B'NAI B'RITH IN YOUR COMMUNITY AND AROUND THE GLOBE
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Message from the President: United Nations Visits: Sweet, Prickly and Vital to Our Community
- Message from the CEO: B’nai B’rith’s History: Integral to American Life
- From the Vault: Renown Social Worker and Zionist Leader Anitta Müller-Cohen had ties to B’nai B’rith
- About Seniors: B’nai B’rith Senior Housing: 50 Years of Caring for Our Communities
- IMPACT Welcome Message
- B’nai B’rith at the U.N. in 2021
- B’nai B’rith Brings Together Jewish Communities Around the World to Commemorate Yom HaShoah; Hosts First Ever Yom HaShoah Event on Fast-Growing Social Media’s Clubhouse App
- B’nai B’rith in Latin America: A Record of Achievement during 2020
- B’nai B’rith Extra
- Common History, Common Regional Interests
- One Donor: Many Helped
- Project H.O.P.E. Continues to Brighten Passover for Many
- Fort Worth’s Garsek Lodge Sponsors a Night of History and Nostalgia
- Backstory: B’nai B’rith in the Land of the Pyramids
As we approach summer, we can all agree that we have come quite far in a year, with many areas reopening and life returning to some normalcy for some of us following a period of astonishing change.
What has remained constant over the last 15 months is the need for B’nai B’rith International.
As you read through this edition you will see we continue to advocate for Israel and the Jewish people and provide aid to those in need around the globe. You will read how our affordable senior housing program has been providing homes, care and support to seniors for over 50 years, making an indelible impact on the lives of thousands of residents, as well as their families who can rest a bit easier knowing their loved ones are well taken care of, thanks to B’nai B’rith.
Our work continues, but only with the support of all our members and friends around the globe who believe in our mission and desire to partner with us to ensure that needs are met, because… that is what we do. Thanks to your support, wherever there is a need there is B’nai B’rith International.
FROM THE PRESIDENT
United Nations Visits: Sweet, Prickly and Vital to Our Community
The immediate impact of our work at the United Nations is sometimes elusive, but when B’nai B’rith’s global delegation descends on U.N. missions in Geneva and Paris for the Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) meetings, the results are somewhat akin to appreciating a cactus. You see, most cacti are visually appealing but prickly. External contact with the fruit can cause considerable pain. Cooked properly, though, they can be quite delicious.
The comparison is fitting. Visits with diplomats are cordial. Foreign officials engage in pleasantries, listen carefully, always share some level of agreement, often show their neutrality and—here comes the thorny part—then will defer to their home governments. “We will make sure that your message gets back to our foreign minister.” That message addresses the predictable parade of propaganda used against Israel in the great halls of these world bodies, where Israel’s identity as a democracy, a pluralistic society and as the undeniable ancestral homeland of the Jewish people is often ignored.
A story in the Fall 2020 issue of IMPACT focused on the Speak Out for Israel grant awarded to the program.
Rarely do they acknowledge how the Arab world led the Palestinians away from the U.N. partition plan of 1947. Rarely do they acknowledge that Hamas, Hezbollah and others use children as human shields, and that Israeli retaliation strikes are called off when children appear in radar crosshairs. And when innocent victims are placed in peril and then perish, the Palestinian propaganda machine kicks in to demonize Israel and revive the blood libels of centuries past.
This spring, before the recent Hamas conflagration, B’nai B’rith conducted another round of meaningful conversations with ambassadors. Because of the pandemic, we met online with even more missions over an extended period of time. This year, indeed, was different in many ways. World developments offered fresh context to recurring issues. In the past 12 months or so, however, about a dozen countries either signed “normalization agreements” with Israel or announced they are moving their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Perhaps these events would trigger a response as fresh and welcome as those realized by the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. They and more than 150 other countries around the world are experiencing the prowess of Israel as “the Startup Nation.” The language of trade, water, medical advancement and digital security is more persuasive than lies.
In the midst of defending itself, Israel is exporting goodwill, friendship and real goods and services, and the leaders of the Palestinians are exporting political fiction, hate and “misguided” missiles. Bilateral relations with Israel are acceptable; multilateral relations transparent to all… not so much. On its face, the inflammatory language sounds horrible enough to sully anyone’s reputation and alter perception, especially for people who truly know little about the Nazi era or the Holocaust. These nations effectively adopt and digest these lies as an accepted world view. Why? Because this is how propaganda works. Repeat a lie often enough and people begin to believe it, and you will believe it yourself.
The Nazi narrative is used against Jews much like the apartheid narrative. If you know little or nothing about those forms of oppression and institutional racism, you’ll accept the plausibility of these notions because too many people know no better. Too many are ignorant of actual history—the truth. They focus on a revisionist narrative and the emotion that comes from it. We seem to live in a time of reimagining things. Those who deny the legitimacy of Israel or that the Holocaust ever happened (or that the numbers are exaggerated) likely believe in the blood libels against Jews that have been perpetuated for centuries, even millennia.
It is no wonder that surveys about the Holocaust and Zionism show a widening gap of understanding, revealing growing anti-Semitism, ignorance and hate in general. B’nai B’rith, its None Shall Be Afraid initiative and partners like the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement (CAM) recognize how such haters spend inordinate numbers of hours posting on social media platforms.
We scratch our heads over the way gatekeepers manage such falsehoods in the name of free speech. They know “words have consequences” but justify usage. Perhaps they see this as “eye for an eye” justice. Since we’re dealing with revisionist falsehoods, this is really “eye for a tooth” justice. Even busy intersections have traffic lights to manage vehicles and pedestrians. Today, social media represent those intersections without lights or much effective enforcement.
Our B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem hosts U.N. leaders to learn about Israel, and visits to Yad Vashem occur as part of these missions. Many leaders making their first visit to Israel are shocked and moved beyond belief by what they learn. “For all of these years, this is not what we’ve been told,” they commonly tell us, or “we had no idea.” For 73 years, Israel has faced three generations of enemies feeding children with fantasy.
As to that elusive impact, we implored many missions during our recent meetings to pay attention to the harm created by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) schools in indoctrinating young minds with anti-Semitic examples and the teaching of hate and violence against Israel and Jews. The European Union Parliament voted at the end of April to censure UNRWA for using harmful and hateful content and textbooks in its curriculum. Over time, messages and circumstances converge to influence outcomes.
B’nai B’rith volunteers and staff, in dialogues with mission staff and directors at the UNHRC and UNESCO, will continue to flag resolutions that attempt to rewrite history, demean and deny Jews their history and their identity. As diplomats move in and out of offices, our unwavering commitment to the security and sovereignty of Israel remains. This work is vital to Jewish people around the world and to Judaism.
FROM THE CEO
B’nai B’rith’s History: Integral to American Life
In May 2021, we observed Jewish American Heritage Month, initiated by a Congressional resolution in 2003 and established by presidential proclamation in 2006.
The White House proclamation read:
“When the first Jewish settlers came to this land, they sought a place of promise where they could practice their faith in freedom and live in liberty.” During Jewish American Heritage Month, “we celebrate the rich history of the Jewish people in America and honor the great contributions they have made to our country.”
From revolutionary times to the present, the American Jewish community has contributed greatly to American civilization. In our independence year of 1776, the Jewish population in America numbered some 2,500 persons. And just a few years later in 1790, when George Washington wrote his reassuring and prophetic letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, stating that the United States “would give to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance,” we were just 0.62% of the total American population.
Early heroes, like Haim Solomon, whose financial acumen and support were essential to the success of the Continental Congress, and Uriah P. Levy, who served with distinction as a commodore in the U.S. Navy, were followed by so many in every field of life who contributed to the building and success of this country. They were inventors, doctors, scientists, educators, judges, bankers, entertainers, statesmen, businessmen, astronauts and sports legends. Amongst them are dozens of Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners, and others who excelled in their chosen disciplines.
By the time B’nai B’rith was established in 1843, the Jewish population had grown to about 50,000 (out of a total population of 17 million). It was 12 German Jewish immigrants who founded our organization, on the Lower East Side of New York. Their interest in assisting an indigent widow led to the creation in America of what we now call civil society: Volunteer and privately funded efforts to assist the underprivileged, and to create orphanages and hospitals.
Even in those early days, we were outspoken on the question of anti-Semitism. During a 2012 celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month I attended at the White House, President Barack Obama referenced a letter exhibited there from the Missouri Lodge of B’nai B’rith, dated Jan. 5, 1863, to President Abraham Lincoln, protesting General Ulysses S. Grant’s General Order No. 11 which expelled the Jews “as a class” from the Department of Tennessee, the area in the south under Union Army control, in December of 1862.
Lincoln quickly rescinded Grant’s order.
To fight anti-Semitism, bigotry and intolerance at home, we created the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith in 1913, in response to the lynching of B’nai B’rith member and factory manager Leo Frank, who was wrongly accused of murder, and who was pulled from his jail cell by a mob in Atlanta.
American Jews have been involved in every U.S. war effort. Hundreds of thousands of Jews served in both World Wars. B’nai B’rith raised $1 million to aid American troops and to purchase ambulances for service in France in World War I.
In World War II, American Jews fought bravely on every front and in every theater and assisted greatly on the home front. B’nai B’rith was recognized by both the U.S. Army and Navy for our efforts. The June 1946 cover of The National Jewish Monthly featured a letter from President Harry Truman praising our wartime achievements.
Not too long ago I came across a bound volume of wartime issues of The Metropolitan Star, the publication of B’nai B’rith’s District #1 (metropolitan New York and New England) which featured page after page of news about B’nai B’rith’s members serving in the armed forces, with lists of those decorated for bravery and those whose lives were lost in battle. There was even a small item about our raising money for War Bonds which went toward the “purchase” of a P-51 fighter plane.
Our international reach after the war led to our being one of only a few Jewish organizations invited to the founding of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945. We established the first dedicated office on United Nations Affairs in the Jewish community in 1960 and today we are accredited at a range of U.N. agencies where we focus largely on fighting bias against Israel in that organization.
B’nai B’rith’s commitment to helping those in need in many arenas continues. We became a pioneer in developing and sponsoring affordable housing for seniors. Working together with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), we have, over the past 50 years, created a network of 38 properties, housing more than 5,000 residents on a non-sectarian basis around the country, insuring dignity and safety for seniors in their golden years.
I think my first recollection of feeling pride in American Jewish contributions to this country came when, in the first grade in 1955, I received my polio shot. At the dinner table the talk was about Dr. Jonas Salk, the Jewish medical researcher who developed the polio vaccine, and how it would help eradicate the scourge of that much feared disease. Then, the same discussion occurred not too long after that when the oral vaccine for the same disease, developed by Dr. Albert Sabin, who was also Jewish, became available.
Another example of pride in Jewish contributions to American culture: Whenever I visit our New York office, I never fail to look over a large plaque which contains the charter issued in 1939 for B’nai B’rith’s Cinema Lodge.
The list of names of the original members of that lodge are a Who’s Who of the movie and entertainment industry in America. Industry leaders like Barney Balaban, who was the top executive at Paramount Pictures; the famous publicist Milton Blackstone; songwriter Sammy Cahn; composer Saul Chaplin; haberdasher to the stars Sy Devore; the head of ABC, Leonard Goldenson; film executive Leo Jaffe; bandleader Ted Lewis; actor Paul Mann; Columbia Pictures President Abe Schneider and MGM executive Silas Sadler are included.
The strength of our republic has derived from the contributions of so many to the upbuilding of our country. Building this democracy has been both a unique experiment and a work in progress.
We should all “shep nachas” from our Jewish and our B’nai B’rith role in contributing to the development of American civilization. It is, 178 years after our founding, a marvelously evolving endeavor.
B’nai B’rith at the U.N. in 2021
As part of its mission to support and defend Israel and combat global anti-Semitism, B’nai B’rith regularly engages with the United Nations at its various locations around the world.
In the spring, B’nai B’rith conducted its annual advocacy meetings with U.N. ambassadors, hosted a webinar featuring Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations and the United States, and participated in a United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) meeting on combating anti-Semitism.
During a series of online meetings from February through May with ambassadors at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), B’nai B’rith representatives met virtually with diplomats from more than two dozen countries to advocate for fair treatment of Israel by the world body. These meetings were arranged and coordinated by David Michaels, director of U.N. and intercommunal affairs, and Oren Drori, program officer for U.N. affairs.
Millie Magid, B’nai B’rith chair of U.N. affairs, said, “These meetings are a platform for advocacy, education and cooperation on behalf of the State of Israel and Jews around the globe. We confront the systemic bias within the world body toward Israel, which is unfairly singled out as a target of criticism, with the most disproportionate resolutions and condemnations against her out of 193 nations. These unfair condemnations have harmful effects not only on Israel but for Jews worldwide.”
B’nai B’rith representatives met with ambassadors from Argentina, Bahrain, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Japan, Russia, Senegal, Togo, the United Kingdom, Uruguay and many more nations.
In these private meetings, B’nai B’rith representatives urged diplomats to promote coexistence and reject bias against Israel at the U.N. and to help expand the partnerships between Israel and its Arab neighbors, which have been formed by an increasing number of normalization treaties and the historic Abraham Accords between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.
At the UNHRC, B’nai B’rith representatives also delivered several public video interventions.
Topics addressed included Israel’s distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, the International Criminal Court decision opening an investigation into supposed “war crimes” by Israel, combating racism and anti-Semitism and the notorious 2001 U.N. conference in Durban, South Africa.
“Delegitimization, demonization and double standards do not amount to criticism, they amount to bigotry, and they must not be allowed to stand,” Michaels said in his video statement, addressing UNHRC Agenda Item 9, the item dedicated to the Durban process.
Following the UNHRC vote, B’nai B’rith condemned the passage of four anti-Israel resolutions, three of which fell under Agenda Item 7, the only item that singles out one country—Israel—for criticism.
Magid said that the Office of U.N. Affairs hopes to, through these meetings, “roll back the unjust resolutions and stop the bias. We expect that the U.N. will fulfill its fundamental charter and real mission by serving potentially as a force for the global good of ALL nations.”
Also in April, CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin and Michaels spoke with Ambassador Gilad Erdan, the permanent representative of Israel to the United Nations and Israel’s ambassador to the United States, during B’nai B’rith’s regular Extra series about issues of mutual concern such as anti-Israel bias at the U.N., ways to combat this bias, the U.N. approach to Iran and the ambassador’s proposed initiatives to fight global anti-Semitism.
In March, Mariaschin spoke at the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations’ (UNAOC) virtual meeting to discuss holistic approaches to combating anti-Semitism.
The meeting was convened by UNAOC High Representative Miguel Moratinos, who is designated as the U.N. focal point to monitor anti-Semitism.
Mariaschin spoke on ways global governments and leaders can combat the resurgence of anti-Semitism such as adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) universal definition to recognize it in all its forms, comprehensively documenting instances of anti-Semitic hate crimes and collaboration between governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
“Much work remains to be done in the struggle against anti-Semitism. It is an effort that requires the participation of all of us. The need is more pressing than ever,” Mariaschin said.
B’nai B’rith has had a presence at the U.N. since its founding in 1945 and continues to advocate for Jewish people and Israel at the world body.
B’nai B’rith Senior Housing: 50 Years of Caring for Our Communities
From its beginning, the B’nai B’rith Senior Housing Network has been about community and partnership.
In the late 1960s, when B’nai B’rith members saw a need for quality, affordable senior housing in their communities, they took it upon themselves to make it a reality.
Working in conjunction with a team at B’nai B’rith’s international headquarters, local lodge members in Pennsylvania applied for federal funding and then supervised the planning and construction of a building to serve the local community. In 1971 B’nai B’rith opened its first affordable senior housing building—the B’nai B’rith Apartments in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania—and the Senior Housing Network was born.
Now—50 years after that first building welcomed its first residents—B’nai B’rith Senior Housing Network operates 38 affordable housing locations across the country, as well as several buildings internationally, and serves some 5,000 residents, making it the largest national Jewish sponsor of subsidized, nonsectarian housing in the United States.
And just like it was in 1971, each B’nai B’rith housing location is supported by individuals working at a local level to meet local needs.
A board of directors oversees each community, responding to needs at a local level while, at a national level, the B’nai B’rith Center for Senior Services (CSS) offers training, guidelines and oversight.
Annie Deiber has been on the board of directors of Schenectady B’nai B’rith House in Schenectady, New York, since 2012. In 2014, she also became president of the location. “Helping the residents is rewarding in the friendships I have developed and learning of the problems of the older generation; It has given me a new perspective on the elderly,” Deiber said of her work with B’nai B’rith Senior Housing.
At the center of every B’nai B’rith housing location is its building staff. Staff work every day with residents to meet their needs and make their buildings feel like home.
Theresa Beaty is the site manager of the Gerd & Inge Strauss Manor on Pantano in Tucson, Arizona. She said she loves seeing the smiling faces of residents who have a place they can call home and a community of friends surrounding them. One of her favorite experiences as a site manager is moving in an applicant who has been on the waiting list for years. Beaty has been the site manager at the Gerd & Inge Strauss Manor for 13 years and counting.
“To all of you…our work is far from over, but what we’ve accomplished together has made a difference in thousands of lives,” Beaty said.
As members of CSS and the Senior Housing Network often say, the work doesn’t stop when the ribbon is cut.
Carol Trombino is what CSS calls an original resident—a resident who has lived in a B’nai B’rith senior housing building since it opened. Trombino has been a resident of the Gerd & Inge Strauss Manor since its opening in 2006. In an interview with CSS, published in its special edition of the Seniority Report newsletter marking the 50th anniversary, Trombino said, “I would like people to know, where else could they go and live the way they live here, where everything is taken care of? It’s not just the affordable rent, but I feel so safe and secure.”
Madeline Maxwell, turning 96 in December, is another original resident. She has lived in the B’nai B’rith Chesilhurst House in Chesilhurst, New Jersey, since it opened in 2002. She said she is grateful for all the ways staff have helped her during her time at Chesilhurst House, and especially during the pandemic, such as making sure she receives her groceries and her medication from her daughter.
Outside of providing an environment where seniors can age in place, CSS has developed many programs to enrich the lives of housing residents over the years.
One of these programs is the bi-annual Resident Leadership Retreat, where resident leaders from B’nai B’rith housing properties across the country come together to connect with one another and develop leadership skills to strengthen their communities back home.
The program began in 1987, when Mark Olshan, associate executive vice president of B’nai B’rith and director of CSS, organized a trip to Perlman Camp in Starlight, Pennsylvania, as a way for residents to experience a summer camp environment and get out of the city for a few days. While there, they took the opportunity to discuss the buildings and the concept of resident associations—a group of residents who work together to benefit their community and serve as the go-between for residents and management—of which there were few at the time.
What began as a three-day summer camp experience gradually expanded in size and scope and became more focused on training for residents to become leaders in their communities.
Now, the program is a week-long retreat where resident leaders participate in workshops covering topics including how to start a resident association, the most effective ways to communicate with management, dealing with language and culture barriers and more.
Resident leaders then take these lessons home, using their new skills to enhance the lives of fellow residents, all with the goal of fostering a greater sense of community.
“This is their home and so we want everyone to feel that sense of community,” Janel Doughten, associate director of CSS, said. Doughten is now one of the main organizers of the retreats.
Even in the face of unprecedented challenges from COVID-19, CSS and the Senior Housing Network found ways to bring local communities together to enhance the quality of life for residents.
CSS launched a weekly virtual meeting with on-site building staff to allow them to share issues employees have faced and the solutions they created. This enabled administrators from buildings across the country to learn and share best practices to keep residents safe, active and happy during the pandemic.
Most recently, these virtual meetings allowed on-site housing staff to learn about various methods of handling the COVID-19 vaccine rollouts in their buildings, which ensured that residents were able to safely be inoculated.
Beaty said she looks forward to these meetings which allow her and other site managers to share ideas with people who have the same passion for helping others.
These virtual meetings have been so well liked by staff that CSS plans to continue them even after restrictions are lifted and in-person gatherings can resume, so communities across the country can keep learning from each other as to how they can provide the best, safest homes for in-need seniors.
Throughout the year, CSS will continue to celebrate its 50th anniversary by sharing more conversations with staff and volunteers, spotlighting properties with fun facts and pictures, interviewing board members and staff and sharing stories from residents.
To learn more about the history of B’nai B’rith Senior Housing and the work it does, take a look at our special 50th anniversary video, Who We Are: B’nai B’rith Senior Housing.
You can read the full special 50th Anniversary edition of the Seniority Report here.
B’nai B’rith Brings Together Jewish Communities Around the World to Commemorate Yom HaShoah; Hosts First Ever Yom HaShoah Event on Fast-Growing Social Media’s Clubhouse App
B’nai B’rith observed Yom HaShoah—Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day—around the world on April 8 with new and unique events to honor the memory of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.
For the second consecutive year, B’nai B’rith’s annual observance of the Unto Every Person There Is A Name program was held over Zoom with representatives from Jewish communities and college campuses around the world.
During the program, participants read the names of Holocaust victims, including where and when they were born and died. For many victims, it is the only time their name will be said aloud, as their family was murdered during the Holocaust or there is no one left alive to remember them.
Since 1989, B’nai B’rith has served as the official North American sponsor of Unto, a program of Yad Vashem—The World Holocaust Remembrance Center.
B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin opened the ceremony and introduced this year’s theme: “Until the Very Last Jew,” which focused on 1941 and “Eighty Years Since the Onset of Mass Annihilation.”
“The theme reminds us that, despite the passage of decades, the need for us to re-dedicate ourselves to telling the full story of the Holocaust is ever more urgent, especially as the number of victims, who were eyewitnesses to this barbarity, sadly diminishes each year,” Mariaschin said.
The ceremony began with a video presentation by Yad Vashem about its ongoing efforts to document the names of Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. So far, more than 4 million victims have been identified by name. Almost 2 million remain unknown. But each year, the number of identified victims grows, and thus the number who can be remembered.
Tammy Ben Haim, minister for public diplomacy at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., provided an opening address, stressing the importance of carrying on these memorials and remembrance events each year.
“The act of verbalizing the names of the victims, as we are doing here today, is more than just symbolic,” Ben Haim said. “A name makes the person, the individual. If we remember each name, we can keep their memory alive and at the same time stand up against those who try to deny or distort the tragedy of the Holocaust.”
Sheila Mostyn, chair of the B’nai B’rith Center for Jewish Identity, read the poem “Unto Every Person There Is A Name” by the Israeli poet Zelda. Its final stanza reads:
“Unto every person there is a name
Which he receives from the sea
And is given to him by his death”
The reading of names ended with a recital of the Mourner’s Kaddish by Ira Bartfield, B’nai B’rith executive board of directors member.
In his closing remarks, B’nai B’rith President Charles O. Kaufman also emphasized the importance of remembrance events.
“We are in the twilight of life for Holocaust survivors and with each passing year the number of survivors shrinks,” Kaufman said. “That leaves us with one burning question: Who will bear witness when the very last Jewish survivor is gone? That answer rests with you.”
B’nai B’rith members and supporters also hosted community events on Yom HaShoah. B’nai B’rith Atlanta Achim/Gate City Lodge, with The Temple synagogue in Atlanta and community partners, hosted a virtual commemoration where volunteers read the names of Jewish children who died in the Holocaust. The greater Washington, D.C. Chesapeake Bay Region hosted its own community Unto Every Person There is a Name commemoration.
In past years, B’nai B’rith would hold in-person ceremonies all over North America to bring together local Jewish communities for the program. These events have moved online as a result of the pandemic. Although the shift to virtual programming presented a challenge, B’nai B’rith quickly adapted, and the online ceremonies allowed Jewish communities around the world to come together to remember.
In addition to B’nai B’rith’s Zoom Unto programs, B’nai B’rith Connect, the organization’s young leadership group, held a first-ever Unto ceremony on the app Clubhouse.
“We wanted to incorporate an ability for our members and others to still be able to partake in the program, still have that actionable way of being able to remember those that perished without having to be there in person,” Joshua Sushan told Cheddar News in an interview before the ceremony. Sushan, a B’nai B’rith Connect board member, and Rebecca Rose, associate director of development & special projects at B’nai B’rith who also appeared on the Cheddar interview, organized the event.
For more than four hours, volunteers read the names of over 2,000 Holocaust victims.
Participants in this one-of-a-kind event included Joannie Leeds, Grammy-award winning song writer; Ellie Cohanim, former U.S. deputy special envoy combatting anti-Semitism; prominent rabbis; business leaders; Connect members and many more.
The B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem cohosted a remembrance event with Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-JNF), an Israeli philanthropy which supports environmental and other causes, to honor Jews who rescued fellows Jews during the Holocaust—the only Yom HaShoah event to do so.
For the 20th consecutive year, Jewish leaders and community members gathered at the “Scroll of Fire” Plaza at the B’nai B’rith Martyrs’ Forest—with limited attendance due to the ongoing pandemic—to honor Jews who saved other Jews with the “Jewish Rescuers Citation.” Viewers also watched live on YouTube.
This year, 13 individuals received the award, joining more than 350 rescuers who have been recognized since the citation was established in 2011.
As Ben Haim said in her opening remarks of the Unto commemoration, these observances become more and more important each year as the Holocaust begins to fade from living memory. “We rely on these memorials and ceremonies to both remind those of us who know and remember and to educate future generations of Jews and non-Jews alike, so we never forget.”
B’nai B’rith in Latin America: A Record of Achievement During 2020
In Latin America, where the struggle against poverty is too common, the consequences of the pandemic were dire for much of the population. Need increased as those whose survival had depended on minimal government support experienced homelessness, starvation and illness, while those made poor by the pandemic were without resources. Despite restrictions and strained budgets, the essential programs of B’nai B’rith in Latin America continued, while members launched relief initiatives enabling thousands of Jewish and non-Jewish people to survive and carry on their lives.
2020-21 Pandemic Disaster Relief
Eduardo Kohn, B’nai B’rith executive vice president in Uruguay and B’nai B’rith International director of Latin American affairs, observed: “The pandemic became a serious challenge to maintaining community action work inside and outside Jewish communities for B’nai B’rith. In Panama, B’nai B’rith made very important donations to the Ministry of Health during 2020. In Uruguay, B’nai B’rith donated 2,500 food baskets to the National Emergency Committee. In Argentina and Uruguay, B’nai B’rith has reached out to give hundreds of needy Jewish families supplies, from food to hardware.”
B’nai B’rith Uruguay sent 1,000 food baskets to government charities in the spring of 2020. It contributed an additional 60 earmarked for the vulnerable residents in the Uruguayan town of La Paz in April 2021.
B’nai B’rith in Brazil contributed thousands of blankets to state philanthropies and private charities; Curitiba’s Weismann lodge partnered with other nonprofits to collect and deliver food to an organization that fed more than 40,000 individuals.
Partnering with other Jewish organizations, B’nai B’rith Panama donated 50 oximeters that monitored COVID-19 patient’s heart rates and blood oxygen levels to the country’s Ministry of Health and sent 150 beds to Panama City’s Center for Migrants.
Disabled individuals who obtain medical equipment through the lodges’ Medication Donation Program were provided with hand sanitizer and cleaning products.
In addition, new B’nai B’rith initiatives in Argentina and Uruguay are mitigating hardship in the poorest Jewish enclaves affected by COVID-19.
Ongoing Social Action Projects
Over the past decade, 750 Costa Rican educators, 24 of whom studied at Yad Vashem, Jerusalem’s Center for Holocaust Remembrance, attended Holocaust and genocide history workshops and went on to impart their knowledge to an estimated 45,000 students, made possible by San Jose’s B’nai B’rith Rabin Lodge. Partnering with local organizations and businesses, the lodge coordinates an April 11 Good Deeds Day with hundreds of volunteers, held in person at hospitals and other facilities this year.
A nine-month Jewish teen leadership program developed by Panama’s B’nai B’rith Irving Zapp Lodge boasts 900 graduates since 2002. The lodge is also a major funder of JUPA, the Jewish Foundation of Panama. With more than 350 graduates since 2007, this foundation funds tuition scholarships to 15-year-olds and 16-year-olds studying English and math or culinary arts.
Maintaining its non-sectarian family program for 20 years, Venezuela’s B’nai B’rith Caracas Lodge sponsors mental health and occupational therapists who treat parents and children, many of whom are disabled.
B’nai B’rith Uruguay’s educational endeavors reflect an overwhelming record of success. Established in 2009, its non-sectarian Moving Forward Foundation, supported by various philanthropies and for-profits, enables promising economically challenged students from Montevideo to benefit from learning enhancement and tutoring, and become the first in their families to graduate high school and attend college. B’nai B’rith sends food and subsidizes medical insurance for the enrollee’s household. One of the 250 graduates, now a notary public, echoes the program’s directive, writing: “Like the pawn in chess, we can all become anything we want to if we move in the right direction.”
B’nai B’rith Brazil meetings commence when Rio de Janeiro’s February carnival ends, but plans were upended beginning in 2020: Communication occurred exclusively online. Programs subsidizing caregiving for the elderly and education continued, as did planning for the 2023 celebration marking the organization’s 90-year Brazilian history.
Highly popular streamed events included talks by B’nai B’rith President Charles O. Kaufman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin.
Augmenting government assistance, B’nai B’rith Argentina has distributed drugs for conditions like diabetes and hypertension to 4 million patients nationwide since 2002. Fostering communal ties, it sponsors clubs for blind adults and Jewish families and singles, which meet at the Buenos Aires lodge.
Adriana Camisar, B’nai B’rith special advisor on Latin American and U.N. Affairs, and deputy director of AJIRI-BBI (B’nai B’rith’s affiliate, the American Jewish International Relations Institute) remarked: “2020 was very challenging for the Latin American Jewish communities. Our districts and units throughout the region worked harder than ever to make sure their important activities didn’t stop. In every country, B’nai B’rith worked to preserve Jewish values and traditions, help the needy, combat anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred and so much more. Our B’nai B’rith leaders can be collectively proud for a job well done.”
Marking 2020-2021 Communal Anniversaries during the Pandemic
On July 18, 1994, terrorists murdered 85 people and injured hundreds more when they bombed the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina building (AMIA: Argentine Israelite Mutual Association) in Buenos Aires. Though it’s long been held that Iran is responsible for the attack, no one has been apprehended. In July 2020, B’nai B’rith Argentina’s online 26th anniversary commemoration of this tragedy included a message from AMIA’s current president and testimonies from survivors and victims’ families.
Remembrances of the November 1938 Kristallnacht pogroms, considered a prelude to the Shoah, held particular resonance for those experiencing fear and loneliness during the pandemic. B’nai B’rith in 13 countries partnered to host an online ceremony with guest speaker, historian Julián Schvindlerman. Additional virtual events were jointly organized by B’nai B’rith in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Venezuela.
Uruguay’s Congress honored Holocaust Commemoration Day on Jan. 28, 2021, with B’nai B’rith Uruguay President Franklin Rosenfield in attendance.
Minister Andres Allamand spoke at a Holocaust Commemoration Day ceremony at the Chilean Foreign Ministry, organized by B’nai B’rith and the Chilean Jewish community. Under Secretary Carolina Valdivia was also present.
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Common History, Common Regional Interests
A new joint college course sponsored by B’nai B’rith opens opportunities for relations between Israel, Greece and Cyprus
In its latest effort to foster a close diplomatic relationship between Israel, Greece and Cyprus, the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem initiated and partially funded a joint course between Ben-Gurion University (BGU) of the Negev in Beer Sheva, the University of Macedonia in Thessaloniki, Greece and the University of Cyprus in Nicosia.
The course, entitled “Israel, Greece, Cyprus: Common history, common regional interests,” is taught in Greek and Hebrew and follows the history of diplomatic relations between the three countries—the three democracies in the Mediterranean—and aims to develop a shared appreciation for the close relationship between them.
Alan Schneider, director of the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem, said that B’nai B’rith hopes the course will “expand the opportunities for thoughtful interaction between significant civic cohorts—beyond the political, diplomatic and military echelons that already enjoy an unprecedented level of intimacy.”
Schneider said the program is a breakthrough, as it is the first time universities from the three countries are formally cooperating to offer a joint course.
With the help of the Greek embassy in Israel, the three schools were able to coordinate their differing academic structures, and the course launched for the spring 2021 semester.
The initial idea for the course came from Gabriel Haritos, visiting professor and postdoctoral research fellow at the Azrieli Center for Israel Studies, Ben-Gurion Research Institute for the Study of Israel and Zionism, Ben-Gurion University, and professor Paula Kabalo, director of the Ben-Gurion Research Institute and chair of the Azrieli Center.
Both Haritos and Kabalo became connected to B’nai B’rith through the inaugural Israel-Hellenic Forum, a project of the B’nai B’rith World Center that brings together leaders, academics, government officials and journalists who support and aim to expand the relationship between Israel, Greece and Cyprus into the civic sphere. Participants convened in Jerusalem in November 2019 to discuss and develop further action to advance the relationship.
During the forum Kabalo realized that, although there were many academics in attendance, the conversation was focused on the government and private sectors, and no one was discussing possible academic ties. She thought the forum would be the perfect place to propose an academic initiative.
Kabalo, who has family in Greece, said, “It always strikes me how little we know of each other’s societies, although Israelis visit Greece occasionally for holidays and engage in conversations with local people. From my own conversations with my family members, I learned that they never encountered courses on Israel in their universities and that, in fact, they know almost nothing about the history of modern Israel and the shaping of Israeli society.”
Kabalo and Haritos have been pioneers in research on the history of relations between the three countries.
The joint course was attended by about 60 undergraduate and graduate students from across the three universities and was taught by Haritos, who is fluent in Greek and Hebrew. There were also joint virtual meetings conducted in English to allow interaction between the students.
Haritos said that, in the beginning, it was a challenge to teach students who did not share a common historical background. Israeli students knew little about what led to the creation of the modern Greek state and Greek and Cypriot students were unfamiliar with the concept of Zionism as a national movement.
“But with lots of patience and some extra academic hours dedicated to fill those gaps, the course went smoothly for the students—and for myself as well,” Haritos said.
In the course, students examined primary and secondary sources such as diplomatic reports and newspaper articles. Three researchers and experts from Israel and Greece participated as visiting lecturers.
A joint study mission to the three countries was also planned but had to be cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic. If conditions allow, the mission may take place next year.
Through the course, students acquired the necessary skills to advance Israeli-Greek-Cypriot relations further. Kabalo said she hopes the course encourages long-term mutual interest and that it will inspire graduate theses and Ph.D. dissertations that will pave the way for future academics to teach on this topic.
“The students are the future generation to cultivate and nurture these ties,” Kabalo said.
Haritos said that, as political, scientific and technological Israeli-Hellenic ties have grown over the past decade, it is essential to strengthen societal ties and mutual understanding to create a sustainable partnership.
As the course took place, the relationship between the countries advanced and realized historic new developments. In April, the foreign ministers of Cyprus, Greece, Israel and the UAE met in Paphos, Cyprus to discuss various common concerns. Also in April, Israel and Greece signed a defense procurement deal.
B’nai B’rith has long promoted Jewish-Hellenic relations, both through the tripartite Israel-Greece-Cyprus relationship and through the partnership between American Jewish and American Greek communities.
B’nai B’rith often works in close partnership with the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) and the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (Order of AHEPA). In 2014, the two organizations joined leaders from B’nai B’rith and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations for a historic three-country mission to Israel, Cyprus and Greece.
The mission was focused on ways to strengthen the trilateral relationship between the countries in the areas of government, economics, security and energy. Missions were also held in 2016, 2018 and 2020.
The spring semester course served as a pilot program for future academic collaborations between the countries and universities. Haritos said he is already scheduling a new series of lectures covering a broader range of Israeli-Hellenic relations for the upcoming academic year.
“I do not see these three courses as a purely academic endeavor. I consider it as the initial step which will lead to create a new generation of Israeli experts, journalists, historians and future decision-makers with skills that will enable them to understand the Greek and Cypriot realities and how Greeks and Cypriots see themselves as regional players in the Middle East and beyond,” Haritos said.
One Donor: Many Helped
As a nonprofit organization dependent on charitable donations, all of B’nai B’rith’s efforts are reliant on our members and supporters around the globe who have a desire to help—help those in need, help seniors, help change the anti-Israel narrative on the global stage, help make the world a better place—and a desire to partner with B’nai B’rith International because they believe in the organization, its work and its aptitude. This desire and resulting partnership were evident in recent community relief programs launched simultaneously in Argentina and Uruguay, both generously funded by a donor who wanted to help and who believed in B’nai B’rith’s ability to mobilize its network to aid the neediest members of the Jewish community.
The COVID-19 virus outbreak created significant sanitary, economic and social consequences in each country, leaving the Jewish community’s most vulnerable members in a particularly precarious situation. This, coupled with a diminishing network of community institutions and schools that traditionally provided a “safety net” of services to these families, left low-income families and individuals unable to meet even the most basic needs.
B’nai B’rith Argentina, working with community partners, quickly set up programs to help. A kosher meal delivery program providing nutritious food to elderly Jewish adults and families across Argentina was instituted, which is expected to deliver 7,635 meals over the course of a six-month period, providing three meals a day to needy community members. Another initiative was launched to provide school supplies and other necessities to 320 schoolchildren who are under the supervision of the Social Protection Network of the Argentinean Jewish Community.
Utilizing the B’nai B’rith network of lodges in Bahía Blanca (Buenos Aires province), Buenos Aires City, Cordoba, Mendoza, Paraná (Entre Ríos province) and Salta, members of the Jewish community in need of durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers and canes will be identified and provided with the essentials they need to improve their quality of life.
In Uruguay, just as in Argentina, the pandemic exacerbated the already difficult position of the community’s neediest members. The donation has allowed B’nai B’rith Uruguay to provide essentials on a case-by-case basis to families—refrigerators, kitchenware, sheets and towels, mattresses, water heaters and more to make homes more livable. Items such as sneakers, orthopedic shoes, a jacket, a belt and support railings may seem small, but to the recipients they are impactful gifts they would not have had access to otherwise.
By partnering with B’nai B’rith—with its unique “boots-on-the-ground” network—this donor made a profound difference in the lives of people struggling during the pandemic.
Project H.O.P.E. Continues to Brighten Passover for Many
Though decidedly different this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, B’nai B’rith Project H.O.P.E. (Help Our People Everywhere) was still able to make Passover possible for Jews in need.
Project H.O.P.E. is a B’nai B’rith initiative for the donation of traditional and ritual kosher-for-Passover food to the elderly and families in need. The program has changed Passover for the better for those experiencing hardship since the late 1960s. Project H.O.P.E. is still in action today, thanks to the efforts of B’nai B’rith and volunteers in many communities across the country. During COVID-19, Project H.O.P.E. was still able to fulfill B’nai B’rith’s altruistic mission and to connect with Jews in the local community who were in turn able to observe and enjoy the holiday.
Rhonda Love, B’nai B’rith’s vice president of programming and director of the Center of Community Action and the Center of Jewish Identity noted: “It is wonderful to see how Project H.O.P.E.’s dedicated volunteers were able to adapt to the restraints of the pandemic and still provide those in need with Passover foods this year. We are grateful to all those who work so hard and provide the financial support to make this possible.”
In March 2021, Project H.O.P.E. distributed food in areas of Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York.
In the Chesapeake Bay Region, Project H.O.P.E. partnered with the Jewish Social Service Agency of Montgomery County, Maryland, to send Passover food baskets to more than 500 Washington, D.C. area recipients on March 21. Students from Berman Hebrew Academy in Rockville, Maryland, helped to assemble the baskets, which were delivered by B’nai B’rith members and congregants from Maryland and Virginia synagogues.
B’nai B’rith Liberty Region in Philadelphia has participated in Project H.O.P.E. for more than 24 years. In 2021, area B’nai B’rith members who worked in conjunction with the Jewish Relief Agency (JRA) made a Passover celebration possible for many who could not afford to purchase the often-costly Passover products for the seder. B’nai B’rith volunteers picked up the packages from the JRA distribution center and delivered them to the recipients on March 21.
On March 24, the New York Metropolitan area Metronorth Region Project H.O.P.E. distributed Passover meals to 110 seniors experiencing isolation, illness or food insecurity. B’nai B’rith worked with the Mid-Island Y Jewish Community Center (YJCC) in Plainview, New York, the Ruderman Family Food Pantry and a local caterer to prepare and distribute the meals.
Ruderman Family Food Pantry clients were moved to tears:
“I got my Passover package, and I could cry!”
“Of course I am crying. The Streit’s matzoh made me feel like my mother was with me. So perfect. Thank you.”
“I’m crying from joy. I wanted to thank the people from B’nai B’rith. It made my day. It just made me realize there’s such beauty around me. It’s such a beautiful care package!”
Susan Berk said that her work as Project H.O.P.E. chair in Long Island honors the memory and legacy of her father, “whose vision when he started Project H.O.P.E. many years ago was to help others enjoy the holidays. I am grateful for the opportunity to reach out to the community and have a positive impact.”
In the Great Lakes Region, Project H.O.P.E. donated funds to the Yad Ezra Food Bank, which provides kosher food to impoverished residents in Southeast Michigan. Included in the donation were B’nai B’rith COVID-19 relief kits, each containing a cloth face mask and travel-sized hand sanitizer, which have been distributed around the country as part of B’nai B’rith’s pandemic relief efforts.
Partner with us in helping underserved communities by making a gift to B’nai B’rith International today.
Fort Worth’s Garsek Lodge Sponsors a Night of History and Nostalgia
Recipe for a great learning experience: Take the story of Jews in America, add some compelling information on B’nai B’rith’s achievements over the course of three consecutive centuries, season liberally with memories of growing up Jewish in Fort Worth, Texas, and personal family history dating back to World War I and voilà, you’ve got a concoction that appeals to everyone.
On May 2, Fort Worth’s Isadore Garsek Lodge kicked off Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM) with “The Jewish Experience in the U.S.A. and Fort Worth: Matzo and Chicken Fried Steak,” an online panel featuring lodge members and prominent area philanthropists Robert Chicotsky and Gerald Zenick, preceded by B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin’s keynote speech.
Garsek Lodge President Alex Nason greeted the attendees while the immediate past president, Gerald Stein, served as moderator and introduced participants.
Mariaschin highlighted significant Jewish milestones marking 350 years of Jewish history recognized during Jewish American Heritage Month, which has been celebrated every May since 2006. He also paid tribute to Jewish heroes including Haim Solomon and Jonas Salk.
Underscoring B’nai B’rith’s ongoing role in enhancing life for people of all faiths, he observed, “In the beginning, B’nai B’rith focused on philanthropy, honor and patriotism. Members expanded their interests beyond the borders of the United States to come to the rescue of victims of persecution. These causes have not changed but evolved to address many important issues.”
Mariaschin noted Garsek Lodge’s disaster relief activities during February 2021 snow and ice storms and throughout the ongoing pandemic.
The lodge sponsorship of the Mollie and Max Barnett Apartments and Tarrant County B’nai B’rith Apartments for senior citizens received special praise: “I am proud to advise that these apartments are part of a fantastic network of housing making B’nai B’rith the largest national Jewish sponsor of affordable homes. The program provides over 5,000 residents a home and links 38 communities throughout the United States that serve the needs of seniors without regard to race or religion.”
During the second part of the evening, retired journalist and newspaper executive Gerald Zenick spoke about his grandfather, an immigrant from Russia to Fort Worth, whose shoe and clothing stores were instrumental in fostering the community’s retail presence. He also remembered the prejudice he himself encountered during his time at the University of North Texas, and the restricted country clubs, prevalent until about a decade ago.
The owner of his family’s liquor store and shopping center in Fort Worth, Robert Chicotsky told the story of his Polish grandfather’s success in Texas, where he began life as a merchant and then as a butcher for the Swift Company meat packing plant. He sent his wife and children their passage money to America hidden in framed pictures. Both his parents lost relatives in the Holocaust.
The event concluded with a question-and-answer session, and perhaps the promise of future lodge programs focusing on various aspects of Jewish life, traditions and culture. Those at home who might have been noshing on quirky Texas-Jewish cuisine had their hunger for knowledge satiated online.
FROM THE VAULT
Renown Social Worker and Zionist Leader Anitta Müller-Cohen had ties to B’nai B’rith
Like other important Jewish women of her generation, Anitta Müller-Cohen was actively engaged in philanthropic activities at a time when Europe’s Jewish population endured the most suffering and deprivation resulting from World War I and its aftermath. Recognized worldwide for the many lives she saved, she would go on to settle in pre-state Israel, where her mission as an author, advocate for social change and later as a leader, was dedicated to improving life for all in her adopted homeland.
Born in Austria in 1890, Müller-Cohen was married to B’nai B’rith member Arnold Müller in 1914 when she established her own charity, “Soziale Hilfsgemeinshaft Anitta Müller,” which aided homeless people, children and refugees. She set up a tea and soup kitchen that fed nearly 3,000 daily. When World War I was fought in Europe, and for years after peace was declared in 1918, Vienna was overwhelmed by the presence of children who had been abandoned or whose parents had died. Itinerant, they often roamed in large groups, stealing, begging and eventually succumbing in the city streets. It was Müller-Cohen who became identified with their cause, as she established orphanages that housed them, funded holidays in Switzerland for those who were ill and also arranged for their transportation from Austria and the Ukraine to foster families or facilities in Amsterdam and Johannesburg.
In one of several articles published about her in B’nai B’rith’s national periodical, B’nai B’rith News, Müller-Cohen was described as “the ministering angel” and “the soul of Jewish welfare work for Viennese children…She has aroused pride in the B’nai B’rith lodges of Vienna, which assisted her most effectively with financial means or with able workers from the circle of our brothers and sisters.” Readers were constantly reminded of desperate post-war conditions, as the magazine declared in 1919 that “Vienna is starving,” and reported that Müller-Cohen had brought 750 infants and children to Copenhagen, where they received medical care and nourishment.
In August 1920, Müller-Cohen addressed the important Jewish World Relief Conference in Carlsbad, Czechoslovakia, where her plea for support for what she estimated to be 400,000 Jewish orphans received an overwhelming response from the South African Jewish community.
She made appearances throughout the United States, after traveling here to address the opening session of the 1925 American Jewish Congress in Chicago.
After her divorce and remarriage, Müller-Cohen immigrated with her family to Tel Aviv in 1935. Continuing her work as writer and social worker, she provided help to Austrian refugees, founded the Women’s Social Service, assisting women and families, and was prominent in the Mizrahi Women’s Organization during the later part of the decade. In the 1950s, she became involved in Israeli politics. In 1965, three years after her death, a senior citizens’ residence built in Ramat Gan was named in her memory.
Backstory: B'nai B'rith in the Land of the Pyramids
An illustration of the Egyptian pyramids is depicted on the official stamp of the first lodge in the Middle East, Maimonides no. 366, initiated by Cairo’s Ashkenazi residents on Jan. 6, 1887 and which survived until several years after the end of World War II. The lodge funded scholarships, ran Jewish trade schools and academies for boys and girls and supported refugees in wartime, among other activities. Over the years, its roster of members included the Grand Rabbi of the Ottoman Empire, Haim Nahum Effendi (1872-1960), a noted linguist, member of the Egyptian Senate and Islamic law authority.