely with Jewish organizations to place Holocaust remembrance, denial and trivialization high on the agenda. Many who have joined in these efforts see this within a framework of safeguarding democracy. Katharina von Schnurbein, the European Commission coordinator on combating anti-Semitism and fostering Jewish life, and a veteran of these discussions, says that political will and leadership are essential to rolling back the tide of hatred.
Legislation criminalizing denial exists in some countries, but often needs the back-up of better training, resources and proactive jurisprudence to bring the deniers to account. Most of the big social media platforms, a few of which profess to understanding our concerns, have still been slow in actually addressing the proliferation of websites, messages, comments and blogs which traffic in distortion and denial.
The importance of Holocaust education is essential. Recent surveys show that Millennials and Gen-Zers have little knowledge of what transpired in Europe between 1933 and 1945. Most think the number of Jewish victims was much less, have never heard of concentration camps, or can’t name one, and some even believe that it was the Jews themselves who brought on the Holocaust. New approaches, technologies and methodologies need to be employed to address this knowledge deficit before it is too late.
Addressing the current generation, Kathrin Meyer, secretary general of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), says messaging should include the idea that “it is cool to fight anti-Semitism; it is cool to fight distortion.” A joint campaign in the online space by four organizations, called “Protect the Facts”—IHRA, the European Commission, the United Nations and UNESCO—is aimed at raising awareness; more international organizations and NGOs should emulate this important new project.
And within that context, where Europe has seen widespread anti-Semitism, marked by disgraceful Holocaust references amongst soccer fans, it is gratifying to know that major clubs like Borussia Dortmund in Germany and Chelsea in the United Kingdom are proactively engaged in fighting this proliferation of Jew hatred. To make this a truly European effort, additional clubs should launch similar initiatives.
Holocaust denial as a political tool has its proponents as well. Just a couple of weeks ago, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly for an Israeli-introduced and German co-sponsored resolution on distortion and Holocaust denial. Iran was the only country to speak against the measure. Said its Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, “The fake Zionist regime has constantly tried to use the victims of World War II and the Jews as a justification for its shameless and aggressive actions.” This, from a country that has sponsored, among other activities, cartoon contests that mock the memory of the Holocaust and whose leaders make genocidal calls for Israel’s elimination on a daily basis.
Lessons learned? We need to redouble our efforts at cooperation, bringing governments, intergovernmental bodies, the education community and civil society closer together if we are to fully teach future generations about what befell the Jewish people at the hands of the Nazis and what lessons there are to be learned from it.
As IHRA’s Kathrin Meyer perceptively said, “We must outnumber the haters.”
Priorities & Perspectives: B’nai B’rith International 2021 Leadership Forum
Anti-Semitism threats, barriers to Middle East peace, polarization in the media and the COVID-19 pandemic were just some of the important topics covered during B’nai B’rith International’s two-day annual Leadership Forum, “Priorities & Perspectives.”
Israeli President Isaac Herzog praised B’nai B’rith in his video address, describing the organization’s mission as “the purest antidote to the rising tide of apathy, indifference and tribalism engulfing the world.”
The forum, held virtually on Dec. 19 and 20, 2021, featured high profile guest speakers including Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine; Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-NY); Ron Kampeas, Washington bureau chief of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA); Jonathan Tobin, editor in chief of the Jewish News Service (JNS); and Einat Wilf, a former Knesset member and co-author of “The War of Return.”
Participants also heard video addresses from Linda Thomas-Greenfield, ambassador of the United States to the United Nations; Michael Herzog, Israeli ambassador to the U.S. and Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV).
Watch the entire Leadership Forum here:
In a meeting preceding the first day of the forum, B’nai B’rith’s International Board of Governors elected a new team of B’nai B’rith leaders.
Seth J. Riklin of Houston, Texas, was elected B’nai B’rith International’s president.
Joining Riklin on the newly elected B’nai B’rith leadership team are Vice Chairman Brad Adolph, Hawthorn Woods, Illinois; and senior vice presidents James Altman, Sydney, Australia; Eric Book, Woodland Hills, California; David Djemal, Panama City, Panama; Paolo Foa’, Milano, Italy; Sandra Horowitz, Chicago, Illinois; and Gina Strauss, Miami, Florida. In addition, A. Michael Gellman, Potomac, Maryland, was reelected treasurer; and William K. Peirez, Great Neck, New York, was reelected chief justice.
During the 2021 B’nai B’rith International Leadership Forum, awards were presented to honor individuals’ hard work and dedication to B’nai B’rith and its mission.
On Day One of the forum, winners of the 2021 Label A. Katz Award were announced. The young leadership award recognizes individuals under 45 who have demonstrated outstanding service to the totality of B’nai B’rith and have worked to achieve the goals of B’nai B’rith Connect, formerly the Young Leadership program. The honor has proven a good measure of future achievement in B’nai B’rith, as many presidents and top organizational leaders have won the Label A. Katz Award.
Scott D. Knapp, chair of Connect and a 2018 Label A. Katz recipient, presented the award to three winners—Margo Rocklin Goldman of Denver, Alberto Levy of Panama City and Joshua Sushan of Washington, D.C.
On Day Two, outgoing B’nai B’rith President Charles O. Kaufman presented a number of individuals with the President’s Award, which he initiated in 2019. The award is presented to volunteers whose efforts for B’nai B’rith go above and beyond.
Virtual Holocaust Remembrance Day Event Emphasizes Importance of International Cooperation
Ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27, B’nai B’rith held its own annual commemoration virtually on Jan. 24, with high-profile guest speakers including United States Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas and Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, in her first address before an international Jewish audience since entering the role.
Germany “is firmly committed to preserving the memory of the Holocaust—today and in the future. We will shoulder our responsibilities, and we will keep facing our past,” Baerbock said.
The virtual program, “Holocaust Remembrance: Responsibilities for All Society,” focused on the responsibility of governments, national and international organizations and global leaders to educate about and promote remembrance of the Holocaust.
“We can see how the passing of time is already leaving its mark, allowing distortion and trivialization to permeate to the middle of public life and erode the very fabric of our democracies,” said Alina Bricman, B’nai B’rith director of EU Affairs. “To fill this void, we need a concerted effort. That is why we focused our event on the importance of mainstreaming remembrance as a responsibility for all of society.”
The program featured two panel discussions with distinguished guests representing government and civic organizations, moderated by Bricman and B’nai B’rith Director of U.N. & Intercommunal Affairs David Michaels.
Panel I centered on actions governments around the world can take to combat Holocaust denial and distortion, and anti-Semitism.
Panelists included Irwin Cotler, Canadian special envoy on preserving Holocaust Remembrance and combating anti-Semitism; Ellen Germain, United States special envoy for Holocaust issues; Fernando Lottenberg, the Organization of American States commissioner to monitor and combat anti-Semitism; and Katharina von Schnurbein, European Commission coordinator on combating anti-Semitism and fostering Jewish life.
Panel II focused on best practices for organizations to embrace, featuring Kathrin Meyer, secretary general of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance; Daniel Lörcher, head of corporate responsibility for Borussia Dortmund, a German professional sports club; Tracey Petersen, manager of the United Nations and the Holocaust Outreach Programme; Tibi Galiș, executive director of the Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide; and Omar Al Busaidy, CEO of Sharaka USA, an organization that promotes interfaith exchange and sponsors trips to Israel for young people from the UAE and Bahrain.
Bringing together leaders from around the globe, Michaels said, “This platform allows us to help critically educate international audiences—diplomats and diverse citizens alike—on the Nazi genocide as fewer survivors remain among us and anti-Semitism continues to spread.”
Daniel S. Mariaschin, CEO of B’nai B’rith International, also spoke on Holocaust denial and a letter written by B’nai B’rith to U.N. member states in support of an Israeli resolution to define and combat Holocaust denial and distortion, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in January 2022.
The resolution urges social media companies to combat anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial on their sites.
B’nai B’rith President Seth Riklin noted the importance of examining how centuries of anti-Semitism enabled the Nazis to carry out the Holocaust. “We all must find meaningful ways to play a part in fighting anti-Semitism and bigotry in all societies around the world. Never again can we let this happen.”
The program closed with an address by Dani Dayan, chairman of Yad Vashem—the World Holocaust Remembrance Center. Yad Vashem works to document the names of the 6 million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. So far, more than 4 million victims have been identified by name.
He said that, as Holocaust survivors pass away and the tragedy of the Shoah fades from living memory, the responsibility to remember passes on to us. “We are the ones who must and can become the voice of the victims and survivors and for future generations.”
FROM THE VAULT
Henry Monsky: B’nai B’rith’s Wartime President
Elected president of the Omaha Lodge when he was 23 years old in 1913, Henry Monsky would devote a life cut short at the age of 57 to B’nai B’rith. Serving as its International President from 1938 to his death, Monsky, an attorney and the son of Lithuanian immigrants, was nationally known not only for his dynamic and high-profile leadership of the organization, but also for his involvement in dozens of Jewish, Christian, governmental and civic groups. His advocacy for Jewish causes, which he described as “a courageous policy of action and utterance” signaled a transition from the deferential stance adopted by earlier B’nai B’rith presidents.
Characterizing Monsky, B’nai B’rith Executive Secretary (akin to the present-day CEO) Maurice Bisgyer wrote: “He bridged the disparity between the real and the ideal…his anxiety for his people was a relentless force driving him on, and gave him no peace of mind.”
At International Conference in Sweden Examining Anti-Semitism, B’nai B’rith Makes Presentation
B‘nai B’rith was well represented, in-person and online, at the Malmö International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Anti-Semitism—Remember ReAct—on Oct. 13, 2021. Stefan Löfven, Sweden’s prime minister from October 2014-November 2021, organized the event in anticipation of his country’s chairing of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in March 2022.
EU Affairs Director Alina Bricman, B’nai B’rith’s onsite representative, who also met with delegates from Jewish and government agencies, noted, “In recent years we have seen unprecedented challenges to remembrance as survivors have passed. Trivialization, distortion, politicization, fascist symbols displayed in the public space, unacceptable comparisons between Nazi atrocities and current day health measures: All these have become commonplace. In this context, the Malmö forum could not have been more important—a recommitment by worldwide governments, supported by experts and civil society, to act decisively to preserve the memory of the Holocaust and tackle anti-Semitism and hate today.”
B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin, International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy Deputy Director Eric Fusfield, EU Affairs Officer Caterina Cognini and then-President Charles O. Kaufman were online participants at the conference.
International dignitaries and government emissaries, as well as corporate, social media and nonprofit executives were also among the forum delegates. The roster of virtual and in-person speakers and attendees included French President Emmanuel Macron; Israeli President Isaac Herzog; Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf; U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinkin; U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres; and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
After opening speeches, small group sessions provided opportunities for presentations and discussion. Delegations were requested to submit pledges committing to initiatives against anti-Semitism.
In his virtual remarks, Mariaschin outlined B’nai B’rith’s engagement with world organizations, governments, corporations and educational associations. He noted that during the pandemic, the fight against anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism has grown increasingly urgent in the face of escalating physical and verbal attacks against Jews.
“Our message is one of perseverance: We continue to inform and advise policymakers, to speak out against Holocaust denial, distortion and trivialization, to unmask anti-Semitism stemming from double standards, delegitimization and the demonization of Israel, and to address rising online hate and extremism. Indifference has dire consequences.” Mariaschin said.
In 2020, B’nai B’rith launched “None Shall Be Afraid,” its signature effort to combat anti-Semitism, which includes educational resources and a pledge. The initiative takes its name from a line of reassurance in a letter George Washington wrote to the congregants of Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, quoting the prophet Micah.
B’nai B’rith’s pledge was among those of 60 delegations promoting Jewish heritage, strengthening anti-hate legislation, commemorating the Shoah and protecting civil rights and Jewish ritual practices; progress will be measured over the next two years. Online platform Google has committed to awarding more than $1 million to philanthropic organizations engaged in fighting anti-Semitism and an additional $5 million in awards for governments and nonprofits to combat online anti-Semitism and to further public campaigns that will educate about anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.
Analyzing the forum’s outcomes, Bricman observed, “The important part is ahead: We must hold all governments and international bodies accountable to the pledges they’ve made. The Swedish IHRA presidency will be a clear opportunity to do so.”
World Center-Jerusalem Ramps Up Partnerships and Diplomacy in 2021
The B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem continually expands its mission to promote the cause of Israel and the Jewish people through diplomatic engagement and collaboration. Of the Center’s recent accomplishments, Daniel S. Mariaschin, B’nai B’rith’s chief executive officer, noted:
“Over many years, I have seen, up-close, the important work of the B’nai B’rith World Center. It has greatly advanced our mission to strengthen the Zionist ideal and Israel-Diaspora relations, but its programs go beyond that in promoting Jewish culture and honoring Jewish rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust. Through a proactive public diplomacy outreach, and much more, the World Center has become a highly respected and much appreciated participant in Israel’s multi-faceted life.”
Highlights of the Center’s activities during the last half of 2021 are listed below.
An initiative to designate local paths located in the Portuguese town of Castelo de Vide traveled by Jews migrating during the era of the Spanish (1492) and Portuguese (1496) Inquisitions was jointly developed by World Center-Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider and Walter Wasercier, vice president of Cámara de Comercio Hispano-Israeli (Hispanic-Israeli Chamber of Commerce) and former El Al director in Spain and Portugal. Wasercier will also coordinate the project.
Tracing the story through maps and didactic text, the outdoor display, “O último Caminho de Sefarad” (Sepharad Routes), will deepen understanding of the Iberian Peninsula’s rich Jewish heritage.
U.N. personnel and ambassadors posted to U.S. embassies from 10 countries experienced Israel first-hand during a week-long trip to the country in July, sponsored by the World Center, the American Zionist Movement (AZM) and the International March of the Living (MOTL). Escorted by Gilad Erdan, Israel’s permanent representative to the U.N. and Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., the group talked to business, technology and government leaders, heard briefings from Israel Defense Forces officials, inspected cross-border tunnels dug by Hamas and Hezbollah and visited historic landmarks.
With connections facilitated by B’nai B’rith Frankfurt Lodge President Ralph Hoffman, the World Center hosted a delegation of civic leaders from the German region of Bavaria for an Oct. 21 tour of Yad Vashem—The World Holocaust Remembrance Center—and a meeting at the Foreign Ministry headed by Sandra Simovich, former consul general of Israel in Southern Germany, and present director of the Ministry’s Central Europe Department. Discussions centered on German Israeli regional exchanges in areas including trade and education.
Additionally, Schneider fostered dialogue on Israel-related issues with diplomats from Albania, Angola, Greece, Kenya and the Republic of Kosovo. He also spoke with staff at the new Jerusalem office of the Representative of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia.
To read more about the World Center’s recent groundbreaking educational initiatives reported in IMPACT, click on the following links:
B’nai B’rith 2021 Year in Review
Our 2021 Year in Review showcases B’nai B’rith’s remarkable achievements, innovation and purpose. Click here to read about our programming to mark the 20th anniversary of the U.N. racism conference in Durban, South Africa, which degenerated into an anti-Israel debacle; our battles against anti-Semitism, online and in the real world; our advocacy on behalf of seniors, including the 50th anniversary of our senior housing network; our interventions at the U.N. Human Rights Council; our humanitarian aid and disaster relief efforts; our Holocaust education and remembrance programming and a groundbreaking report on EU funding for Palestinian entities. Plus, our 2021 annual report salutes community based programs and so much more.
Report on EU Funding to Palestinian Authority and Palestinian Organizations Initiated by B’nai B’rith, Launched in December 2021
A groundbreaking report, initiated by B’nai B’rith International, takes a deep look into European Union funding to the Palestinian Authority (PA), Palestinian NGOs and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
As the report, titled “Aligning Principles and Practice: EU Assistance to The Palestinian Authority and Palestinian NGOs – Rethinking the Approach to Meet Normative Goals” states, the EU is the largest provider of funding in these three areas. The report takes a look at the unconditional nature of most funding, the inconsistencies between the EU’s values and those of Palestinian actors it funds and offers recommendations to improve oversight and accountability.
In early 2021, the report was commissioned by B’nai B’rith—initiated by Director of EU Affairs Alina Bricman and Director of the World Center-Jerusalem Alan Schneider. The report was authored by Tommaso Virgili, a postdoctoral research fellow at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center, a research associate at the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies and a visiting fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy in Brussels; and Paul Stott, a U.K.-based writer and commentator and fellow of the European Foundation for South Asian Studies. In November 2021, the final chapters of the report were completed, and on Dec. 21 the report was launched with a virtual event.
Bricman, Schneider and B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin, along with report authors Virgili and Stott, were joined by members of European Parliament Dietmar Köster and David Lega, and former member of Knesset Einat Wilf.
“European citizens should know that their money is used to promote peace and EU values,” Lega said.
Issues noted by the report include “pay-for-slay” payments—payments made by the PA to families of convicted criminals—and anti-Semitism and incitements to violence found throughout UNRWA-funded Palestinian textbooks. The report also found that, so far, the EU has not held the PA accountable for these and other issues and that it has not pushed for any significant reforms.
In its recommendations, the report emphasizes the need for greater accountability to ensure that organizations receiving EU funding are in fact using the funds to carry out humanitarian aid and not to promote anti-Israel and anti-Semitic actions and messages.
Marisachin stressed the need for accountability if the EU is to continue its funding to the PA, Palestinian NGOs and UNRWA.
Moving forward, B’nai B’rith plans to continue engaging with the EU and policymakers to address the issues identified in the report.
The virtual launch event can be viewed here:
Latin America’s November 2021 Kristallnacht Commemorative Event
In November 2021, B’nai B’rith Latin America conducted its annual commemorations of the anniversary of the 1938 Nazi violence against the Jews, remembered as Kristallnacht (Night of the Broken Glass) or Pogromnacht or the November Pogroms.
German Jews suffered continually escalating persecution under Hitler. On Nov. 9 and Nov. 10, 1938, the Nazis launched attacks throughout the country, as well as in Austria and part of Czechoslovakia, killing more than 100, imprisoning thousands and destroying over 1,000 synagogues and 7,500 Jewish businesses. Homes and community centers were looted.
For the 83rd anniversary of the attacks, an audience of 250 authorized persons attended B’nai B’rith Uruguay’s Nov. 9 memorial, which was live streamed and televised. Uruguay President Luis Lacalle Pou, Vice President Beatriz Argimón, government officials, diplomats and other dignitaries were present.
Keynote speaker Eduardo Kohn, B’nai B’rith International director of Latin American Affairs, noted: “It hurts us as human beings that today’s terrorists, who have similar thoughts to the monsters who perpetrated the Shoah 80 years ago, can find haven and support not only in some democracies, but day after day in international agencies that were created to foster peace all over the world.”
Congratulations to President Seth J. Riklin
Longhorn cattle, wide-open spaces and…B’nai B’rith presidents. Houston’s Seth J. Riklin is the third Lone Star State resident to hold the office.
In advance of the B’nai B’rith International annual Leadership Forum, on Dec. 19, 2021, the International Board of Governors elected Riklin as the organization’s 32nd president (there have been 33 terms: Julius Bien was elected twice). Riklin had most recently served as chair of the Executive and is a longtime member of the Executive Board of Directors and the Board of Governors.
Inspired by his uncles and his father, all tireless lodge members in San Antonio, Riklin has volunteered for more than 30 years on behalf of B’nai B’rith’s Center for Senior Services Senior Housing Network as vice president and president of Houston’s Goldberg B’nai B’rith Towers, a federally subsidized residence, where his aunt had once lived. Riklin remembered that “I saw my father, my Uncle Art and my Uncle Lou get involved in a number of B’nai B’rith projects that helped Jews and non-Jews alike … and I have seen firsthand the lives that B’nai B’rith touches with the gift of affordable housing.”
Click here to read and listen to Riklin’s Dec. 30, 2021, interview with Houston’s Jewish Herald-Voice.
An attorney and accountant, Riklin is the founder and current president of Hill Country Wind Power, LP, and Clean Power Texas, LLC, businesses that develop wind and solar energy projects. He is active in a number of Houston’s civic groups.
Other Texan Presidents
B’nai B’rith’s immediate past President, Charles O. Kaufman lives in Austin, Texas. At the turn of the 20th century, President Leo M. Levi moved from his Galveston, Texas, home to Manhattan, where he helped to establish B’nai B’rith outreach supporting the Lower East Side’s ever-increasing Jewish immigrant population.
B’nai B’rith Extra
Policy experts, diplomats, historians, authors, chefs, actors, athletes, tech experts, scholars, musicians and more—who have we talked with recently? Hadassah Lieberman; a college student mapping the locations of long-gone synagogues in NYC for her project “This used to be a synagogue;” the owner of the world’s largest collection of Theodor Herzl memorabilia; an Israeli general who helped lead rescue efforts after the Surfside, Florida building collapse, and so many others.
Check out B’nai B’rith Extra! for meaningful discussions on today’s most pressing and interesting issues.
Furry Friends Donations Comfort Disaster Victims
Two southern lodges continue to make a difference in the lives of children through the B’nai B’rith Cares for Kids program.
Cifre noted, “It may seem simple, but being able to give a child a teddy bear to hold after a home fire or a natural disaster makes a huge difference. It’s that little bit of hope and compassion that lets them know that someone cares.”
“Helping people after a disaster is one of our core principles,” Rhonda Love, B’nai B’rith’s vice president of Programming, said. “Having a furry friend to cling to can go a long way to ease a child’s anxiety in a stressful situation. Our lodges’ commitment to this program is a stellar example of our community work.”
B’nai Tzedek of the Jewish Foundation of Memphis provided the necessary funding for the delivery to the Mid-South Chapter of the American Red Cross.
The B’nai B’rith Center for Senior Services: Where Seniors Come First
Advocating for older adults is one of B’nai B’rith’s primary pillars. Our holistic view of seniors ensures a commitment to healthy aging and independence, physical and mental fitness and a sense of community and belonging.
As the largest national Jewish sponsor of low-income, nonsectarian housing for seniors in the United States, B’nai B’rith’s Center for Senior Services (CSS) focuses on maximizing government resources. We work in partnership with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to ensure critical funds are allocated where they are needed.
Throughout the pandemic our CSS team of experts continued to meet virtually with Members of Congress and their staffs to discuss topics of importance to our affordable sponsored buildings.
We are particularly focused on legislation that provides economic relief to seniors, especially affordable housing for older adults as well as adjustments to Medicare that would make health care more affordable. B’nai B’rith was encouraged last year that the House of Representatives passed legislation called the “Build Back Better Act” that tackled these issues. For example, the bill includes $500 million for the HUD senior housing program—which would include new construction. As the number of senior households increases, these funds can help add to the supply of much-needed new housing units for the nation. Medicare provisions in the measure includes coverage for hearing aids—a win for seniors across the country—and the addition of a $2,000 cap on prescription medicine spending, plus other measures that can be taken to slow rising pharmaceutical costs. While the House bill’s future remains unclear, our CSS team will continue to reach out to lawmakers and their staffs to advocate for the provisions that would immeasurably help seniors.
Coalition building is important to our work. B’nai B’rith partners with the American Association of Service Coordinators (AASC) to help ensure that our buildings are special places to live. Service coordinators connect residents with local and national services that enable them to age in place. During the pandemic, the role of service coordinators became even more critical, as seniors needed to access health care and other benefits online.
Build Back Better was also a top theme when we welcomed Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-NY) at the B’nai B’rith 2021 Leadership Forum in December. Suozzi discussed how Build Back Better could impact the health care and housing needs of older Americans. In addition, Suozzi spoke about legislation he introduced in the House of Representatives called the Well-Being Insurance of Seniors to be at Home (WISH) Act, designed to provide affordable long-term care insurance for older adults.
As we enter our 51st year committed to safe and affordable senior housing, we continue to take a multifaceted approach to ensure all seniors can age vibrantly and with dignity.
New Collaboration Formed with World War II Museum in Israel
B’nai B’rith is assisting a new Israeli museum in compiling stories about Jewish men and women who helped to win the Second World War.
B’nai B’rith invited veterans and their families to email a summary of their wartime activities to Latrun@bnaibrith.org. The information will be entered into a database housed on the website for the Chaim Herzog Museum of the Jewish Soldier in World War II. The Herzog Museum is being built between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv at Yad La-Shiryon, the scene of a decisive battle fought during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence and the present-day site of a museum and memorial honoring Israel’s military. At the time of IMPACT’s publication, more than a dozen contributions have been received.
B’nai B’rith past President Charles Kaufman, the liaison to the Herzog Museum, noted: “A disproportionate number of Jews relative to their global population—more than 1.5 million out of 18 million people—fought in World War II to defeat the world’s most heinous enemies of freedom. The Herzog Museum will tell that story. On its own, this story is monumental, but that these contributions against evil were made when more than 6 million Jews were systematically murdered in the worst imaginable genocide ever known to mankind is almost beyond description.
And yet, that Diaspora story will be uniquely told at a battleground that shaped the modern state of Israel. The names of all these heroes demand to be remembered. Their memories will serve as a blessing forever.”
The museum is named for Chaim Herzog (1918-1997), the British World War II officer who became Israel’s sixth president. Isaac Herzog, Israel’s new president, and Michael Herzog, a retired general serving as his country’s ambassador to the U.S., are his sons.
The museum’s core exhibit will detail the events of 1939-45 on all fronts. A special installation will educate visitors about the Jewish soldier, including men and women who served with the U.S. and Allied military, and members of resistance and underground groups who fought the Nazis and the Fascists. Of these two groups, it is estimated that 250,000 Jewish people worldwide sacrificed their lives to achieve victory.
Documents, art and films will be shown in other galleries at the museum dedicated to Israel’s history and its important leaders.
Atlanta: Achim/Gate City Lodge’s Christmas Extravaganza 2.0: “A Gift of Talent"
For the second time since the pandemic began, B’nai B’rith’s Atlanta Achim/Gate City Lodge has produced a virtual edition of its seasonal entertainment program, “A Gift of Talent,” coordinated by Pinch Hitter Chair Harry Lutz, which was recorded and transmitted to hospitals and senior residences in the city on Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 2021.
Amateur and professional performers of all ages were the video’s stars, wowing the audience as they sang beloved classics or original compositions and played a wide range of musical instruments. Spanning from Broadway to rock to folk, there was something for everyone.
“A Gift of Talent” also acknowledges, celebrates and thanks the essential workers who have continued to act as a lifeline to seniors, patients and families.
For many years, volunteers participating in the lodge’s Pinch Hitters Program filled in for staff at fire and police stations, hospitals and senior centers on Christmas Day, allowing these workers to spend the holiday with their families. The pandemic inspired this creative, virtual way to honor and thank these workers.
Backstory: Memories of the Hanafi Siege
On March 9, 1977, seven extremists from the Hanafi Muslim sect broke into B’nai B’rith’s Rhode Island Avenue headquarters in Washington, D.C., where they held 105 staff members at gunpoint for 39 hours. Some of the hostages were beaten. The attackers were bent on personally avenging the murdered family of their leader, Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, even though the guilty members of a rival Muslim group were convicted and imprisoned for that crime. They also demanded the suppression of a documentary film, “Mohammed, Messenger of God,” on religious grounds.
Clergy and ambassadors from the embassies of Egypt, Pakistan and Iran, who cited Koran passages teaching mercy and compassion to the hostage-takers, were instrumental in ending the occupation of the B’nai B’rith building, as well as Washington’s Islamic Center and city hall. Casualties there included the murder of one man—a young radio reporter— and the wounding of another, future District mayor, Marion Barry.
Those who assisted during this traumatic time were later acknowledged during a public ceremony. Recently located correspondence from the diplomats and the police to B’nai B’rith notes the mutual respect in evidence on all sides.
Then-Ambassador Ashraf A. Gorbal of Egypt acknowledged: “My colleagues and I did what we felt our consciences dictated under those tragic circumstances and were glad to be able to act in the cause of humanity….”