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B’NAI B’RITH IN YOUR COMMUNITY AND AROUND THE GLOBE


WINTER 2020



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Andrea Cure
Director of Development,
B’nai B’rith International
Dear Friends,

As 2020 comes to a close, we look to a new year filled with rejuvenated spirit and hope for better times.

One positive outcome of the “new normal” imposed on us all by COVID-19 was B’nai B’rith quickly pivoting to ensure that its work would continue, resulting in tremendously rich and varied content related to all our programmatic pillars. With new offerings weekly, we are bringing the work of B’nai B’rith to new audiences.
 
With such an important and wide-ranging mission, we created a page on our site which outlines the work of B’nai B’rith today. Visit bit.ly/2RRJR0V to learn more. We also launched a new giving society: The Essex Street Society, to honor supporters who make a multi-year commitment to B’nai B’rith International. Such support is critical in ensuring that we can continue to meet the needs of the worldwide Jewish community and the community at large, advocating for Israel, ensuring seniors are protected, and so much more. To learn more please visit: bit.ly/BBIEssexStreet.

We are also excited to launch a new website specifically focused on legacy giving.  BBIlegacy.org is a tremendous resource for members and supporters who are looking to learn more about estate planning and legacy giving, as well as for professional advisors seeking to inform their clients about ways to give. We hope you enjoy learning more about planned gifts and how they can benefit you and your loved ones, while ensuring that the vital work of B’nai B’rith continues to move forward with strength.


An Important Note to Our Readers


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Felice Caspar received the Julius Bisno Award for excellence on the professional level from Honorary President Jack Spitzer (1978-1982) in 2004.
We are deeply, deeply saddened here at B’nai B’rith over the loss of our long-time colleague and friend Felice Caspar z’l. Felice passed away on Nov. 17 due to complications from cancer.

Felice truly dedicated her life to B’nai B’rith. For nearly four decades, Felice was a go-to colleague for so many aspects of our work, with institutional knowledge that cannot be replicated in data files. True to her unparalleled sense of responsibility, she was working on behalf of B’nai B’rith up until her final days.

In addition to her regular duties, Felice took on the deputy editor role at B’nai B’rith Magazine under difficult circumstances. And she was integral to curating information about B’nai B’rith from far and wide for this quarterly magazine.

Felice had the immense respect and gratitude of her colleagues.

May her memory always be a blessing.


Republished from B’nai B’rith Magazine 2020 Winter Issue

FROM THE PRESIDENT

First Memories and Miracles of Eretz Yisrael


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Charles O. Kaufman

President, B’nai B’rith International
Do you remember when you first connected with the modern Jewish State of Israel?

Perhaps you recall hearing about the roll call vote on United Nations Resolution 181 partitioning Mandate Palestine, held Nov. 29, 1947 — the original two-state solution. Perhaps you or your parents or grandparents were huddled around the radio on May 14, 1948, listening to David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, declare independence. Or, you later learned of these momentous events.

Perhaps your most memorable moment was flying into Lod Airport (renamed Ben Gurion International Airport in 1973), playing paddle ball on Tel Aviv beaches or visiting Independence Hall, the King David Hotel, the first parliament at the Jewish Agency building, the Knesset or the Museum of the Scroll. Or maybe you strolled through the open-air markets eating shawarma or hummus.

My very first visit to Israel was in 1980, following a visit to Cairo, Egypt. These were heady times, with Israel and Egypt having only recently signed, on March 26, 1979, the famous peace treaty following the Camp David Accords.

My bride Vonne and I toured the pyramids and quickly learned that no guidebook acknowledged the identities of the slaves who built them, as has been told for thousands of years at annual seders.


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This photo and those that follow are souvenirs of my first trip to Egypt and Israel in 1980. Documents found in its geniza (a synagogue storage space for archival documents) reveal that Cairo’s Ben Ezra Synagogue existed prior to 882 C.E. and is probably pre-Islamic. The revered Jewish philosopher, physician and astronomer Moses Maimonides lived near the synagogue from 1168 until his death in 1204, when the country was under Muslim rule.
We visited the synagogue in Ancient Cairo and the magnificent, then-remodeled synagogue in New Cairo. Touring groups attended Friday night services. Security was tight, with a guard booth in front of the massive building and plain-clothed “secret” police officers blending in with congregants in the service. We experienced several dusty, chaotic days in the city, navigating the narrow passages of the famous Khan Al-Khalili bazaar, American tourists ushered in and out of shops and hustled at night through darkened alleys of the market, founded in 1382, to trade American dollars on the black market.

At that time, one could take a small plane to Sharm El Sheikh at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, land recently returned to Egypt as part of the Accords and a global hotspot for snorkeling. There was one flight in and one flight out each day. The airport was a mostly cinderblock building and, when we arrived, we observed a battalion of paratroopers — tall, muscular soldiers who we quickly learned were Americans training with peacekeeping forces.

The trip from Cairo to Tel Aviv was filled with excitement. At that time, it was possible to take a bus across the desert into Israel. We flew Nefertiti Airlines, a charter flight with an international crew. We also discovered what an “unmarked” plane meant. No flags, no numbers. No announced flight plan. Nothing. Just buckle up and enjoy the flight. And so, we did. Well, sort of.

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After Egypt and Israel signed their historic peace treaty in March 1979, security police on patrol outside New Cairo’s Sha-ar Hashamayim Synagogue were vigilant, keeping guard with a watchful eye.

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Time stands still in the quiet streets of Jerusalem’s Old City.
Soon after liftoff, we felt a sharp left banking during the plane’s rapid ascent. Instead of just flying across the desert, over the shortest distance, we were finding legitimate airspace in Tel Aviv over the Mediterranean.

Cruising into Ben Gurion International Airport was such an incredible sight. When we walked down the stairs of this “sit-back-and-relax-though-we-don’t-know-where-the-hell-we’re-going” flight, I very soon found myself stepping onto the tarmac, falling to my knees and kissing the sizzling surface. Thank G-d we were here.

That’s my first memory of Israel. Of course, the drive to Jerusalem was very different from that drive today. The highways were different. The blown-out trucks and tanks on the side of the then-narrow highway from the 1948 war for independence were more visible. The hills then were mostly undeveloped. As barren as the landscape was in 1980, it was more developed than the Israel of 1959, when my parents, Stanley and Sondra Kaufman, made their first visit as part of B’nai B’rith International’s first convention in the Jewish homeland. Their grainy videos showed vintage street scenes, the Allenby Bridge, distant views of the Old City — the Dome of the Rock was not yet painted gold — and many other early images of a fledgling country.

These are just a few of my many, many memories of Israel. What are yours? As we approach Israel’s Diamond Jubilee in 2023, you are invited to tell us in an email (to president@bnaibrith.org) how and when you first connected with Eretz Yisrael.

The miracle of a peaceful accord between Egypt and Israel, negotiated between Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin at Camp David in 1978, continued with Jordan’s recognition of the State of Israel and has now led to yet another miracle: normalized relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

While threats from Iran and its proxies have loomed for more than 40 years, Israel has made enormous economic strides, with technological innovations in agriculture, health and medicine, water management and desalination, defense and cyber technology, and software development.


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A 1980 photograph of the Sinai Desert, where the Jewish people wandered for 40 years.
Israel has established relations — even partnerships — with more than 160 countries. While love for Israel hardly shows in the United Nations General Assembly, where bias against Israel is the primary language, the world body’s Global Innovation Index ranks Israel in its Top 10. And U.S. News & World Report ranks Israel No. 8 in its “Power Ratings,” which are calculated from metrics reflecting its strong military, international alliances, economic and political influence and its overall positioning as a world leader.

Clearly, Israel is turning heads on every continent on the economic front while, at the same time, it turns stomachs among countries that continue to seek its destruction. B’nai B’rith welcomes continued innovations, global partnerships, “normalization” announcements by countries in its neighborhood, peace in the region and more wonderful memories from Eretz Yisrael.


B’nai B’rith Impact connects you to what B’nai B’rith is doing in your community and around the globe. Read on to see all the ways B’nai B’rith is impacting your world.

Republished from B’nai B’rith Magazine 2020 Winter Issue

FROM THE CEO

B’nai B’rith Heard Herzl: “If you will it, it is no dream.”


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Daniel S. Mariaschin
CEO, B’nai B’rith International
The year 2021 will mark the 125th anniversary of Theodor Herzl’s prophetic pamphlet Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State), which outlines, 52 years before its realization, the modern State of Israel.

A talented essayist and critic, and a secular Jew, Herzl was bewildered — some would say, tormented — by the anti-Semitism he witnessed and experienced in his birthplace, Budapest, in Vienna, where he lived and worked through most of his lifetime, and in other European cities he visited. While working as the Paris correspondent for Vienna’s Neue Freie Presse, Herzl was deeply affected by the trial of Capt. Alfred Dreyfus, the French officer wrongly charged with espionage in one of history’s most blatant demonstrations of anti-Semitism at the highest levels of government.

Beyond meeting his journalistic deadlines, Herzl spent many of his waking hours nudging important political and diplomatic figures and top Jewish community leaders about the need to find a home for the Jewish people where they could till the soil, establish manufacturing enterprises and run their own lives. At various times, frustrated and impatient with progress in implementing his vision, he even looked beyond Palestine — Argentina and Uganda were seen as possible options — but at his core he remained primarily drawn to Palestine, then under Ottoman rule.
Though it was seemingly just a business plan for a sovereign state, Der Judenstaat was so much more than that. It envisioned, for example, the establishment of a company to purchase land for settlement that would be the engine driving the Zionist enterprise.

Around the time the pamphlet was written, he was becoming more and more emotionally attracted to the ancient homeland of the Jewish people as the answer to their ongoing predicament. Indeed, stirrings of Jewish pride can be seen in the closing lines of the pamphlet:

“Therefore, I believe that a wonderful generation of Jews will spring into existence. The Maccabean will rise again…

“Let me repeat once more my opening words: The Jews who wish for a state will have it…

“And whatever we attempt there to accomplish for our own welfare, will react powerfully and beneficially for the good of humanity.”


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The title page of The Jewish State by Theodor Herzl, his groundbreaking book first published in 1896.
The following year, in 1897, he convened the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, beginning the process of creating not only an organization devoted to achieving a Jewish state but also a Zionist movement that would ultimately embrace nearly all elements on the Jewish spectrum, both secular and religious.

His vision for what lay ahead is captured in words he wrote at the conclusion of the three-day Congress:

“At Basel I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today, I would be greeted by universal laughter. In five years, perhaps, and certainly in fifty years, everyone will perceive it.”

Herzl’s premature death in 1904 ended his personal role in the national liberation of the Jewish people, but it did not end his vision. What began, in the eyes of the many naysayers he encountered along the way, as a quixotic endeavor morphed into an existential imperative during the years leading up to World War II and the Holocaust. Led by Chaim Weizmann, David Ben-Gurion and so many other founding fathers of the State of Israel, the movement became a formidable, determined factor in bringing about statehood for the Jewish people.

B’nai B’rith bought into Herzl’s Zionist vision as early as September 1883, when one of the first Zionist conferences was convened by Katowice’s Concordia Lodge in Poland, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.


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Theodor Herzl on the ship bound for pre-state Israel, 1898. Photo credit: The Herzl Museum, Jerusalem/Israel Free Image Project

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In 1948, Eddie Jacobson of Kansas City asked his friend, President Harry Truman, for a favor that would change history. Photo credit: B’nai B’rith Archives, Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio
In America, and in every European country where B’nai B’rith had been established, lodges were supportive of the endeavor. Money was raised to improve life and further education there, and B’nai B’rith even hosted fairs and expositions showcasing imports from pre-state Israel ranging from carpets, ceramics and paintings to specialty food items. In Germany and other countries, B’nai B’rith helped those seeking to immigrate. We founded our first lodge in Palestine, in Jerusalem, in 1888. Its recording secretary was none other than Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the father of the modern Hebrew language. B’nai B’rith established the first public library in pre-state Israel in Jerusalem in 1892. It laid the groundwork for what would later become The National Library of Israel. In 1899, Herzl himself contributed 300 rubles to the library on behalf of the Zionist Congress.

B’nai B’rith leaders not only contributed greatly to the cultural life of the Yishuv (the Jewish community in Palestine) but also assisted immigrants who arrived with little or no means of support. They remedied problems with modern solutions to city planning, care of the sick and mentally ill, and the schooling of children and adults. Answering the need for affordable housing, the Jerusalem Lodge founded and built the Motza and Garden City agricultural colonies during the first decades of the 20th century.

As they say, if it had only been those important efforts to establish a viable Jewish presence in Eretz Yisrael, that would have been “dayenu.” But the ultimate demonstration of B’nai B’rith’s yearning for and support of the establishment of the Jewish State was the historic role played by then B’nai B’rith President Frank Goldman and Kansas City’s B’nai B’rith Leader A.J. Granoff in convincing Eddie Jacobson, Harry Truman’s close friend, to press the president to meet with Chaim Weizmann at the White House. That fateful meeting led to official American recognition of the new State of Israel on May 14, 1948.


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A stained glass window of Theodor Herzl in the guise of Moses, designed for B’nai B’rith’s Hamburg headquarters c. 1900 by lodge member E.M. Lilien (1874-1925), the era’s most important Jewish artist. Photo credit: commons.wikimedia.org
Today, our lodges throughout Israel and the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem are a living testament to our organization’s commitment to a vibrant, strong and secure Israel. That we were present at the creation — both in the important final decades of the 19th century and in 1948, the year of the modern state’s birth — is a permanent source of pride to each of us.

Herzl led a somewhat restless life, based in Paris and London for long stretches of time, away from his family. While his essays on culture and the arts were well received, his efforts at becoming equally well recognized as a playwright were often an exercise in frustration.

His singular passion — devising an answer to rid Europe of the discrimination and anti-Semitism directed toward Jews in every economic and social stratum — was as prescient as it could possibly get. “If you will it,” Herzl famously wrote, “it is no dream.”

The Jewish people are eternally indebted to Herzl. One hundred and twenty-five years after he put it all down on paper, we should, each of us, pause to think what our world would have been without him.


Republished from B’nai B’rith Magazine 2020 Winter Issue

FROM THE VAULT

To Pray in Verdun in a War-Torn World


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The Verdun monument dedicated to France’s Jewish World War I dead. Photo credit: Caiman/wikimedia.org

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A contemporary photo of the exterior of the Verdun Synagogue. It was defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti and swastikas in 2016. Photo credit: fr.wikipedia.org
For decades, the name “Verdun” evoked the chilling memory of the 302-day battle waged against the German army near that French city between February and December 1916, the longest and bloodiest of World War I, with an estimated 714,000 total casualties on both sides.

The remains of the soldiers who were killed populate the cemeteries and ossuaries there, while numerous monuments include one dedicated in 1938 honoring the “Jewish French, Jewish Allies and Foreign Volunteers Who Died for France 1914-1918.”

After 1918, the 30 Jewish families residing in Verdun barely maintained the city’s small Moorish-style synagogue, dating from 1875. During World War II, those families were all exiled or murdered. In winter 1944, Col. Dr. Joseph Haas, a member of New York’s Rehoboth Lodge commanding the Army’s 120th Station Hospital unit, arrived with the platoons that would liberate the area.

Snow fell through holes in the roof of Verdun’s synagogue, decimated by bombs and the Nazis who broke apart its marble World War I memorial plaque, including the name of its last rabbi. But life was about to change. Haas noted in “Yanks Revive Verdun Schul,” published in B’nai B’rith’s American Jewish Monthly, “a handful of khaki-clad American soldiers … the only Jews in Verdun” arrived one Sabbath to pray in English. “Yet it was a strange language the synagogue walls heard that night. It was a strangely clad people who uttered it.”  

Over time, numbers increased; finally, French soldiers and some community members returned. Haas and other officers joined forces to provide necessary repairs. In June 1945, Army Chaplain Capt. B. Joseph Elephant led the congregation’s first official service.

The men continued to “complete their self-assigned task of removing the covering of concrete painstakingly put on by the Nazis to conceal the laudatory inscription” on Verdun’s Jewish World War I monument. 

Meanwhile, “in a German city,” another B’nai B’rith member, U.S. Army Chaplain Ernst M. Lorge and American military personnel cleaned up and worshipped in a “torn, windowless and Nazi-wrecked synagogue” where we “resurrected Judaism …” The National Jewish Monthly correspondent Cpl. Harold N. Solomon, who belonged to Chicago’s Kraus Lodge, wrote that “it was like a great Chanukah [miracle] … we were reminded of the Maccabees.”

Haas, who had also served in World War I, was in medical practice for more than 65 years. Attaining the rank of brigadier general, he received the medal of the city of Verdun, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star. He died at age 94 in 1985.


Global Action in Unprecedented Times: B’nai B’rith Holds Annual Leadership Forum with Virtual Sessions on anti-Semitism, U.S. Elections, Middle East Peace   

 

Global anti-Semitism, the impact of the U.S. elections on the Jewish community and changes in the Middle East peace landscape were the featured topics of B’nai B’rith International’s annual Leadership Forum. The Nov. 15-16 event was held virtually this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
 
Despite being unable to shake hands and connect with friends in person, the Leadership Forum offered in-depth conversations with important guests, including Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer, who closed out the Forum in an off-the-record discussion that included the changing peace landscape in the region.
 
President Charles O. Kaufman provided an overview of B’nai B’rith’s work around the world. Kaufman spoke about public policy and the United Nations, B’nai B’rith’s work in Israel, advocacy on behalf of seniors, and disaster and emergency relief efforts, including the distribution of supplies in various countries affected by COVID-19, from the U.S. to Panama, Uruguay and Italy.
B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin hosted an informative conversation on global anti-Semitism with Ellie Cohanim, U.S. State Department special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, and Katharina Von Schnurbein, the European Commission coordinator on combating anti-Semitism.

Von Schnurbein spoke of the European Commission’s efforts to combat anti-Semitism online. She emphasized the importance of “Pause: Take Care Before You Share,” a campaign started by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to stop the spread of misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. There has been no shortage of offensive and untrue conspiracy theories regarding Jews’ and Israel’s supposed roles in spreading and creating the novel coronavirus. Von Schnurbein hopes a “Pause” strategy will help put an end to the falsehoods. “We help debunk conspiracy myths,” she said. “We have seen, like in the terrorist attacks in Halle, the road from conspiracy myths to hate crimes on the street is very short.”

Similarly, Cohanim commented on the unfortunate relationship between the online world and anti-Semitism. “The internet, sadly, has become a medium which allows millions and millions of people to be on the receiving end of these lies,” she said.

In a separate discussion, moderated by Eric Fusfield, B’nai B’rith International director of legislative affairs and deputy director of the Center for Human Rights and Public Policy, Lisa Lerer of The New York Times and Josh Kraushaar of the National Journal analyzed the outcomes of the 2020 U.S. elections and what changes Americans, as well as the international community, could expect to see from the new administration with regard to Israel.

Lerer, a political reporter, said that all indicators point to President-Elect Joe Biden pushing for a respectful relationship with Israel. “He comes from an older school of politics that sees a relationship with Israel as a key part of foreign policy,” she said.
 
Addressing a question about the need for bipartisan support for Israel, Kraushaar said that in what are now increasingly “tribal times,” the biggest movement is when someone in one party speaks out against someone in the same party who is not behaving in a responsible way.
 
Day two of the Leadership Forum began with a spirited, extraordinary conversation hosted by B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider with guest Bassem Eid, a Jerusalem-based political analyst, human rights pioneer and expert commentator on Arab and Palestinian affairs. He offered great insight into missed and possible opportunities that exist between Israel and the Palestinians.

“One of the major tragedies of the Palestinian people is their own leadership,” Eid said. “We have such old leadership who only like to talk about the past, who like only to mention history. They are not looking to the future of their people and their children.”

“Homeland is the place where you can find dignity, justice and freedoms,” he continued. “This is the real homeland… Arab leaders and even Arab nations are starting to realize slowly, the influence of the State of Israel in the region.”
 
B’nai B’rith policy specialists discussed their respective areas of expertise, with Associate Director of the Center for Senior Services Janel Doughten describing the importance of collaboration among the different housing staffs during combined training sessions. “That is one of the great things about the training sessions,” she said. “They can come together and share best practices, learning from each other.”

Evan Carmen, legislative director for aging policy, noted the diverse issues the B’nai B’rith seniors team tackles on Capitol Hill to help older adults, including on the topics of affordable housing, Social Security, Medicare and nutrition. At the end of the day, it’s all about getting as much funding for those programs as possible, he said.

Director of Latin American Affairs Eduardo Kohn spoke about the perils Latin America will continue to face as the coronavirus pandemic rages in the region. “The pandemic has created a serious drama,” Kohn said. “The near future for Latin America is an increasing one of poverty and with it an increasing of social unrest.”

Eric Fusfield, joining again on day two of the forum, stressed the need for the United Nations to change its attitude toward Israel. “Change is in order when it comes to the ritual condemnation of Israel at the United Nations,” he said. “It’s really time for the U.N. to exercise some necessary leadership.”

Vice President of Programming Rhonda Love spoke about B’nai B’rith’s long commitment to helping others and, in particular, the victims of natural disasters.  “Our strength has really been to look at what we call the vulnerable population,” she said. “It’s all about the people.”


Republished from B’nai B’rith Magazine 2020 Winter Issue

Extra, Extra, Read All About It (or Watch, or Listen)

This magazine has been published since 1886. Beginning in the early decades of the 20th century, its pages have shown readers images of B’nai B’rith gatherings: meetings with government officials and world leaders and/or fellow advocates, supporters and community members, all gathered in places as diverse as conference rooms, glittering ballrooms and amid debris helping after a disaster. Since spring of 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic, most of those venues were off limits, and as we go to press, we now meet and inform almost exclusively via the internet. We miss being together, but we cannot deny that with B’nai B’rith’s immediate action, interaction amongst the B’nai B’rith family and ability to reach out to the general public has grown exponentially.

In the spring, we added B’nai B’rith Extra to our website. This new resource is the central location to find informative content on issues in the news, online programs such as virtual tours, commemorations and events, and interviews that are simply edifying and enjoyable. We offer both conversations and webinars on Extra, featuring experts on anti-Semitism, Israel, the United Nations and advocacy and support for seniors. History, sports, music and cultural programs have all been showcased and are available for our magazine readers to enjoy. Here is a small sampling of what is online … so far.

Conversations and Webinars

Ambassador Danny Danon Reflects on the U.N. at 75
Ambassador Danny Danon, Israel’s outgoing permanent representative to the United Nations, joined CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin for a discussion on Israel at the U.N. and its complex diplomatic position within the organization. Danon reflected on his five-year tenure as the U.N. marks its 75th anniversary. It was part of a series: The U.N. at 75, which also included A Discussion with Past Israeli Permanent Representatives to the United Nations, and A Conversation with  Nickolay Mladenov, U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, who spoke with Mariaschin on a range of topics including the recent normalization of ties between Israel and the UAE and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Vision for the Western Hemisphere in the 2020s

In the latest virtual installment of our Diplomatic Encounter Series, our guest was Luis Almagro, secretary-general of the Organization of American States (OAS). Almagro discussed his vision and priorities for the 2020s, OAS’s commitment to democracy and human rights in the Western hemisphere and the fight to combat discrimination and anti-Semitism in the region.

Another B’nai B’rith program that was featured via a live webinar was Unto Every Person There Is a Name. In partnership with Yad Vashem, B’nai B’rith commemorates the 6 million Jews who perished during the Holocaust. Every year on Yom Hashoah, names of victims are read aloud so they are remembered. And, read about the 2020 Enlighten America essay contest virtual ceremony in the Impact section of the magazine.

Our office of European Affairs has provided deep-dive expert conversations on a wide range of issues, including Iran and Hezbollah amid the COVID-19 crisis, racism in soccer and the trend of anti-Semitic conspiracies amid the coronavirus pandemic. Director of European Union Affairs Alina Bricman and Policy Officer at the European Union of Jewish Students and B’nai B’rith International European Affairs Officer Ilan Selby hosted a program that featured Matthew Levitt, Washington Institute for Near East Policy; Alireza Nader, Foundation for Defense of Democracy; MEP David Lega, Sweden, European People’s Party; and our own Eric Fusfield, deputy director of our International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy.

Conversation on Race and Identity in the Jewish Community

B’nai B’rith featured an essential discussion about race and identity in the Jewish community with two important voices: Stacey Aviva Flint, executive director of Congregation Bonai Shalom and Rabbi Isaiah J. Rothstein, public affairs advisor for the Jewish Federations of North America. This conversation centering on Jews of color was moderated by Eric Fusfield, B’nai B’rith International’s Legislative Affairs director.

Anti-Semitism on Campus: A Global Perspective

We tackled another pressing issue when our B’nai B’rith Connect team hosted a discussion about the state of anti-Semitism on college and university campuses around the globe. The participants addressed the main challenges facing Jewish students on campus, including the prevalence of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, modern manifestations of anti-Semitism and constraints on Jewish life.

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng on Seniors’ Issues During Coronavirus

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng spoke with Mariaschin about how seniors in her Queens, New York district, including residents of B’nai B’rith of Queens, one of our senior housing facilities, have been impacted by COVID-19. The discussion also focused on how the community is responding to the pandemic, what Meng has done to assist seniors and what another federal stimulus package would mean for older Americans.

Be The Match Saves Lives One Bone Marrow Transplant at a Time

Jamie Margolis, senior vice president of Donor Services for Be The Match talked with Mariaschin about saving lives, one bone marrow transplant at a time. They discussed innovations in marrow matching and the impact of COVID-19 on the matching process, as well as a special patient whose family hopes to reach a broader Jewish community to save her life and unique matching issues for Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews.

Dan Joseph, Author of “Last Ride of the Iron Horse”

Author Dan Joseph joined Mariaschin to talk about his book “Last Ride of the Iron Horse,” which details Lou Gehrig’s final season with the Yankees as he battled the early effects of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, later known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). The conversation focused on Gehrig’s last season in the Bronx and what Joseph discovered about Gehrig in his research, Gehrig’s open condemnation of Nazism and the Yankee legend’s strong support of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany.

Conversation with Geoff Schwartz on Being Jewish in the NFL

Eight-year NFL veteran Geoff Schwartz spoke with Mariaschin about being Jewish in the National Football League, recent anti-Semitic posts by athletes online and the response from NFL teams and players. As one of the few Jewish football players in recent years, Schwartz has carved out a niche and spoken out against anti-Semitism in sports on various platforms.


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Photo credit: commons.wikimedia.org
Live Tour of Jerusalem in Honor of Yom Yerushalayim

The B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem and the World Zionist Organization took viewers on a special live Jerusalem Day tour commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem and development of the city since the Six-Day War.

Conversation with Astronaut Dr. Jeffrey Hoffman

Dr. Jeffrey Hoffman, the first American-Jewish male astronaut in space, spoke with Mariaschin about the journey that led him to join NASA, the Torah scroll he brought to space and how flying above the Earth impacted his global perspective. Hoffman currently serves as deputy principal investigator of MOXIE, the model experiment that will attempt to produce oxygen on the surface of Mars.

Conversation with David Schoenbaum, Author of “The Lives of Isaac Stern”

Author David Schoenbaum joined Mariaschin for a centennial celebration of Isaac Stern, one of the 20th century’s greatest musicians and an incredible advocate for music, Israel and historic preservation. Schoenbaum, author of the new book “The Lives of Isaac Stern,” discussed Stern’s remarkable 60-year career from his formative years in San Francisco to concurrent careers as an activist, public citizen, chairman and cultural leader in the Jewish community.

The AMIA Bombing, 26 Years Later

B’nai B’rith Director of Latin American Affairs Eduardo Kohn and Special Advisor on Latin American Affairs Adriana Camisar joined Mariaschin for this installment of our Expert Analysis Series. Kohn and Camisar spoke about the 1994 AMIA terrorist bombing in Buenos Aires. Though no one has been brought to justice in these 26 years, it is widely believed Iran was behind the deadly attack on the heart of the Jewish community in Latin America that killed 85 and wounded 300. Kohn and Camisar also talked about Iran’s malicious activity in Venezuela and how Latin America is dealing with new waves of anti-Semitism.

Podcasts

Podcasts, hosted by CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin, remain a mainstay of our offerings. Mariaschin’s guests are often renowned authors and the offerings are as diverse as B’nai B’rith’s interests in Jewish culture and world events.

A podcast featuring Seth Frantzman, then-Op-Ed editor and Middle East affairs analyst at The Jerusalem Post and author of a new book, “After Isis: America, Iran and the Struggle for the Middle East” allowed listeners to have a glimpse of Frantzman’s experiences reporting in the Middle East. Mariaschin and Frantzman also took a deeper look at how the coronavirus has impacted the dynamics in the region, from oil prices to war zones to Iranian hegemonism, and what the region may look like after the pandemic has subsided.

Visit B’nai B’rith Extra to enjoy thefeatures described here, plus many more conversations, webinars and podcasts. www.bnaibrith.org/bnaibrithextra.html


U.N. at 75

As the world reacted with horror to the Holocaust, the United Nations was founded, among other reasons, to prevent such a tragedy from happening again. In 1945, B’nai B’rith President Henry Monsky attended the first meetings in San Francisco, where he launched a plan of action aimed at upholding human rights, safeguarding Jews around the world and ensuring a secure future for those living in pre-state Israel. Seventy-five years later, B’nai B’rith must constantly strive to achieve these objectives.  

Credentialed since 1947 as a non-governmental organization (NGO), B’nai B’rith has increased its efforts to defend Israel against the untrue and bigoted assertions that have come to define U.N. policy. Leading the 16-year-long campaign that resulted in the rescinding of the infamous 1975 “Zionism = Racism” declaration, we mobilized Jewish organizations to protest the scurrilous rhetoric of the 2001 and 2009 Durban conferences on racism. Maintaining U.N. representation in New York, Paris and Geneva, we tell the truth about Israel and call on the United Nations to honor the tenets of its original charter.  

Our leaders and staff provide expert testimony at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris and with an array of U.N. leaders at the world body’s New York headquarters.

B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin describes our historical trajectory in this way: “Created on the ashes of the Holocaust, the mission of the United Nations was met with open arms by a world weary of war and destruction. Its promise – to deter war and conflicts, to promote a world with better public health, the advancement of culture and science, abundant crop yields and to advance human rights everywhere was not seen as utopian, but as an imperative. That the organization has devolved over the years into a much politicized, bloc-vote driven institution has sapped it of its strength to fulfill that promise. And that its member states have focused so much on perpetuating bias against the world’s only Jewish state has severely tarnished its image and, in the process, has often made it to appear irrelevant and certainly unhelpful to the cause of bringing peace to the Middle East. On its 75th anniversary, the world body needs a critical mass of fortitude, in order to return to its vital founding principles.”

As with our senior advocacy and disaster relief missions, B’nai B’rith widened the scope of its U.N. activities this year, meeting challenges imposed by coronavirus pandemic travel restrictions through initiating and sustaining dialogues with officials and ambassadors, outside the confines of receptions rooms, consulates and embassies. Virtually and in person, B’nai B’rith leaders protested the U.N.’s anti-Israel bias, decried bigotry and human rights abuse wherever it occurred and expressed concern about the growing threat of terrorism from the Palestinians and Iran, as well as its proxies.  In addition to these issues, we monitored the spike in anti-Semitism on social media, all too reminiscent of age-old canards spread at a slower pace, and forged new connections, including those with officials from countries that had recently normalized relations with Israel.

In 2020, the U.N. General Assembly is expected to pass some 20 resolutions against Israel, the only country singled out for this much condemnation. Even as the Israelis cooperated with Palestinians to save lives during the pandemic, the Palestinian leadership blamed Jews for the virus, with little pushback against their lies, even from the World Health Organization. To counteract these and other developments, the work of B’nai B’rith at the U.N. takes on added urgency.

Gaining Ground in 2020


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During International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the United Nations on Jan. 27, 2020 B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin moderated a panel discussion with Bonnie Harris, a lecturer at the San Diego State University Department of History; Ralph Preiss, a Holocaust survivor whose family was given refuge in the Philippines; and Hank Hendrickson (not pictured), the executive director of the U.S.-Philippines Society.
Before the coronavirus impacted travel, B’nai B’rith recognized the heroism of the Philippine government in sheltering Jewish refugees during the annual International Holocaust Remembrance Day program at the United Nations in January. Speakers included B’nai B’rith International Chair for U.N. Affairs Millie Magid and Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr.  

In a first for our organization, B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider and Director of United Nations and Intercommunal Affairs David Michaels assumed major roles in organizing a conference to study genocide in Kigali, Rwanda, where they delivered presentations and met with African political, religious and other leaders.


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In February B’nai B’rith staff were among the roster of distinguished speakers at the conference in Kigali, Rwanda, examining genocide. L-R: Chief Executive Officer of the Aegis Trust and President of the U.K. Holocaust Centre James Smith, Commander of the British Empire (CBE); Vicar General of the Catholic Archdiocese of Kigali, Fr. Innocent Consolateur; Ambassador of Israel to Rwanda Ron Adam; Director of the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem Alan Schneider; Mufti of Rwanda Sheikh Salim Hitimana; and B’nai B’rith Director of U.N. and Intercommunal Affairs David Michaels. Photo: Courtesy of the Aegis Trust

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The B’nai B’rith International delegation attending the March 2019 UNESCO meetings in Paris met with UNESCO Director-General, Audrey Azoulay. L-R: B’nai B’rith Director of U.N. and Intercommunal Affairs David Michaels; President Charles O. Kaufman; Azoulay; CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin; and Senior Vice President and Chair of the International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy Stéphane Teicher.
At the March Human Rights Council session, B’nai B’rith spoke about the spread of anti-Semitism stemming from the pandemic and hailed the Austrian parliament for rejecting the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS). At UNESCO sessions, our representative urged adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism and urged that mandatory Holocaust education curricula be instituted in Europe’s schools.

There was some cause for optimism. In July, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres appointed Miguel Angel Moratinos, high representative for the U.N. Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), as the first focal point for monitoring anti-Semitism. Even so, among other anti-Israel measures this year was the United Nations’ November resolution erasing all Jewish references to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, calling it only by its Islamic name.

Months before we arranged virtual sideline meetings coinciding with the September U.N. General Assembly session, Mariaschin and the B’nai B’rith United Nations affairs team were conducting virtual calls with ambassadors from countries including Italy, Latvia and Nauru. Videoconferencing enabled us to extend the horizons of the General Assembly opening period beyond its official September conclusion, through November.

With our long-time partner, the American Jewish International Relations Institute, which was formally acquired by B’nai B’rith in October, we engaged with diplomats from nations that signed treaties with Israel including the United Arab Emirates—as well as other ambassadors from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.
 
On another positive note, our World Center-Jerusalem and U.N. Affairs Office have continued to plan for additional visits to Israel by international ambassadors to provide a hands-on opportunity to better understand the country, its people and circumstances.

As U.N. Affairs Director David Michaels has noted: “Although the pandemic broadly disrupted standard operations at the U.N., B’nai B’rith continues its work. We built upon revitalizing Israel-Africa relations, engaging in advocacy in multiple African capitals. We publicly defended Israel in our Human Rights Council interventions, orchestrated meetings with world leaders on the sidelines of the General Assembly and have held an impressive series of online events to mark the U.N.’s 75th anniversary. With recent breakthroughs in Arab-Israel diplomacy, we will push the U.N. to recalibrate its own approach to Israel in light of a new era of more positive, and less adversarial, engagement.”


Republished from B’nai B’rith Magazine 2020 Winter Issue

ABOUT SENIORS

Facing the Pandemic: B’nai B’rith Housing, Not Just Bricks and Mortar


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Mark Olshan, (pictured here) expressed B’nai B’rith’s gratitude to our donors, advocates and particularly to our special family, the building staff, who continue to meet the challenge at our properties every day. Their optimism during this time is distilled in the hope-filled message of our Tucson service coordinators: “We feel blessed to have a job that we love where we can help our residents through this time of great change and turmoil. It’s wonderful to be able to work at B’nai B’rith Manor and Covenant House where we can assist them.”
The coronavirus pandemic is, hopefully, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and certainly one that has had and will continue to have a lasting impact on our health, economy and very way of life. Here at B’nai B’rith, where I’ve directed the senior housing program for 37 years, we are seeking to ameliorate the pandemic’s impact on the more than 5,000 residents living in more than 4,000 apartments in our 38 senior housing properties in 16 states.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been pervasive. Since March, and for an indefinite period, offices, schools, restaurants, mass transportation, sports, concerts, summer camps and more were closed, curtailed or canceled. There has been unprecedented self-isolation. For months, “eating out” has meant “curbside pick-up” for diners.

So, how does this relate to our affordable senior housing properties? As parts of the country were shutting down, our Center for Senior Services (CSS) worked to ensure that B’nai B’rith facilities met the unprecedented challenges. Regular readers of this column may remember that we often comment that the B’nai B’rith Senior Housing Network is “more than bricks and mortar.” That is, B’nai B’rith housing doesn’t end when the doors open. Rather, it only starts there.

Whether it’s our annual Housing Conference, Managers and Service Coordinator Training, advocacy on Capitol Hill, Residents’ Leadership Retreat or the myriad of other ways we work with our buildings, our overriding commitment is that we do not quit after we cut a ribbon. That’s when our involvement and hard work truly begin.

In 2020, residents have been sheltering in their apartments, and the building staff have had to adapt to the “new normal.” Staff have had to calm residents and their families and find ways to acquire much-needed personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning supplies and food, all while practicing responsible social distancing. If you think it’s difficult in your own household, imagine what it’s like in an apartment complex housing 50 to 250 “higher risk” older adults.


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When residents of B’nai B’rith of Queens lost their local grocery store, our Senior Center staff rallied to obtain donations of food, whose delivery was arranged by New York’s Metropolitan Council. The building’s board and staff reached out to the office of Acting Borough President Sharon Lee, which arranged for the delivery of 200 masks, a precious commodity during this time.
Hannah Rosner, a resident of B’nai B’rith Apartments of Deerfield Beach, Florida, sent a thank-you note to management. “The staff has kept the residents here as safe and healthy as possible,” she wrote. “The effort you have put into cleaning and sanitizing the buildings, as well as the regulations you have implemented are GREATLY appreciated. You have kept us informed, and directed and managed the staff to ensure the best outcome possible … I am very grateful to be living at B’nai B’rith under your leadership.”

Notes like this made us proud to publish “CSS Hometown Heroes” on our website, which acknowledges our staff, facilities managers, housekeeping and volunteers serving on the front lines. For residents, staff posted “messages of hope.”

Within days of isolation mandates, CSS staff started thinking of creative ways to support our properties. We started a weekly B’nai B’rith Housing Network Zoom call for management professionals and provided regular updates from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC), and Capitol Hill. These Zoom calls let property managers share new ideas, hear success stories and speak directly with their colleagues across the country facing similar challenges.

Jeff Cottingham, the management agent for the Sam J. Stone B’nai B’rith Apartments in Peoria, Illinois, described our Zoom meetings as “invaluable!”

Since the pandemic forced us to cancel our annual in-person meeting of managers and service coordinators, our staff provided remote online training focused on staff and residents’ day-to-day activities in our affordable housing properties. Participants heard from representatives from the American Association of Service Coordinators (AASC), the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), consultants in the field of affordable housing and B’nai B’rith staff. Discussions included suggestions as to how to obtain PPE and cleaning supplies, limiting access to common areas, informing residents, practicing social distancing, mandatory mask policies and networking.

Our work has included assisting individual properties throughout the crisis. We worked with community partners, including our own B’nai B’rith Center for Community Action (CCA), to ensure that residents received adequate supplies. Managers at our property in Queens, New York, told us that a local grocery store, where many residents were shopping, had to close for an extended period of time. Through CCA we were able to get pallets of food — including eggs, yogurt and nonperishable items — donated for 288 people. “The team at B’nai B’rith International quickly went to work to find donations and a food source for the residents in our building,” said Michael Pierce, the building’s regional property manager. The staff assembled bags to be delivered to the residents’ doors.


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Housekeeping staff member Cindy Bloom (left) and Building Engineer John Jones were members of the team that kept residents safe at Amos Towers in Scranton, Pa.

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During her visit to our property, Pasadena Interfaith Manor in Pasadena, Texas, on Sept. 12, 2020, Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas) delivered a donation of masks for residents and staff to On-site Manager Mike Garcia.
In California,  CSS arranged with the office of U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., and other community partners a donation and delivery of face masks, hand sanitizers and other PPE to the B’nai B’rith Golden Years Apartments in North Hollywood.

On Capitol Hill, our advocacy intensified. Congress debated a variety of legislative fixes to the stalled economy, many of which included additional funding for HUD-assisted housing. Not only have we been supportive of these efforts, but we also forcefully fought for certain provisions to be included, such as increasing Wi-Fi capability, which allows residents a better means of staying connected to the outside world.  

We were particularly excited to see our advocacy efforts addressed with the “Emergency Housing Assistance for Older Adults Act of 2020” introduced in both the Senate and House respectively by Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., and Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who also serves as Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. Furthermore, it was nice to see our support for the bill noted in Senator Menendez’s press release introducing his legislation. These bills sought financial resources for HUD-assisted senior housing in response to COVID-19 that allow for greater flexibility to hire more staff, acquire PPE, increase service coordination and expand Wi-Fi access.

So, still after all these years as director of the senior housing program here at B’nai B’rith, I passionately believe we continue to provide an invaluable service for our housing network.

In light of what I hope is only a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, I’m proud to say, once again, that B’nai B’rith senior housing is much more than just bricks and mortar.

Mark D. Olshan, who holds a doctorate in psychology, is associate executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International and director of the organization’s Center for Senior Services.


Portugal: B’nai B’rith’s New Example of Resilience and Jewish Geography

By Charles O. Kaufman
President

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Oporto’s magnificent Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue is a thriving center of Jewish life. It once served as a place of sanctuary for Holocaust survivors and today proudly hosts a full array of services and programs. Photo Credit: Jewish community of Oporto

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Across the street from the synagogue is The Oporto Jewish Museum, Portugal’s only museum devoted to the history and culture of the Jewish people. B’nai B’rith International President Charles O. Kaufman was the inaugural speaker at its 2019 opening. Returning to the synagogue and museum for a Shabbaton (an educational event or celebration held during the Sabbath) in early 2020, Kaufman addressed an international audience that included 400 rabbis.
How is it possible in this year of COVID-19 shutdowns that B’nai B’rith International has experienced unparalleled and expanded activity? The answer lies in two major categories — technology and relationships.
 
In the absence of physical meetings, the quantity of and increased participation in online meetings has brought together our unique global community more frequently and more efficiently than ever. Our work in planting B’nai B’rith’s flag around the world is most evident online. We’re meeting with more world leaders than ever. We’ve increased communications on electronic newsletters like B’nai B’rith Impact. We are offering an array of webinars and podcasts.
 
We are making a very big world a “small world” through technology and reinforced relationships. Most recently, the strength of our work and reputation as a “legacy organization” was on full display with an outstanding, engaged and cohesive delegation to the World Zionist Congress. Our delegation came from all corners of the world in the name of security and sovereignty for the State of Israel and, of course, B’nai B’rith.    
 
This pandemic period has proven our resiliency as a people once again. This dynamic quality, which has been evidenced over our 177 years as an organization and for thousands of years as a people, should surprise no one. Our resilience is our identity. It is our history. It is our modern-day story.  
 
We just planted a flag in a country that was a global powerhouse more than 500 years ago, a country whose Jews once represented 20 percent of a nation’s population of one million citizens. That nation? Portugal. Along with the Jewish community in Spain, Portugal’s Jewish community is undergoing a reconstruction, if not a resurgence. The Inquisition deadened our community along the Western Mediterranean. Other changes in Jewish life have altered our identity, but also are triggering a new appreciation for Jewish culture and at the same time, a new round of anti-Semitism.
 
Hoping to create a living history of our people, I considered a way to encourage more people to experience our heritage. Thus, B’nai B’rith focused on Portugal.
 
Portugal’s history of greatness and tragedy marked time for our people. The Inquisition in the 15th Century made Portugal a dark and silent place for Jews for centuries. Our people were the subject of whispers out of the shadows. It was just the kind of place I was looking for to inaugurate an annual program of B’nai B’rith forums in “Heritage Cities.” I was fully aware of the country’s law to repatriate Jews, people who were infamously forced to cut their religious roots to their beautiful country. The light of the Torah was extinguished in Portugal.   
 
From almost the moment we made known our intention to organize an International Council of B’nai B’rith meeting in Lisbon in 2019, pockets of a reawakened community embraced us. Once there, we walked the Lisbon streets and saw the chiseled crosses along the stone thresholds of Jewish homes. We absorbed the glory of the synagogue. The speakers and programs were fabulous; some of us traveled to Oporto to marvel at the Kadoorie Synagogue. We welcomed the Sabbath queen and devoured exquisite Shabbat dinner, z’mirot and all. We participated in the soft opening of the first Jewish Museum.
 
It is moving to see Judaism awaken in any community, but to see Judaism awaken in a country and a city such as Oporto is especially rewarding, some 500 years after Jewish life was extinguished.
 
B’nai B’rith has a special relationship with the Jews of Oporto and Portugal, but it’s not really so different from the way B’nai B’rith International works with its brothers and sisters in many corners of the world. Our work in Oporto has grown beyond helping battle the threat of anti-Semitism and promoting the safety of a religious Jewish community, to perpetuating Jewish identity and culture and to proudly reconnecting this historic land and its people with the broader Jewish world. What is more B’nai B’rith than that?
 
Now, the outcome: Last month, B’nai B’rith Portugal held its first official meeting, affirming all of its progress and affiliation with B’nai B’rith. Welcome to the family.
 
After Lisbon, we had hoped to make Kiev our second Heritage City stop, but COVID-19 short-circuited those plans. Since the Portugal conference, many interesting developments have taken place. Along with great growth within the Jewish community, we are involved in confronting anti-Semitism. Once again, we’ve confirmed that where Judaism thrives, so does anti-Semitism.
 
Much is made of our 177-year history, and we’ve earned all those accolades. But the secret sauce that makes B’nai B’rith the most prestigious Jewish membership organization is the personal relationships that we build across the continents. B’nai B’rith’s work reminds us that the world is a very big place, but when it comes to people and relationships, the world of B’nai B’rith International is a small, intimate one. If you are looking for connections around the world and Jewish heritage, resolve in 2021 to connect to B’nai B’rith and become part of our Jewish geography.
 
If you want to help B’nai B’rith International protect and preserve Jews around the world, invest in us by clicking here.

Legendary Leader Yitzhak Rabin honored by B’nai B’rith NSW in Australia


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Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (l) and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat shake hands on the White House lawn at the historic signing of the Oslo Accords on Sept. 13, 1995 as President Bill Clinton looks on. Photo credit: Avi Ohayon, the National Photo Collection of Israel, Government Press Office, Government Press Photo Archive

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The B’nai B’rith Centre’s Nov. 4 opening of the UNITY exhibit about the life of the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin included (l-r): Ambassador Abdulla Al Subousi, the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to Australia; B’nai B’rith NSW President Anna Marks, Order of the Medal of Australia (OAM); Dr. Tibor Shalev Schlosser, interim ambassador of Israel to the Pacific Rim States and Mr. Eitan Neishlos, a B’nai B’rith NSW member who helped to fund the show. Photo credit: courtesy of Anna Marks, B’nai B’rith NSW

European Days of Jewish Culture


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An online flyer for Urban Legends of the Jews of Bucharest, talks organized and co-presented on Sept. 6 by B’nai B’rith Romania.
Despite the limitations imposed by the pandemic, B’nai B’rith’s European lodges held numerous events as part of the expanded 2020 European Days of Jewish Culture. Kicking off its 21st year with eight hours of online music, videos, speeches and discussions on Sept. 6, the 2020 festival was extended into November, with the onset of winter cold offering no impediment to those who connected to events from their homes.

This year’s “Days” included both socially distanced on site activities and virtual programs, offering opportunities for a wider audience to experience museum exhibits, guided tours, lectures, interviews, performances and film screenings via the internet.

B’nai B’rith leader, Mme. Claude Bloch, a Jewish history expert specializing in the Alsace region, was a major force behind the founding of the festival, and today serves as honorary president of the European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Heritage (AEPJ), the consortium of tourism groups, government agencies and Jewish groups sponsoring the “Days.” She is the widow of Georges Bloch, who served as chairman of B’nai B’rith’s International Council.

Each year, all heritage groups, (Jewish and non-Jewish), are invited to submit plans for activities to be included on the roster for Days of European Jewish Culture.

The focus of activities sponsored and produced by European B’nai B’rith lodges were planned in conjunction with this year’s festival theme, “Jewish Journeys.”

B’nai B’rith France’s traveling exhibit “The Contribution of Jewish Cultures to France from 1791 to the Present” was on view during September and October in Metz, where the organization also co-sponsored a series of open-air poetry readings, panel discussions and recitals, many of which paid tribute to the city’s native son, the late 19th century writer Gustave Kahn.

In Bucharest, B’nai B’rith Romania and the Jewish Federation of Romania presented the conference, “Urban Legends of the Jews of Bucharest” with faculty from the University of Bucharest, and hosted a Sept. 6 program live streamed from the Jewish Museum of History and Culture, which will be posted online at a later date.

Scheduling some events in advance of the official opening of Days of European Jewish Culture, B’nai B’rith U.K. hosted a Sept. 1 online guided Jewish heritage tour of Bradford, in West Yorkshire. A streamed event on the next day featured Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, whose book “Walking with the Light” maps the remarkable journey from Frankfurt to London that he made on foot, carrying with him a flame from the eternal light of the German synagogue led by his grandfather before the Holocaust. In September and October, audience members could attend live online tours of the Judaica collection at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum and of the National Library of Israel’s installation, Jewish Journeys, on Zoom.


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Events hosted by B’nai B’rith U.K. for European Days of Jewish Culture included a talk by Rabbi Jonathan Wittenburg, author of Walking with the Light, a diary of reflections made during his trip on foot from Frankfurt to London, when he carried with him a flame from the eternal light of the German synagogue led by his grandfather.

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Slovakia’s B’nai B’rith Tolerance Lodge presented an on-site tour of highlights from the collection of the Jewish Museum and Orthodox synagogue in Presov. Photo credit: commons.wikimedia.org
B’nai B’rith’s U.K. President, Alan Miller, reflected “We were delighted that so many of our heritage contacts responded positively, enabling us to put together a program of mostly virtual events.  The coronavirus restrictions have enabled us to go places from the comfort of our homes that we might not otherwise have been able to easily visit.”

Bratislava’s B’nai B’rith Tolerance Lodge in Slovakia organized an on-site tour of highlights of the Jewish Museum in Presov in September.

In keeping with the “Jewish Journeys” theme, the B’nai B’rith Lodge in Denmark presented a Nov. 12 program focusing on the history, faith and heritage of the country’s diverse Jewish immigrants.


Republished from B’nai B’rith Magazine 2020 Winter Issue

The Bershad Scholarship Fund Changes Lives of  Winners

Congratulations to all four 2020 winners of the Michael and Florence Bershad Scholarship.

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Talia Levine, Teaneck, N.J., will attend Barnard/JTS List College in New York City

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Alexa Von Mueffling, New York, N.Y., is an undergraduate at Barnard College.

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Ella Serfaty, East Meadow, N.Y., is a student at Washington College, in St. Louis, Mo.

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Uriel Sussman, Valley Stream, N.Y., is enrolled at Yeshiva University, in New York City.
The Bershad Scholarship Fund awarded scholarships to four students who began college this fall.

Created in the 1970s with cooperation from what was then the B’nai B’rith Career and Counseling Services office in New York City, the Bershad Scholarship Fund has supported 30 students to date, originally awarding scholarships of $10,000 paid over four years.

As of September 2020, the Bershad/B’nai B’rith Scholarship Committee increased the scholarship amounts to $20,000 annually to make an even more significant difference in the lives of the recipients. The four winning students will each receive $80,000 paid over four years.

Michael Bershad, whose family lacked the funds to send him to college as a young adult, established the scholarship fund to honor the memory of his wife, Florence. Upon his passing, his family added Michael’s name to the scholarship fund as well.

The four 2020 recipients are: Talia Levine, Teaneck, New Jersey, who enrolled at the Barnard/JTS List College, Double Degree Program; Alexa Von Mueffling, New York, New York, who is now attending Barnard College; Ella Serfaty, East Meadow, New York, who is attending Washington University in St. Louis; and Uriel Sussman, Valley Stream, New York, who is attending Yeshiva University.

The essay question, a key component of the application, asked each candidate to share why they applied for the scholarship and how they would use it to support the Jewish community in the future. Through their essays, each selected student demonstrated their commitment to improving the lives of others. Active leaders in their high schools and synagogues, they plan to continue their lives of service as they pursue degrees in medicine, law, community engagement and education.

Rhonda Barad, who chaired the selection committee, shared, “It was my honor to serve as Chair of the Bershad scholarships. It is our hope that our decisions have a long-term impact on each of their futures and that of the Jewish Community.”

In addition to Barad as chair, the selection committee included: Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president, New York Board of Rabbis; community leader Stephanie Garry; Charles O. Kaufman, B’nai B’rith International president; Seth Riklin, chair of the B’nai B’rith Executive Board of Directors; and Michael Gellman, treasurer, B’nai B’rith.   

After extensive interviews with the finalists, the committee members shared that it was a difficult task to choose just four from the many who applied.


Republished from B’nai B’rith Magazine 2020 Winter Issue

Congratulations To…Us!

B’nai B’rith Magazine has again won a prestigious Rockower Award for Journalism Excellence from the American Jewish Press Association.

We earned a 2nd prize in the category:
Foundation of Ethnic Understanding Award for Excellence in Interfaith Relations Reporting.

Our story:
“The Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom: Finding Common Ground” by Miranda Spivack

Can be found here bit.ly/3leyyNP


Senior Housing Annual Conference: Sharing Best Practices

Every fall, B’nai B’rith Center for Senior Services (CSS) facilitates a three-day training session with the B’nai B’rith Senior Housing network board members and building management involved with our 36 properties. The usual in-person event went virtual this year in the face of COVID-19. Among some of the conference platform changes for the Oct. 18-20 event: Building service coordinators were included as participants for the first time.

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From Oct. 18- Oct. 20, the Center for Senior Services coordinated an online version of its annual housing conference. Participants included: Center for Senior Services Chair Marvin Siflinger (bottom left photo); B’nai B’rith International Chairman of the Executive Board Seth Riklin (bottom right photo) and building managers and service providers from across the nation (top photo), as well as B’nai B’rith Center for Senior Services staff.
The annual conference is a chance for senior housing network participants to learn from one another and from experts in the affordable housing field.

One of the more impactful sessions this year focused on case studies—examples of real issues that occurred at some of the housing properties. Led by CSS Associate Director Janel Doughten, the conversations about real-world examples provided the opportunity to gain the perspectives of staff and board members on how to best handle resident issues, including: How should staff handle construction updates in their building, or when residents express concern on COVID-19 transmission? What is the best plan of action to determine if COVID-19 testing for residents should take place in the building?

Board members were updated on new U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) policies and COVID-19 protocols. While the board members were briefed on the latest CSS activities, they also received training on the significance of advocacy—speaking up on the issues that matter to them.

Participants had a chance to share best practices and building updates during “Around the Network,” which is always an important session.

“The conference was very informative for me. We don’t typically have direct access to a HUD contact in this way, when we can ask as many questions as we want to and gain clarity on new protocols. In a time when it is so dire to keep residents safe and healthy, I’m also glad the conference focused on COVID-19 best practices and discussions in each session,” said Lisa Bryan, assistant manager of Deerfield Beach Apartments in Deerfield Beach, Florida.

Speakers this year included HUD Office of Multifamily Housing Senior Advisor Robert Iber and two experts from Health Benefits ABCs LLC, Research and Policy Associate Kendra Kuehn, M.S.W., and Consultant Alayna Waldrum. They were joined by longtime B’nai B’rith guest speaker, Atkins Consulting Professionals President Amanda Atkins and our own in-house experts, Doughten and CSS Legislative Director for Aging Policy Evan Carmen.

B’nai B’rith Senior Housing Co-Chair Abbie Stone noted: “The conference was a demonstration of the creativity and flexibility of the Washington, D.C. staff. They thought of everything, including having CSS Senior Program Associate Gracie Cohen on hand for IT assistance. I found Bob Iber to be a housing policy wizard and maven. He was keen, witty and really knowledgeable. I always enjoy the case studies and once again was not disappointed with real life situations presented for us to ponder with our peers. It was especially heart-warming to see all of the folks who gathered from across the states join together and share the methods of best practice and partnership in this unique setting. The Housing Committee is an unstoppable force!”

Topics covered the gamut of updates pertaining to COVID-19 including: Clarifying eviction moratorium limitations, instituting house rules and visitor policies, providing service coordination, preparing for potential pandemic shut-downs and arbitrating conflicts between residents.


Republished from B’nai B’rith Magazine 2020 Winter Issue

Achim/Gate City Lodge Honors Essay Contest Winners Virtually


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Seventh grade 1st prize winner Sophie Grace Thomas, from Decatur, Ga.

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Eighth grade 1st prize winner Anjana Murthy, from Peachtree City, Ga.

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Ninth grade 1st prize winner Ilana Levenberg, from Atlanta, Ga.
Atlanta’s B’nai B’rith Achim/Gate City Lodge held a live online ceremony in August honoring the nine winners of Enlighten America, its annual essay contest for 7th through 9th graders in the Atlanta area. A video of the event can be viewed on B’nai B’rith International’s YouTube channel.

This year, the panel of local judges reviewed 26 compositions by young people whose writing underscored their personal beliefs regarding equality and respectful treatment for all regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation. Their essays incorporated a quote from an American president or world, national or local leader, which they related to current issues in today’s society.

Seventh grader Sophie Grace Thomas, who earned a first-place nod, wrote in her essay: “We can overcome intolerance through a different mindset driven by love, which respects all human beings and supports our ability to live as one.”

Guest speaker B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin commented on the contest’s theme, Tolerance, Equality and Respect for All, as he described the shared legacies of the Jewish and African American communities, and noted  the organization’s commitment to civil rights: “B’nai B’rith recognizes that our fight on behalf of the Jewish people includes the same fight for all religious and ethnic groups, to live without fear. Jews and Blacks as minorities found common cause based on our own history and the plight of African Americans; these experiences brought us together to try and create a better, more mutually respectful society.”
 
The students who submitted the winning essays, judged on content and clarity of expression, were awarded monetary prizes, books and certificates. First, second and third prize categories were designated for recipients in all three grades.   

All the winners signed the Enlighten America Pledge, a personal promise to acknowledge the humanity of all peoples and to educate and inspire others to make a stand against hate and prejudice in their daily lives.

Still timely and important today, B’nai B’rith launched Enlighten America in 2000 as a response to shootings sparked by racial and religious hatred in Los Angeles, Chicago, Pittsburgh, New York and elsewhere.
 
The B’nai B’rith Enlighten America program was the inspiration for our new interactive initiative, None Shall Be Afraid. Read more here.

2020 Student winners of the Enlighten America Essay Contest

Sponsored by Achim/Gate City Lodge, Atlanta

$350 first place prizes:
Sophie Grace Thomas, 7th grade
Anjana Murthy, 8th grade
Ilana Levenberg, 9th grade

$250 second place prizes:
Noa Zusman, 7th grade
Genesis Isom, 8th grade
Austin Corn, 9th grade

$150 third place prizes:
Simran Gupta, 7th grade
Kymali Pierre, 8th grade
Emily Jane Kurtz, 9th grade


Republished from B’nai B’rith Magazine 2020 Winter Issue

The American Jewish International Relations Institute now under B’nai B’rith International umbrella


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Ambassador Richard Schifter was honored with B’nai B’rith’s Distinguished Humanitarian Award at the organization’s 175th anniversary celebration on April 25, 2018. L-R: B’nai B’rith President Gary P. Saltzman (2015-18); Ambassador Schifter; B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin.
The non-profit American Jewish International Relations Institute (AJIRI), founded by the late Ambassador Richard Schifter to promote Israel’s cause at the United Nations, has now become a part of B’nai B’rith International. During the past several years, the organizations had often enjoyed a collaborative relationship, in the furtherance of shared goals.

Now to be known as AJIRI-BBI, the Institute will continue to expand its outreach, focusing on advocacy and education intended to advance Israel’s fair treatment, not only at the U.N. but with agencies and governmental bodies worldwide.

“AJIRI is a welcome addition to the B’nai B’rith family,” B’nai B’rith President Charles O. Kaufman said. “Simply, we are deeply honored to be linked with the distinguished board dedicated to realizing the ambassador’s legacy. Our overlapping missions and excellent chemistry will strengthen our already strong policy efforts in advocating for a safer and more secure Israel in the world and within the United Nations.”

B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin added: “The campaign to address bias in U.N. voting on Israel-related issues will be tremendously strengthened by AJIRI’s joining forces with B’nai B’rith. AJIRI-BBI will continue to decry the double standards which are unfairly applied to Israel at the U.N. at the General Assembly in New York, and at its agencies around the world.”

The merger stands as a tribute to Schifter, who was active as AJIRI’s chairman until his death at age 97 on Oct. 3, a short time after the agreement took effect. A friend, colleague and inspirational leader, he worked with B’nai B’rith for nearly a decade to advocate for Israel and to build connections with nations around the world.

In 1938, the 15-year-old Schifter emigrated from Austria to America before the Nazi invasion. His parents, who could not obtain visas, perished in the Holocaust. A member of the Army Intelligence Unit during and after World War II, he went on to become a lawyer, and later, a diplomat, serving in three presidential administrations, including as Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs from 1985 to 1992.

This year, Schifter had observed: “It has been a pleasure for us to note how AJIRI’s and B’nai B’rith’s accomplishments produced highly useful results for the benefit of U.S. foreign policy objectives and of Israel.” He envisioned a future in which “we look forward to witnessing many highly beneficial results.”

The loss of his sage presence is felt by all who knew him.


Republished from B’nai B’rith Magazine 2020 Winter Issue

B’nai B’rith National Healthcare Award Focuses on the Industry in Unprecedented Times


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Acknowledging the efforts of caregivers on the front line of the pandemic in her acceptance remarks, Marna Borgstrom, CEO of Yale New Haven Health and Yale Hospital in Connecticut, is the 2020 recipient of B’nai B’rith’s Charles S. Lauer National Healthcare Award. Borgstrom says she is proud of helping to build a talented, diverse group of leaders dedicated to improving patient care.
With health issues at the center of the world in the face of the novel Coronavirus pandemic, the B’nai B’rith International Charles S. Lauer National Healthcare Award took on greater significance this year.  

In place of an award usually bestowed at a dinner ceremony, a virtual event saluted the award winner and global healthcare workers for their efforts caring for people fighting COVID-19.

On Oct. 28, healthcare professionals and B’nai B’rith members and supporters tuned in virtually to hear salutes to the honoree, Marna Borgstrom, CEO of Yale New Haven Health and Yale Hospital, to learn about advancements in the Yale New Haven network and, most importantly, hear tributes to the healthcare heroes who have been fighting the battle against COVID-19, the illness caused by the Coronavirus, since March.

Borgstrom dedicated the award to the healthcare heroes in the Yale New Haven network and to healthcare workers around the world and stressed that, this year, the award is more theirs than hers.

“At [Borgstrom’s] urging, we even more importantly focus our attention in our virtual award ceremony on all those in our field standing up to the COVID-19 challenge,” co-chair Charles Kahn said. Kahn is the president and CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals. “The coronavirus has affected all of us but not like the front-line caregivers in hospitals across the nation that have put themselves in harm’s way to serve all of us. We owe them so much and honor them this year for their healthcare leadership.”

Borgstrom emphasized the heroic efforts of frontline healthcare workers in her acceptance remarks. “Never has that been more evident than in the response of our physicians, nurses, frontline caregivers and others who support them to the unprecedented threat of COVID-19,” she said in her acceptance address. “As most people sheltered in place and as the world as we knew it came to a crushing halt, the heroes among us – the women and men of our healthcare systems – put themselves at risk daily to meet the needs of those afflicted by the novel Coronavirus or other health-related emergencies.”

The B’nai B’rith National Healthcare Award has a rich history: It was established in 1983 to highlight the outstanding work of individuals and corporations that set the standard for health and educational initiatives that better the lives of people throughout their communities and across the globe. The esteemed recipients of the National Healthcare Award have shown a history of dedicated leadership and outstanding civic involvement in the healthcare field and in the general community.  

“The mission of Yale New Haven Health is closely aligned with the work of B’nai B’rith,” Borgstrom said. “As an organization fully dedicated to social justice and civic involvement, B’nai B’rith has been a true leader in our communities. And, like the organization I am proud to lead, it has worked tirelessly to drive change based upon core values of fairness and equity.”

“The date of B’nai B’rith’s Healthcare Award is circled on my calendar every year, because it’s where my personal and professional backgrounds come together in a very meaningful way,” said co-chair Rick Pollack, who serves as the president and CEO of the American Hospital Association. “Since 1843, B’nai B’rith has worked successfully to make life safer, more tolerant and better for everyone. Hospitals share the same mission, and in this pandemic year, when caring, compassion and health care heroes have helped to hold our country together, I am especially proud to have a foot in both worlds.”

To view the tribute video and read the tribute journal visit: www.bnaibrith.org/healthcareaward.html.


Republished from B’nai B’rith Magazine 2020 Winter Issue

Backstory: The first Jew on faculty at Yale University, German immigrant Sigismund Waterman

Sigismund Waterman (c. 1819-1898) also studied medicine there and graduated to become the school’s first Jewish doctor. Waterman, a New York City police surgeon for three decades, published numerous scientific articles as well. Joining B’nai B’rith in its earliest years, he served as its seventh president from 1861-63. His numerous accomplishments included founding the District 1 Manhattan Maimonides Library, open to the public from its inception in 1852, and Yonkers’ Jewish Home for the Aged in 1882, where he continued as attending physician until his death. 

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