B'NAI B'RITH IN YOUR COMMUNITY AND AROUND THE GLOBE
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Yom HaShoah Observed With Virtual And In-Person B’nai B’rith Events Around The World
- B’nai B’rith Coordinates Collaboration Between Two Major Scientific Institutions
- Delegation Of B’nai B’rith Representatives Addresses Organization’s Top Concerns At UNHRC
- B’nai B’rith Marches At June 4 Celebrate Israel Parade In NYC
- Project H.O.P.E. Provides Meals To Those In Need During Passover
- B’nai B’rith Delegation Visits Oman As Part Of Ongoing Efforts To Promote Peace And Partnership In The Middle East
- B’nai B’rith To Be Recognized At Jerusalem’s New National Library
- B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin Speaks During Event Honoring Monsignor Giuseppe Placido Nicolini
- Sally Bein Film Screened In Israel
- B’nai B’rith Participates In The 2023 Global Coalition For Israel
- Jewish American Heritage Month Kicks Off On Capitol Hill
- Friendship Ties, The B’nai B’rith Kakehashi Project
- B’nai B’rith Talks
- Female Jewish Graduate Student In New York Awarded The 2023 Sally And George Schneider Scholarship
- Down The Block And Around The World: B’nai B’rith In The Community
- World Center-Jerusalem Launches Hebrew Diplomatic Club
- Backstory: Forever Young
Welcome To The June Issue Of IMPACT
Much of our thinking and attention these days focuses on B’nai B’rith’s 180 years of Service, Advocacy and Impact around the globe: IMPACT…it’s right there in the name of this newsletter.
These achievements are reflected in this issue, where you’ll see how our global network of volunteers, supporters, professional staff and partner organizations have enabled us to create meaningful change in the lives of countless individuals.
As you read in this June IMPACT issue about some recent significant actions we have taken, please know that in advance of the Oct. 13 anniversary of our 1843 founding, we are planning dynamic events and engaging programs which will continue our legacy of shaping the world.
We take great pride in these successes. Read on to see our work.
Events To Be Announced
Yom HaShoah Observed With Virtual And In-Person B’nai B’rith Events Around The World
B’nai B’rith held its annual observances of Yom HaShoah around the world this year with virtual and in-person events.
B’nai B’rith participated in “Unto Every Person There is a Name,” in which the names of Holocaust victims are recited to restore some measure of their humanity. This year Trey Meehan, chair of B’nai B’rith Connect in Washington, D.C., and Moshe Lencer, Connect member, recited names. B’nai B’rith serves as the North America sponsor for “Unto Every Person There is a Name,” a program of Yad Vashem – the World Holocaust Remembrance Center. Watch this video to learn more about “Unto Every Person There Is A Name”.
In Atlanta, the Achim/Gate City Lodge held an “Unto” reading on April 28 on the steps of the Georgia State Capitol Building. The event was also streamed on Zoom.
In Israel, the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-JNF) held for the 23rd consecutive year a Jewish Rescuers Citation ceremony on Yom HaShoah, honoring Jews who rescued fellow Jews during the Holocaust. More than 1,000 people attended the ceremony, held at the B’nai B’rith Martyrs Forest Scroll of Fire Plaza and streamed over Facebook. You can watch the ceremony here. Eighteen Jewish rescuers were honored at the ceremony, all posthumously.
B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin spoke about the impact of the Holocaust on B’nai B’rith lodges, the organization’s efforts to help Jews in Germany and its mission to honor Jewish rescuers in the 21st century.
“As the passage of time widens the distance between the events of the Holocaust and the present day, the study of its hitherto neglected aspects gains in importance,” Mariaschin said in his speech. “It is hoped that the recognition we confer today will encourage others who are involved in the investigation of the Holocaust to keep finding pathways which reveal and preserve the efforts of rescuers and the memory of the six million, and to ensure the Shoah will never be forgotten.”
In Europe, B’nai B’rith, the European Parliament Working Group Against anti-Semitism and the European Jewish Congress held on April 25 a joint Holocaust remembrance program, “80 Years Since the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising: Perspective on Resistance.” Alina Bricman, B’nai B’rith director of EU Affairs, delivered a welcome address at the event.
B’nai B’rith Director of EU Affairs Alina Bricman (left) and Ariella Woitchik, director of European Affairs, European Jewish Congress (right), introduced the April 25 conference “80 Years Since the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising: Perspectives on Resistance” in Brussels. Louise Haxthausen, UNESCO representative to the European Union and director of the UNESCO Brussels Liaison Office, spoke about the Warsaw Ghetto Emanuel Ringelblum “Oneg Shabbat” Archives, recognized through UNESCO’s World Heritage Memory of the World. An award-winning article on the Ringelblum Archives was published as the 2020 B’nai B’rith Magazine cover story.
Photos: European Jewish Congress
FROM THE PRESIDENT
Shalom From Texas
Being president of B’nai B’rith brings a great weight of responsibility. I must tell you that I worry about you, and all our members. I also worry about all the seniors who live in our senior housing communities. With the growing anti-Semitism in the United States and around the world, my worries have only multiplied.
Most of you know that I am a Texan. My predecessor, former President Chuck Kaufman, also lives in Texas. Texas is unique in its place in the world and has its own lore and mystique. As someone who has lived in Texas my entire life, I can tell you that reality pretty much aligns with the legend.
Texas has some of the laxest gun laws in the United States, which is one of the reasons why I worry about my fellow Texan B’nai B’rith members and the residents and staff of our senior housing facilities here. In the last year there have been multiple mass shootings in the state and across our country. I am sad to report that Texas has become the mass murder capital of our country. In May, a gunman opened fire with an assault rifle outside of the outlet mall in Allen, Texas.
May 24 was the first anniversary of the Uvalde school shooting at Robb Elementary, which was an unspeakable tragedy. The assailant was an 18-year-old with an assault rifle. When law enforcement officers arrived at Robb Elementary and learned that the shooter had an assault rifle, they waited over an hour to attempt to subdue the shooter even though they outnumbered the shooter almost 50-to-one. These law enforcement officers included Uvalde School District police, Uvalde City police, County sheriffs, Texas Department of Public Safety officers and even members of the vaunted Texas Rangers. Those officers had personal body armor, shotguns, automatic weapons, tear gas and stun grenades to use in an assault. The fact that the shooter had an assault rifle caused the law enforcement officers to stand by, while the shooter continued to terrorize and murder children. They knew that their body armor offered little protection from this powerful weapon.
Many of our nation’s leaders are quick to point to the Second Amendment that was written and adopted years before modern bullets were invented. Our founding fathers were thinking about keeping a well-regulated militia to avoid the cost of a standing army. It was not until the Supreme Court’s decision in the Heller case in 2008 that the amendment was read to greatly expand the rights of gun ownership in the United States.
With the rise of anti-Semitism that we all follow closely, the proliferation of weapons enhances the danger that anti-Semitism brings. It was only a few years ago that a gunman attacked the congregation of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania during Shabbat services. Last year we had another gunman take hostages during services at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, just outside of Fort Worth. Thanks to the quick thinking of Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, there were no casualties.
We know that Google allows everyone to easily find synagogues and Jewish organizations. Although all of our senior housing facilities have added additional security in recent years, we still must remain alert and cautious to those who mean us harm. Our residents must remain safe and secure in their homes, even if our tzedakah and our name on their building necessitates extra care.
On missions with B’nai B’rith International, I have walked the streets of Israel, where the sight of soldiers with assault rifles is part of everyday life. There you know that those with these weapons are exceedingly well trained and there to protect you. Israel’s thoughtful approach to gun ownership is focused on public safety. Israeli statistics on gun crimes support their regulation.
With B’nai B’rith, I have been in synagogues in Europe, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, where security is taken very seriously. In many places, the synagogues are unmarked and the entrances hidden. Unlike other houses of worship, ours do not have the luxury of leaving the gates and doors open for random visitors. I am pleased to report that our B’nai B’rith brothers and sisters are actively working as part of their local Jewish communities to help maintain safety for all.
I was taught by my father that common sense is the key to making good decisions. Common sense allows you to understand the facts of a situation and to make good decisions based upon the consequences of our decisions. When it comes to guns in society, we must use common sense to guide us in determining who has a right to own them, and under what circumstances.
Now you can understand why I worry about my B’nai B’rith brothers and sisters, especially those here in Texas. B’nai B’rith International was started with the goal of helping to take care of Jewish families who needed help. The continuing mitzvah of taking care of our brothers and sisters continues, as do our acts of tikkun olam. For 180 years, B’nai Brith International has made a difference in peoples’ lives around the globe, and I pray that you all stay safe, healthy and motivated, so that together we can continue to make a difference in the world for many more years to come.
B’nai B’rith Coordinates Collaboration Between Two Major Scientific Institutions
Signed in March, an exchange agreement between the Pasteur Institute of Montevideo, Uruguay (left) and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel (right) was negotiated by B’nai B’rith in both countries. Photos: Wikipedia.org
After a year of planning and discussion, B’nai B’rith has successfully negotiated a collaboration between two prestigious scientific consortiums—Uruguay’s Pasteur Institute of Montevideo and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel—that will yield long term benefits for both.
Alan Schneider, director of B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem noted: “The agreement broke new ground in the 76-year relationship between Uruguay and Israel, thanks to the dogged leadership of B’nai B’rith.” Uruguay voted for the partition of pre-state Israel in 1947 and established diplomatic relations with Israel the next year.
Weizmann Institute Vice President Zvi Reich, Pasteur Institute Director Dr. Carlos Batthyány and Academic Director José Badano signed the Memorandum of Agreement in Rehovot on March 19. Schneider and B’nai B’rith Uruguay Executive Board member Mario Kaczka were also present.
Aimed to advance scientific and medical knowledge and practices at each facility, the agreement delineates the terms of the six-to-12-month residencies in Rehovot for Pasteur Institute staff and students, and for Weizmann Institute scientists, who will share their expertise in Montevideo.
Operating since 2004, the Pasteur Institute, named for the pioneer of the modern vaccine, 19th century French chemist Louis Pasteur, is a state-of-the-art educational center devoted to biomedical study in genomics, proteomics, bioinformatics and molecular and cellular biology.
The Sieff Institute, established by Chaim Weizmann in 1934, was renamed in his honor in 1949. With a faculty roster comprised of eminent scientists and research specialists, it offers postgraduate degrees in a variety of scientific disciplines.
Schneider commented that the Rehovot trip furthered “the rediscovery of close ties between B’nai B’rith and Israel’s first president, Chaim Weizmann, who was also a vice president of the lodge in Manchester, England.” Documents in the Weizmann Institute archives evidence this longstanding relationship.
The Uruguayan guests also met with scientists at the Hadassah Medical Center at Ein Karem and made visits to Tel Aviv, the Old City of Jerusalem and Yad Vashem—the World Holocaust Remembrance Center.
FROM THE CEO
Celebrating Amazing Journeys: My Thoughts During Jewish American Heritage Month
This issue of IMPACT is appearing among the spring holidays of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. I hope that those who celebrate the occasions, set aside to honor one’s parents, had meaningful and enjoyable time together in person, by FaceTime or by phone.
While I lost my parents many years ago, the ties that bind seem to have grown even stronger over the years. I find myself repeating sayings or phrases they used in response to matters big and small. I find myself recalling issues or problems they resolved and trying to apply their solutions to what I encounter today.
Most important, I reflect on the Jewish compass they conveyed to me: how they saw the Jewish world, as immigrant children from Eastern Europe; how they viewed anti-Semitism over a span of eight decades; how their Zionism far predated the establishment of the Jewish State in 1948; and how they continued to show the respect they always had for Jewish traditions, customs and prayer.
But there is one more thing for which I am supremely grateful: the decision by their parents to journey from the shtetl to the United States.
My mother, born in Lithuania, arrived in New York harbor on July 2, 1903, on SS Pennsylvania, sailing from Hamburg. She was three years old, in the company of her mother, Sophie, and her six-year-old brother, Jacob. According to the ship manifest, my grandmother had $3 in her pocket. Within a few days, they made their way to Boston, and then, by boat, to Bangor, Maine, joining my grandfather, who was already a peddler in the Maine countryside. Four additional siblings would be born once they settled in Bangor.
My father, from Czarist Russia, arrived in New York on August 10, 1913, on RMS Caronia, out of Liverpool. His family settled in Brooklyn, where my grandfather, Shlomo, was a tailor. My grandmother passed away in Russia when my father was six; his father re-married and eventually there were 12 children in that family, five of whom were born in the United States.
My grandparents were part of that great wave of Jewish immigration to America. For some, the incentive was to be rid of anti-Semitism and discrimination that they confronted at every turn. For others, it was the promise of a better life. Or both. These were remarkable people: My grandmother spoke Yiddish, Polish and Lithuanian—but, as she boarded that ship in Hamburg, she knew no English. With two young children in tow, she managed not only the two-week voyage, but the bureaucracy they encountered at Ellis Island. I can picture her speaking in Yiddish, asking this fellow immigrant or that, “Which way do I go now?” or “Where do I get the railroad tickets?” or other basic questions of the moment.
My paternal grandfather had a tailor shop near the Brooklyn Navy Yard. New York was then a city of tailors—thousands—many of whom toiled in the burgeoning garment industry. Tailors worked long hours for meager compensation. Even though my father pursued a more studious track, he must have watched my grandfather at work: We had an old Singer sewing machine in our house, and it was my father who could sew hems and make pant cuffs, if needed.
I celebrate my grandparents’ drive and ingenuity, but most of all, I’m eternally grateful they did not stay behind in Europe. The German occupation of Lithuania began in 1941. My mother’s shtetl, Musnik (Musninkai, about 35 miles from Vilna), was liquidated in the summer of 1941. There were a little over 200 Jews living in the town; they were rounded up by Lithuanian district police, and first held in the two synagogues in town. On Sept. 5 women and children were taken first and shot in Pivonija Forest, outside the district center in Wilkomir (Ukmerge); the men were forced to do strenuous, and continuous “sport exercises,” then taken to Pivonija to be killed. Among the victims were my mother’s aunt and uncle.
My father’s shtetl, Zakharino, in Russia’s Smolensk district, met a similar fate. The town, whose population of about 300 was nearly all Jewish, was occupied by the Germans on August 1, 1941. According to Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, a ghetto was established in the town, and Jews from the surrounding area were relocated there. On May 2, 1942, all the ghetto’s inhabitants were shot some 200 meters from the edge of town. According to Yad Vashem’s page on Zakharino, the Germans, the local Russian police chief and the leading county official participated in the killings. Its report concludes: “Zakharino was liberated on Sept. 27, 1943. The village no longer exists.”
I have visited my mother’s shtetl and had hoped to visit the site of my father’s. In the 1990s, responding to a request I made for information about the town, the Jewish University of St. Petersburg sent an ethnographer to the area; he found only one survivor, who was able to reconstruct a map of what the village looked like in 1942.
The website JewishGen and Yad Vashem have assembled the names of those who were shot in Zakharino that day. Scanning the list of victims, I looked for the names of men and women more or less my father’s age: Boris Belyanky, Isaac Berezkin, Leya Dovin, Leizer Dubovin, Bella Golubov, Luba Leikin, Yevel Minkin, Riva Teleshov and others. Could they have been neighbors, classmates or good friends of my father?
Had my grandparents not made that arduous trek to America (how they were able to get from tiny shtetlach to the big ports of Hamburg and Liverpool, so distant from their homes, continues to amaze me), I most likely would not be here today writing a brief overview of the Mariaschin and Berzak families. Musnik (as a Jewish village), and Zakharino were liquidated, to the last Jew.
Memory is a Jewish imperative. Each epoch of our thousands of years of history is vital to understanding who we are as a people. In the span of that history, the period of great immigration from Europe, and the Holocaust, are still within living memory, or close to it. Thanks to the internet, we have so many tools available to connect us to that history and especially our personal ties to it.
B’nai B’rith is very much connected to both: We were founded by German Jewish immigrants 180 years ago, in October 1843, and counted thousands of immigrants among our members and leaders. In Europe, B’nai B’rith was the Jewish organization most present in countries throughout the continent until, on Sept. 1, 1939, the curtain fell on one Jewish community after the next with the murder of the Six Million by the Germans and their collaborators.
My story is personal, but it is not unique. Many families living here in the United States learned, over time, the fate of relatives and millions of other European Jews. I remind myself, though, over and over again, how fortunate I am that my grandparents, children in tow, had the foresight to take a leap into the unknown and make the journey West.
I write this in gratitude, and in their memory.
Delegation Of B’nai B’rith Representatives Addresses Organization’s Top Concerns At UNHRC
At the United Nations Human Rights Council’s main yearly session in March, a B’nai B’rith International delegation met with ambassadors to advocate on priority concerns of the organization, including the council’s discriminatory treatment of Israel, and to deliver public interventions at the council itself on the Middle East and anti-Semitism.
The delegation met with dozens of ambassadors and other senior diplomats from the United States, Israel, Argentina, Canada, Ukraine, Morocco, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Austria, Italy, Australia, Greece and the Czech Republic, as well as with top officials from the European Union and the Vatican and the new High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk.
During the meetings, delegates urged against support of four anti-Israel resolutions—more than those targeting any other country—and decried the disproportionate scrutiny Israel faces from the council under a dedicated permanent agenda item that singles out the Jewish state and the latest “commission of inquiry” on Israel. Global challenges including the human rights abuses of the Iranian regime, the war in Ukraine and persistent global anti-Semitism were also topics of discussion.
Separately, B’nai B’rith delivered addresses to the council. Michelle Fairman, an alumna of the IMPACT: Emerging Leaders Fellowship, gave a stirring address on the issue of anti-Semitism. B’nai B’rith Geneva Representatives Sonia Elkrief and Nurit Braun also delivered addresses, and Anita Winter spoke during the council session. You can watch their addresses here.
The delegation was led by CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin and Chair of U.N. Affairs Millie Magid, and included Director of U.N. and Intercommunal Affairs David Michaels, Former Senior Vice President and B’nai B’rith Representative to UNESCO and the Council of Europe Stéphane Teicher, International Board of Governors member Larry Magid, B’nai B’rith Canada Senior Honorary Counsel David Matas, and B’nai B’rith Representatives to the U.N. in Geneva Azaria Acher, Elkrief, Winter and Braun. In addition, Michael Netter of Geneva participated in the meetings.
Distinguished by a dedicated Office of United Nations Affairs and by accredited on-the-ground representation at U.N. forums worldwide, including in Geneva, B’nai B’rith has led Jewish engagement with the world body since 1945.
B’nai B’rith Marches At June 4 Celebrate Israel Parade In NYC
Project H.O.P.E. Provides Meals To Those In Need During Passover
B’nai B’rith’s Project H.O.P.E. (Help Our People Everywhere) collects, organizes and distributes traditional ritual and kosher-for-Passover food to families in need. This Passover the New York Metropolitan area Metronorth Region Project H.O.P.E. and Harvest Lodge spearheaded donation efforts.
Packages of food were provided to 340 households—100 on Long Island and 240 in Connecticut. On Long Island, Project H.O.P.E. worked with the Mid-Island Y Jewish Community Center (MIYJCC), where food packages were available for pick up.
Project H.O.P.E. has been a community action program of B’nai B’rith since the 1960s. Distribution began on Long Island in 1972 and—except for a one-year interruption in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic—has been ongoing since its inception.
B’nai B’rith Delegation Visits Oman As Part Of Ongoing Efforts To Promote Peace And Partnership In The Middle East
B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin led a professional and volunteer delegation on a working visit to Oman in February. The visit, coordinated by Mariaschin and Office of United Nations and Intercommunal Affairs Director David Michaels, was part of B’nai B’rith’s ongoing outreach efforts in the Middle East to countries with existing formal relations with Israel and those with the potential to develop such relations.
The delegation met with senior officials in Muscat, Oman’s capital, and focused on topics such as regional peace and security, bilateral relations with the United States and interreligious engagement. Overflight permissions were also discussed in the meetings.
“Oman’s vitally important strategic location and the role it has played promoting stability in the Gulf region made it a logical destination for our leadership mission,” Mariaschin said. “Not long after the mission, we welcomed Oman’s opening its airspace to Israeli flights headed to Asian destinations. Within that context, we hope that it will one day join the Abraham Accords countries in normalizing relations with Israel.”
B’nai B’rith welcomed Oman’s decision to open its airspace, releasing a statement praising the move. In addition, Mariaschin and Michaels co-wrote a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal on the significance of the decision and the importance of cooperation, engagement and mutual recognition in the region.
“Although Oman has not yet formalized relations with Israel—something we hope will be remedied in the interest of both nations—it has hosted multiple Israeli prime ministers and signaled support for various Arab peace treaties with Israel going back decades,” Michaels said. “B’nai B’rith will continue to contribute to expanded engagement between the Jewish people and Muslim-majority societies globally.”
FROM THE VAULT
Dutch Lodges Before World War II
Although only a small number of Jewish men were selected for membership into B’nai B’rith lodges in Holland during the 1920s and early 1930s, those who joined constituted an elite group of philanthropists who had proven their commitment to the Jewish community. Organized and supported by one of the leaders of B’nai B’rith in Prague, Hollandia Lodge in The Hague was established in 1922 followed by Hilleel in Amsterdam, two years later. Before the advent of the turbulent years prior to the Holocaust, members of the two lodges were mainly scholars and educators who taught at the college level.
Dutch Jews had enjoyed a long history of tolerance, so lodge initiatives focused on assisting widows and orphans, as well as the sick and impoverished, rather than on efforts to combat anti-Semitism. Hilleel founded a youth group, established residences for the disabled and infirm, supported a convalescent home, Beth Refoua, and made attempts to help Jewish and Marrano refugees from Portugal. Hilleel and Hollandia partnered in the funding of Beth Sholom, an apartment or boarding house for middle-aged men and women.
This situation changed after 1933. Hollandia membership climbed from 36 to about 56 from 1932 to 1935 and continued to grow due to the influx of immigrants fleeing Germany. In 1938 or 1939, its secretary, H. Voorzanger, traveled to the United States and returned to the Netherlands with relief funds from B’nai B’rith in Washington, D.C., intended for Jews interned or residing at the Dutch border.
Hilleel Lodge, whose membership would eventually rise to over 100, reported that it “was attempting to relieve the grief of the German Jews.”
Although the lodges were dormant, probably from 1940, they never closed and resumed activities in 1946.
Nine of 24 surviving Hilleel members were physicians; the lodge requested medical books published during the war years. It was not until October 1949 that a memorial was held for the 65 lodge brothers murdered in the Holocaust. Representatives of the Amsterdam, Hague, Paris and Brussels lodges were in attendance.
B’nai B’rith To Be Recognized At Jerusalem’s New National Library
The National Library of Israel (NLI) will acknowledge B’nai B’rith as the library’s original founder at its new campus, opening this year.
The news was included in NLI CEO Oren Weinberg’s letter sent in January to Jerusalem Lodge President Zvi Rotenberg, who led the World Center’s campaign for recognition.
World Center-Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider noted: “The commitment of the National Library of Israel to recognize B’nai B’rith’s foundational role in establishing Midrash Abravanel took on new meaning when we toured the soon-to-be opened facility. The striking architecture and broad array of planned services for the public will undoubtedly make the library a major draw for years to come and will help put into perspective B’nai B’rith’s significant contributions to the establishment of a viable Jewish community in pre-State Israel.”
Open to the public, Midrash Abravanel offered readers from all walks of life the opportunity to access both religious and secular materials, including newspapers and magazines. A small percentage was written in languages besides Hebrew. Hosting lectures on a variety of topics, the library thrived as a center of intellectual life, despite protests by the city’s strict rabbis.
Ownership was transferred to the World Zionist Organization in 1918, and after 1925 its inventory became part of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, as the National Library of Israel.
B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin Speaks During Event Honoring Monsignor Giuseppe Placido Nicolini
B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin joined prominent Catholic and Jewish clergy, academics, diplomats and officials from Israel, the United States and Italy, who honored Monsignor Giuseppe Nicolini during a Feb. 21 online tribute, “The Bishop of Assisi: A Heroic Light in the Darkness of the Holocaust,” sponsored by the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement (CAM). CAM Advisory Board Chair, prisoner of conscience Natan Sharansky, and Anna Cividalli, whose family member was saved by Nicolini and the Assisi community, also spoke. Watch the online presentation here.
Mariaschin praised the heroism of Nicolini (1877-1973), who refused to shirk his moral imperative: “It would have been much easier, much safer for Bishop Nicolini to have done nothing, to simply watch as his fellow Italian citizens were rounded up, demeaned, humiliated and sent off to be killed. Even with his religious standing, he could have rationalized not raising a hand to assist, lest he lose his own life in the process.”
Named in 1977 as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem—The World Holocaust Remembrance Center—Nicolini, bishop in the town identified with the life of St. Francis, organized the Assisi Network, including priests, nuns and other area residents, who bravely protected Jews fleeing the Nazis. Hiding them in convents and monasteries, and supplying false identity papers, the Network rescued over 200 adults and children. Its members, constantly under surveillance, withstood interrogations and threats by the German military.
Citing Nicolini’s example and lauding bonds between Catholics and Jews, Mariaschin observed: “These heroic acts remain meaningful for us today not only within the context of Holocaust remembrance, but also because of the dramatic increase in anti-Semitism, globally….”
In confronting the current crisis, “… the task is that much more daunting when we do so without the help of those outside our community who, impelled by the virtues of justice and Chesed [love and faithfulness], speak out and proactively push back against Jew-hatred wherever, and whenever it occurs.”
Sally Bein Film Screened In Israel
“Bein’s Children,” a half-hour documentary by Dan Wolman about educator Sally (Samuel) Bein (1881-1942), illuminated his pioneering work with cognitively and physically disabled Jewish children. Established and funded by B’nai B’rith in Germany and the German Jewish Community, the School (“Institute for Backward Children”) in Beelitz operated during an era when special needs persons languished in institutions, often enduring brutal and harsh conditions. In contrast, Bein, the head of the school, loved and respected the children, whom he intended to return to their communities.
As documented in the film, which premiered in Tel Aviv in January, B’nai B’rith purchased the land for the school.
World Center-Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider commented: “The full scope of B’nai B’rith’s activities in Europe and Germany in particular, including the funding of schools, hospitals, training programs, orphanages and more, is underestimated and largely unrecognized.
This all ended in the 1930s, when B’nai B’rith was targeted by the Nazis. Bein’s school was named for Kaiser Wilhelm and Empress Augusta Victoria—an indication of its high status. The film should generate new interest in pre-World War II European Jewish life tragically shattered by the Holocaust.”
Beginning his career in the 1960s, Wolman, one of Israel’s most prominent film, television and stage directors, received the Jerusalem Film Festival Lifetime Achievement Award and the Chicago International Film Festival Silver Hugo award in recognition of his “unique vision and innovative work.”
Trained as a speech therapist, Bein achieved remarkable results over the years, educating 400 disabled and non-disabled children at the school. Many acquired learning, social and organizational skills, studied Hebrew, practiced their faith and enjoyed sports. Some played chess. Ranging in age from 6 to 24, the students usually attended for two years.
The school was open from 1908 to 1942, when the Nazis deported residents and staff to the Warsaw Ghetto. They were murdered in the Sobibor concentration camp in Poland.
A Beelitz high school was named for Bein in 1997; two decades later Holocaust history researchers Ronny M. Dotan and Tatjana Ruge conducted interviews in Israel for a book about Bien that expanded the documentary’s content. Their discoveries illuminated Bien’s approach to education, observed by visitors from around the globe, and on the histories of several alumni.
In 2020, B’nai B’rith and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) sponsored a plaque at the B’nai B’rith Martyrs Forest honoring Bien, his family and the faculty and pupils who perished.
B’nai B’rith Participates In The 2023 Global Coalition For Israel
The Global Coalition for Israel (GC4I) in Jerusalem featured presentations by four B’nai B’rith leaders, including CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin, Director for Latin American Affairs Eduardo Kohn, World Center-Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider and B’nai B’rith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn.
Presented by the Ministries of Diaspora Affairs and Foreign Affairs, GC4I, convened for the first time since the pandemic from Feb. 26-28, focused on “Building Our Future Together.” The event opened with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recorded message, commending the more than 100 participating Jewish and non-Jewish activists/delegates for their love of the nation and their dedicated advocacy.
During a GC4I panel, Mariaschin described ways that Israel-U.S. relations have been affected by anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist messaging expounded by a growing number of Congressional leaders, as well as by aggressive BDS activity on college campuses. Mariaschin concluded that “The recent Jewish experience in America shows that the debate about Israel revolves not just around borders and security issues, but around existential issues such as whether the survival of a Jewish state is still as crucial as ever and whether hatred of Israel serves as anti-Semitism under a different guise.
Jewish leaders must reaffirm the need to stand with the Jewish state and the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in their ancient homeland. Our community can’t allow our adversaries to obscure the importance of combating anti-Semitism in all its forms and to erode the crucial relationship between American Jews and Israel.”
Other prominent speakers included Foreign Ministry Director-General Ronen Levy and Minister of Diaspora Affairs Amichai Chikli, who expanded on foreign policy issues like the Abraham Accords and threats posed by Iran.
Jewish American Heritage Month Kicks Off On Capitol Hill
Jewish organizations including B’nai B’rith and the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement (CAM) joined more than two dozen members of Congress for a special April 27 Capitol Hill breakfast that inaugurated the celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month, held annually in May since 2006. B’nai B’rith was one of the event sponsors.
Another panel, “Implementing the IHRA Working Definition of Anti-Semitism: The Mainstream Tool to Combat Contemporary Anti-Semitism,” was moderated by B’nai B’rith Director of Legislative Affairs Rabbi Eric Fusfield.
Friendship Ties, The B’nai B’rith Kakehashi Project
By Moshe Lencer, B’nai B’rith Connect member
As a young Jew living in America, I was thrilled to have been accepted into the Kakehashi Program, which the Japanese government sponsors. I was even more excited to learn that the trip was part of a B’nai B’rith International mission.
The fact that the trip was part of B’nai B’rith—an organization that works to promote Jewish unity and combat anti-Semitism—made it all the more meaningful for me. I felt a sense of pride in representing my community and my heritage on a global stage. I was eager to learn more about Japan and to forge connections with people from around the world, all while promoting the values of tolerance and acceptance that are so important to B’nai B’rith.
When I arrived in Tokyo with my group, I was impressed by the city’s vibrancy and energy. We spent our first few days exploring the city’s famous landmarks, including the Shibuya Crossing, the Tokyo Skytree (an observation deck) and the Meiji Shrine. I was struck by the juxtaposition of modern and traditional architecture, which gave the city a unique and compelling character.
One of the trip’s highlights for me was the opportunity to visit Hiroshima. As a history buff, I was eager to learn more about the city’s tragic history as the target of the first atomic bomb. Walking through the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum was a profoundly moving experience that left a lasting impact on me. Moreover, it reinforced the importance of promoting peace and understanding, which are values that B’nai B’rith International holds dear.
Throughout the trip, I was moved by the kindness and hospitality of the Japanese people we met. Everyone was incredibly warm and welcoming, from the strangers who helped us navigate the city to the families who welcomed us into their homes for traditional meals and cultural experiences. As a result, I felt a sense of connection to the people and the culture I had never experienced before.
Overall, the Kakehashi Program was a life-changing experience for me. It gave me the opportunity to learn more about Japanese culture and history, while also promoting the values of tolerance and acceptance that are so important to B’nai B’rith. I returned home with a deeper understanding of the world around me and a renewed sense of pride in my Jewish heritage.
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Female Jewish Graduate Student In New York Awarded The 2023 Sally And George Schneider Scholarship
Rivki Hook, a first-year graduate student at Kean University in New Jersey, is the recipient of B’nai B’rith’s 2023 Sally and George Schneider Scholarship.
Pursuing a master’s degree in genetic counseling, Hook said she plans to practice as a clinical genetic counselor after she graduates. She said she hopes “to provide patients with medical insight and emotional support to make informed decisions about their futures and the future of their families.”
The Sally and George Schneider Scholarship is awarded each year to a female Jewish graduate student in the metropolitan New York area attending a graduate program in a field benefiting humankind.
“It is an honor to receive this scholarship and to know that my dedication to the field of genetic counseling is recognized and valued,” Hook said. “I hope to represent the values that both Mr. and Mrs. Schneider epitomized and continue to help support the people and patients that I interact with on a daily basis.”
Down The Block And Around The World: B’nai B’rith In The Community
In the Southern United States
Margie and Harold (Hesch) Steinberg, longtime members of Sam Schloss Lodge near Memphis, Tennessee, volunteered for the World Central Kitchen in April, delivering lunches to people affected by the tornado that struck Wynne, Arkansas, a community where Hesch was raised.
Veteran disaster relief workers, the Steinbergs helped people in Vilonia, Arkansas, in 2014 after a devastating tornado hit and have also supported relief efforts in Holly Springs, Mississippi, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, following severe floods. Hesch Steinberg is also a member of the B’nai B’rith International Disaster and Emergency Relief Committee.
B’nai B’rith has previously partnered with the World Central Kitchen. During the B’nai B’rith Center for Senior Services 2019 Managers and Service Coordinator Training in San Juan, Puerto Rico, participants engaged in a day of service at the organization’s partner farms.
In the Land Down Under
B’nai B’rith NSW showcased works by local artists, which were on view at its Kensington, Australia, headquarters from May 28-June 4. NSW President Janine Zimbler wrote: “We have had a phenomenal response to the call out for Jewish artists with more than 50 people applying to exhibit, an increase over past years. It was wonderful to see the talent displayed by our community.”
From Florida to Bulgaria
B’nai B’rith of South Florida sent two honor students, Joshua Straus, from David Posnack Jewish Day School in Broward County and Adrian E. Sanchez, from Don Soffer Aventura Charter High School in Miami Dade County, to represent the State of Florida at the National Celebration of the 80th Anniversary of Holocaust Survivors in Bulgaria. Straus and Sanchez were part of a delegation that included community leaders, philanthropists and educators.
The students visited Jewish sites and met with high level government officials. They attended presentations on politically important issues and on Jewish and Bulgarian history and culture.
World Center-Jerusalem Launches Hebrew Diplomatic Club
B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem has initiated a new venture, the Hebrew Diplomatic Club, intended to develop ties between Hebrew-speaking embassy staff posted to Israel. The club convened its first meeting, which included a presentation by well-known linguist, author and broadcaster Avshalom Kor, at Jerusalem’s Foreign Ministry office headquarters on April 19.
The club links the World Center’s current activities with the earliest B’nai B’rith projects launched after its establishment in pre-State Israel. In 1890, the Jerusalem Lodge organized the Hebrew Language Committee, headed by Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, who dedicated his life to developing a unified form of spoken and written Hebrew. Also involved in the work of the committee was future B’nai B’rith leader David Yellin, an academic and translator.
For its second meeting on May 29, the Club focused on B’nai B’rith’s role in the history of the Academy of Hebrew Language. Learn more about the club here.