B'NAI B'RITH IN YOUR COMMUNITY AND AROUND THE GLOBE
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- B’nai B’rith International Holds Two-Day 2022 Leadership Forum
- About Seniors: On the Road Again
- Historic Language Conference Highlights Hebrew as a “Treasure of Human Heritage”
- B’nai B’rith Efforts to Refute U.N. Human Rights Council Anti-Israel “Commission of Inquiry”
- Students Tackle Issue of Modern Anti-Semitism with 2022 None Shall Be Afraid Essay Contest
- B’nai B’rith UK Ramps Up Ukrainian Aid Program After Russian Invasion
- Winter Update: B’nai B’rith Latin America
- B’nai Brith Talks
- Reflections on B’nai B’rith’s 2022 Cultural Exchange
- Funds Raised Will Support Rebuilding and Recovery Following Hurricane Ian
- Annual Marathon of Meetings on Margins of U.N. General Assembly Emphasize Peace
- European Days of Jewish Culture: Strengthening Connections
- Seniors Team Advocates for Passage of Inflation Reduction Act
- World Center-Jerusalem Sponsors a Taste of the Real Israel for Latin American Journalists
- Former B’nai B’rith Senior Vice President Installed as Supreme Master of AEPi
- B’nai B’rith Colorado: Vibrant at 150
- Yad Vashem Honors Children’s Book Sponsored by B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem
- Photojournalist Ruth Gruber Celebrated as Jewish-American Hall of Fame Inductee
- Pandemic and War: Impact on Jewish Life in Budapest
- Michael Oren’s Detroit Jewish Book Fair Appearance Sponsored by Great Lakes Region
- Garsek Lodge Celebrates Thanksgiving with Area Seniors
- Backstory: Bohemia Lodge Concert Program
As America’s first service organization, B’nai B’rith was founded to assist and defend those without a voice. Over the course of 179 years B’nai B’rith grew to become the global organization that it is today—one with extensive hands-on expertise, born out of the tradition of “people helping people.” It’s what inspired our founders and infused our work over the course of three separate centuries.
As the year comes to a close it is clear 2022 was one of action for B’nai B’rith. From delivering vital supplies to Ukrainian refugees on the ground in Poland, to meeting with high-ranking officials around the world to advocate and advance critical diplomatic relationships and initiatives, to speaking out against the unjust targeting of Israel at the U.N. and so much more—our work never stops. Whatever the need, wherever it occurs, B’nai B’rith is there.
Through history’s most trying and triumphant times B’nai B’rith has been there to help those when they need it most. And our members and supporters right alongside us.
Thank you for partnering with us—we have done tremendous work together and we look forward to doing more in 2023!
FROM THE PRESIDENT
In the coming year, we will be celebrating 180 years since B’nai B’rith was founded. B’nai B’rith was conceived to create a social community and fulfill the needs of the community of Jewish immigrants in New York in 1843. Isaac Rosenbourg, one of the original German-Jewish founders, said that B’nai B’rith was founded to confront what he called “the deplorable condition of Jews in this, our newly adopted country.” Thus, B’nai B’rith (children of the covenant) was born.
The original members’ first concrete action was creating an insurance policy that awarded members’ widows $30 toward funeral expenses and a stipend of $1 a week for the rest of their lives. Each child would also receive a stipend and, for male children, assurance they would be taught a trade. It is from this basis of humanitarian aid and service that a system of fraternal lodges and chapters grew in the United States and, eventually, around the world.
There was an additional benefit that the fraternal lodges and chapters brought to each community and that was a social network to support the members, as well as the community at large. With many of the lodges and chapters, the Jewish community was not assimilated into the community at large, and regularly the members were confronted with anti-Semitism in all of its ugly forms. Through B’nai B’rith, the members found community, safety, friendship and an opportunity to be part of a Tikkun Olam effort greater than each individual.
Since the founding of B’nai B’rith, our world and the way we interact with each other has changed dramatically. We now live in the digital age. The internet has changed human interaction forever. We now have the State of Israel as our homeland, and we have members and supporters all over the world. B’nai B’rith was at the founding of the United Nations and continues to exercise outsized strength on the world stage as the Global Voice of the Jewish Community. We continue to do big things, yet our most valuable efforts remain at the most granular level of the interaction among our members.
Traveling the world and meeting with our brothers and sisters during this year, the issue that I am asked about globally is: How do we engage younger members of the Jewish community to interest them in becoming new members and supporters? I believe the answer is to create new lodges, chapters and communities that are meaningful to younger generations. We must engage them, provide them with boundaries to operate and allow them the freedom to determine the destiny of their own local group.
It is clear that the ways that we interact with our family, friends and the community have changed, with social media and Zoom filling in during the pandemic when we simply couldn’t get together. Now that the pandemic has subsided, younger Jewish people are looking for new ways to connect with the Jewish community. The fear that holds many from becoming a member is the fear of commitment, as they already feel overcommitted in many ways. The standard used to be to connect by joining a synagogue, but that is not as prevalent as it once was for many reasons. People are working longer hours and are more connected to their jobs than before. Costs of basic living have increased, so disposable income for a synagogue membership is more difficult. More of our young people have spouses or partners who are not of the Jewish faith. Finally, due to many complex societal factors many young people are rejecting organized religion. Yet, they still want to connect to their local Jewish community.
This is where I believe that B’nai B’rith has an opportunity.
Our B’nai B’rith Connect group is one way we are engaging younger folks. Connect members are young professionals who create their own local programming and also come together internationally. We can take this model further into communities to meet these younger Jewish cohorts at whatever level they may be ready to commit. Beyond membership and support, we hope to engage them in fundraising to benefit their local group and a local Tikkun Olam effort. If you attended our Leadership Forum, you heard me speak about this in detail. In the future, you will hear me speaking and see me writing about this on a regular basis. I welcome your ideas and your ways to make a new B’nai B’rith community a reality in your locale.
Together, we must move B’nai B’rith forward and let it continuously evolve to attract new members, and to continue to make our great name and brand relevant to Jews around the world for generations to come.
FROM THE CEO
The State of the Jewish People
During his remarks at the annual B’nai B’rith Leadership Forum on Dec. 12, CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin spoke on “The State of the Jewish People,” offering a deep-dive analysis of the global rise in anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism and its increasing acceptance and normalization, encountered on a daily basis. He notes that much more can be done to fight the hatred. Praising the progress made by the Abraham Accords, Mariaschin also warned of the threat posed by Iran, not just to Israel, but to the world at large.
FROM THE VAULT
B’nai B’rith Activity in India
Their presence in India dating back to the reign of King Solomon, Jews involved in mercantile commerce there went on to found communities in port cities and urban centers beginning in the 17th century; Jewish settlement increased during the raj, the era of British occupation from 1858-1947. With a total population of about 28,000 (it is estimated that it has now dwindled to about 5,000) in the 1900s, before the establishment of Israel in 1948, distinguished Jewish executives, financiers, physicians, lawyers and significantly from the 1930s, men and women producers, writers and actors working in the film industry made major contributions to India’s life, history and culture.
An initial inquiry regarding the initiation of a lodge in Bombay (present-day Mumbai) in 1895 was sent to B’nai B’rith leader Simon Wolf from Moses Samson, head assistant in the Commissary General’s Office in Poonah, India. When cholera and bubonic plague crippled the city three years later, B’nai B’rith contributed to the relief of victims and needs of the poor and helped to establish Bene Israel Plague Hospital, co-founded by the widow of philanthropist Baron de Hirsch and the Paris branch of the Rothschild family.
During the 1930s Bombay’s Israelite Brotherhood lodge promoted ideals similar to B’nai B’rith.
It was not until Sept. 27, 1966, that “B’nai B’rith India,” #2626 in Bombay, was formed, coordinated by B’nai B’rith in Washington and in Melbourne. Visiting American leader Harry Wender seems to have spurred the official initiation, although plans had been discussed for a year prior. Its Women’s Auxiliary was headed by pioneering social worker and educator Sophy Kelly (1917-2002), later named honorary president of the pro-Israel Swatantra party; lodge members elected physician and inventor Arie Schmetterling (1923-2001), a Polish Holocaust survivor resident in India, as president.
Early in the summer of 1967, the women’s auxiliary distributed over a ton of powdered milk donated by the Australian and New Zealand lodges. Schmetterling spoke throughout the country, recruiting new members in Cochin (today called Kochi), Madras, Baroda, Delhi and Calcutta.
Although it is not known when the lodge ceased operations, Miss Kelly, as she was called, served as a justice of the peace and became a force for Zionism and local issues who brought people together on a community level. In 1985 she arranged for India’s seventh president, G. N. Singh, to inaugurate the centenary of Bombay’s Knesset Eliyahoo Synagogue.
B’nai B’rith Leadership Forum Focuses on Anti-Semitism and Resilience
U.S. Anti-Semitism Envoy Deborah Lipstadt Featured Speaker
(Washington, D.C., Dec. 12, 2022)—Global anti-Semitism, Israel on the world stage, disaster relief efforts, mental health and aging, and domestic and international policy priorities in the next year were the focus of discussions at the B’nai B’rith International 2022 Leadership Forum, held virtually Dec. 11-12.
Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, joined B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin for a discussion on her role leading efforts to advance U.S. foreign policy to counter anti-Semitism worldwide.
Addressing how global anti-Semitism has changed and how it has stayed the same, she said what remains the same is the way anti-Semitism emerges in a society. She often compares anti-Semitism to a virus—something that can carry with you forever, that morphs and adapts and comes out at times of stress. Because of that, she noted, and the conspiracy that underpins anti-Semitism—that Jews control things from behind the scenes in a malicious way—anti-Semitism will emerge when societies are in times of stress and need someone to blame.
She suggested modern anti-Semitism differs because it takes on the attributes and characteristics of the society in which it is emerging.
“Anti-Semitism is the canary in the coal mine,” Lipstadt said. “It starts with the Jews—it never ends with the Jews.” “It may start here, but it is going to undermine your society in a very serious fashion,” she said.
Mariaschin, in an address delivered later at the forum, emphasized anti-Semitism—in particular the mainstreaming of anti-Semitism in society—as a primary challenge facing the Jewish people today. Iran as an ongoing threat to Israel and the Middle East and beyond was also a focus of Mariaschin’s address, as well as continuing bias against Israel at the United Nations.
In his address, B’nai B’rith President Seth J. Riklin, who hosted the leadership forum, also emphasized the importance of fighting anti-Semitism, saying it is again rearing its head and growing, and that we must stand together to fight it.
Romanian Ambassador to the United States Andrei Muraru was also a featured speaker. In a discussion led by Mariaschin, Muraru focused on the relationship between Romania and Israel, U.S.-Romanian relations, Holocaust remembrance and education, and security in central and eastern Europe.
Muraru emphasized the efforts Romania has made in Holocaust remembrance and education in recent decades, such as the Wiesel Commission—the International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania—and a new Holocaust education program that will be implemented in the country’s high schools. He also emphasized how much work there is still left to do to combat anti-Semitism in Romania.
“Anti-Semitism is not a relic from the past and we should not abandon our fight against it,” Muraru said.
Former New York Yankees star and pitching legend Mariano Rivera was also a guest, joining to speak about his experience partnering with B’nai B’rith in Panama. Together with the Israeli Embassy, Rivera and B’nai B’rith Panama donate school supplies to Victoriano Chacon Bilingual Educational Center in Puerto Caimito, Panama. Rivera also talked about his love for Israel.
“The Jewish community and Israel are deep in my heart,” Rivera said.
Day one of the forum concluded with the B’nai B’rith International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy team looking forward to policy priorities, global and domestic, in 2023, featuring analyses from Alina Bricman, director for the B’nai B’rith Office of European Union Affairs; Adriana Camisar, special advisor on Latin American and U.N. Affairs, and Eduardo Kohn, B’nai B’rith director for Latin American Affairs; Rabbi Eric Fusfield, deputy director, International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy and director for Legislative Affairs; David Michaels, director of United Nations and Intercommunal Affairs; and Alan Schneider, director, B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem.
On day two of the forum, Mariaschin spoke with Robert B. Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, about perils and opportunities in the Middle East, including the current civil protests and unrest in Iran and the Iran nuclear deal, as well as the Abraham Accords.
“We are now in a situation where more than half of all Arabs live in countries at full peace with Israel,” Satloff said, speaking on the success and significance of the Abraham Accords. “This is a different era. We should pinch ourselves a little bit, to recognize what has really happened. This is huge. I urge everyone to just recognize the enormity of this change.”
Rhonda Love, B’nai B’rith’s vice president of programming, introduced an overview of the organization’s disaster relief efforts, which date to 1865. A video showcased disaster and emergency relief work across 157 years, including the donation of funds and supplies to victims of the war in Ukraine and on-the-ground assistance to Ukrainian refugees.
Evan Carmen, B’nai B’rith legislative director of aging policy, joined to speak about current issues impacting seniors in America. He touched on the health care provisions benefiting older adults made in the budget reconciliation bill passed in the U.S. Congress in August and the announcement made by the FDA in September that hearing aids will be made available for over-the-counter purchase.
“Hearing loss has been related to social isolation, depression, anxiety… so getting hearing aids in the hands of people really should be able to combat these kinds of problems,” Carmen said.
Janel Doughten, associate director of the B’nai B’rith Center for Senior Services, then hosted a discussion on the challenges of aging and resiliency in older adults. She was joined by William F. Benson, president of Health Benefits ABCs and the International Association for Indigenous Aging; Gyl Wadge Switzer, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in New Orleans; and Betty Tedesco, a board member of NAMI New Orleans.
Benson urged people to acknowledge the older population and to recognize that challenges only become more important as we age.
These challenges include physical and cognitive changes, and health and mental health challenges, which can become traumatic events for older adults, Tedesco said.
Doughten said other challenges can include hearing loss, vision loss and mobility issues.
Switzer noted how important it is to foster resiliency in older adults as these challenges carry a risk for depression, anxiety, and cognitive dysfunction and deterioration.
Riklin concluded the forum with a thank you and a look ahead to the 180th anniversary of B’nai B’rith, coming up in 2023.
“For nearly 180 years, B’nai B’rith has had its institutional ear to the ground in the Jewish community, alert to both its needs and its challenges and to the threats posed to it—in every generation,” Mariaschin said in his address. “Our mission statement, hinted over all these decades, speaks to our commitment to our people, ‘in advancing human rights, Israel advocacy, ensuring stability for older adults; diversity education; improving communities and helping communities in crisis.’”
Watch Leadership Forum programming here.
B’nai B’rith International has advocated for global Jewry and championed the cause of human rights since 1843. B’nai B’rith is recognized as a vital voice in promoting Jewish unity and continuity, a staunch defender of the State of Israel, a tireless advocate on behalf of senior citizens and a leader in disaster relief. With a presence around the world, we are the Global Voice of the Jewish Community. Visit www.bnaibrith.org
On the Road Again
By Mark D. Olshan
Associate Executive Vice President, B’nai B’rith International
While attending graduate school in California and working summers at a camp in New Hampshire for children with developmental issues, I drove my 1966 Volkswagen “bug” cross-country on a somewhat regular basis and made stops at the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, the Badlands and Mt. Rushmore, as well as countless vineyards and tasting rooms in the Napa Valley. There wasn’t a geographic region in the United States I didn’t drive through on one of my cross-country jaunts. That said, besides the unbelievable scenery and experiences that I can’t talk about in a family publication, I could also tell you the cost of parts and labor rates for car mechanics in virtually every state in the continental United States.
And my almost 40 years working at B’nai B’rith has only afforded me further opportunities to travel throughout the country. With only 10 B’nai B’rith sponsored properties up and running when I started, we now are the largest national Jewish sponsor of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) subsidized buildings for low-income seniors in the United States, with 28 locations in 16 states.
Whether taking a small “prop” flight to snowy Peoria, Illinois, or traveling the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast in my personal vehicle (the VW was long since retired), there has been no shortage of trips.
How times have changed
Earlier this year, I visited B’nai B’rith House in Reading, Pennsylvania. During the trip I pondered how times have changed. In the 1980s and 1990s, B’nai B’rith’s mission was to build affordable senior housing. But now, this trip was about preserving those very units for the next generation.
The meeting provided a great opportunity to reconnect with old B’nai B’rith friends and work with the current board to secure the building’s legacy. Our relationship with the property dates to its construction in 1978.
The building was the site of the B’nai B’rith Annual Conference on Senior Housing in the fall of 1998. We received significant media coverage in the Reading Eagle Times and even in the news broadcast live from the Inn of Reading, where we held many of the meetings. The main issue being discussed in the meeting was the “aging in place” of the residents and how to provide the array of service support to keep them living independently for as long as possible.
Updating for today and tomorrow
Fast forward to now. During our meeting in Reading last winter, I presented plans for a substantial rehabilitation that would position the property for the future.
The goals for B’nai B’rith House in Reading apply to our entire housing network—that is, repositioning our sponsored properties for long-term success.
In the summer of 2019, I attended a re-dedication ceremony at Adelstein Family Project H.O.P.E. B’nai B’rith House in the Bronx, New York, for a renovated building. Residents were excited to be in apartments with new bathrooms, kitchen cabinets, counters and appliances, and all-new lighting and paint. Additionally, safety systems had been updated, including security cameras. Last was the installation of brand-new air conditioner units in each apartment’s bedroom and living room.
Additionally, funds have been set aside for a variety of services not previously available. Through partnerships with local providers, for the first time, residents have access to referrals to community resources and supportive casework services, as well as a host of new classes, workshops, events and activities.
Fortunately, our efforts to update these buildings have resonated in Congress. In 2018, Congress passed a law making it easier for HUD senior housing properties to preserve their buildings. Consequently, we are working with B’nai B’rith sponsored properties in New Haven, Connecticut, and Chesilhurst and Marlton, New Jersey, to cement their long-term success. It’s not just the modernization of the property. It’s also about additional services for residents. Working with our developer and management partners, a plan is in place that includes a further assessment, resident/stakeholder input and leveraging the resources available through partnerships, grant opportunities and staff training. Future programming might include adult education on such topics as food and nutrition, health and wellness, personal finances, local transportation and veterans’ benefits.
At B’nai B’rith, we pride ourselves on being more than bricks and mortar. Each property provides a strong, supportive and inclusive environment where residents can “age in place” with dignity.
In today’s economic climate, the ability to preserve and renovate safe, supportive housing for low-income seniors is paramount in being able to provide for the next generation of older adults.
Yesterday, I was opening new buildings, today and tomorrow, it’s about preserving those very buildings well into the future. And I’ll be hitting the road again to make it happen.
Mark D. Olshan, who holds a doctorate in psychology, is associate executive director of B’nai B’rith International and director of the organization’s Center for Senior Services.
Historic Language Conference Highlights Hebrew as a “Treasure of Human Heritage”
Israeli President Isaac Herzog delivered opening remarks at a historic Hebrew language conference hosted by B’nai B’rith International, in cooperation with UNESCO, in Paris on Nov. 15. In a video address, Herzog thanked B’nai B’rith for its contributions to the revival of Hebrew as a spoken language around the world. “[L]et me remind you that [Eliezer] Ben-Yehuda was the first secretary of the B’nai B’rith Jerusalem lodge, and the National Library was born there. The B’nai B’rith lodge was one of the first institutions to declare Hebrew as its official language…”
The conference—titled “Hebrew as a Treasure of Human Heritage: Past, Present and Future”—marked 100 years since the passing of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda (1858-1922), the Lithuanian-born Jewish lexicographer and newspaper editor who spearheaded the revival of Hebrew as the primary spoken language in Israel, as well as the start of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022-2032), for which the U.N. has designated UNESCO as lead agency. The conference also highlighted its historic Jewish roots in Israel and the success of the modern Zionist movement in reviving Hebrew as a spoken language and showcased the contributions of Hebrew to civilization.
“Over the past century, Jews suffered tragedy in the Holocaust unprecedented even in our tumultuous history. But they also willed rebirth—both in the physical, political sense and the cultural, spiritual one, and the unparalleled restoration of Hebrew was key to both of these, a marvel almost as significant as the reemergence of a nation of Israel itself,” said B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin in his opening remarks at the conference. “Indeed, Hebrew—the lashon ha’kodesh, or holy tongue, of Judaism—would now be a bridge between the past and present, and between the sacred and the more secular. Eventually, it would also provide common ground, distinct from religion or ethnicity, between Jewish and Arab Israelis… Today’s Hebrew of smartphones, of universities and of popular music taps into those deep roots too. And the Hebrew Bible, with its timeless precepts, connects Jews with billions of Christians and others worldwide.”
Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO director-general, also delivered opening remarks via video, speaking about how UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as Maresha and Bet She’arim in Israel highlight the history of the Hebrew language.
Also in attendance were Moshe Bar-Asher, president of the Academy of the Hebrew Language from 1993 until earlier in 2022, and his successor, Aharon Maman. The Academy of Hebrew Language was founded in 1953 in Jerusalem by the Israeli government and its precursor by B’nai B’rith’s Jerusalem Lodge,
founded in 1888.
The conference, featuring dozens of international experts, including from the Arab world, drew hundreds of in-person participants and many more online and was simultaneously translated into English, French and Hebrew.
The conference was initiated and organized by B’nai B’rith’s Office of United Nations Affairs and the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem, working closely with B’nai B’rith’s representation to UNESCO in Paris.
Watch the entire conference proceedings on UNESCO’s YouTube channel here.
Learn more about traditional and modern Jewish languages in “Tongue Twisted: What Jewish Languages Say About Us,” a B’nai B’rith Magazine feature story by Beryl Lieff Benderly, and Cheryl Kempler’s magazine article on the Jerusalem Lodge academics, linguists and lexicographers who formulated a common Hebrew for speaking and writing in pre-state Israel. Read these stories in the Winter 2021 issue of B’nai B’rith Magazine.
B’nai B’rith Efforts to Refute U.N. Human Rights Council Anti-Israel “Commission of Inquiry”
When a United Nations Human Rights Council resolution created an unprecedented open-ended “Commission of Inquiry” (COI) on Israel in May 2021, B’nai B’rith quickly responded, and has continually spoken out and refuted the commission and its reports.
Starting in May 2022 B’nai B’rith published a series of video testimonials from Israeli victims of Hamas rocket fire, leading up to the release of the COI initial report released in June 2022. In a statement following the release of the report, B’nai B’rith condemned it for “predictably recycling the motifs of the U.N.’s systemic, and singular, prejudice against the world’s only Jewish state.”
In July 2022, B’nai B’rith responded to anti-Semitic and anti-Israel remarks made by COI members Miloon Kothari and Chris Sidoti.
In an interview with the website Mondoweiss for its podcast, Kothari asserted that “social media” is “controlled largely by the Jewish lobby,” and said that accusing Israel of apartheid and even “ending [its] ‘apartheid’” are not sufficient and questioned why Israel is “even a member of the United Nations.”
Earlier Sidoti had claimed that Jews dispense charges of anti-Semitism “like rice at a wedding.”
B’nai B’rith responded in a statement and co-signed, with other Jewish organizations, a letter to UNHRC President Federico Villegas calling for the dismissal of Kothari from the commission. A copy of the letter was also sent to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, U.N. focal point on anti-Semitism Under-Secretary-General Miguel Ángel Moratinos and U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.
David Michaels, B’nai B’rith director of U.N. and Intercommunal Affairs, authored an op-ed on the incident, calling out the inadequacy of Kothari’s apology and U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and COI Chair Navi Pillay’s response to the outcry.
In addition, B’nai B’rith leaders have held meetings with U.N. officials to advocate for a proper response to comments made by Kothari and Pillay. In September, during a series of meetings held on the sidelines of the 77th U.N. General Assembly, B’nai B’rith representatives met with diplomats from numerous countries, discussing the COI, among other issues.
Following the release of the commission’s second report in October 2022, B’nai B’rith again called out the biased nature of the report and the COI, pointing out that the second report “entirely ignores previous criticism of the probe’s approach” and that analysis by B’nai B’rith’s Office of U.N. Affairs, which has spearheaded the organization’s response, revealed that the report “features some 154 references to Israeli ‘settlers’ or ‘settlements,’ but zero references to Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Iranian sponsorship of those terrorist groups, endemic Palestinian dehumanization of Jews or rejection of Israel’s legitimacy.”
B’nai B’rith continues to refute the commission through both written statements and direct meetings with U.N. officials to advocate for fair treatment of Israel at the world body.
As the organization stated: “If it weren’t clear enough from the unprecedented scope of the ‘Commission,’ from the fact that it has almost entirely focused its condemnation on Israel after the Human Rights Council condemned Israel in advance, and from the appointment only of commissioners with public, preexisting views against Israel, the two first reports of this body confirm a prejudice that is as extreme as it is blatant.”
Students Tackle Issue of Modern Anti-Semitism with 2022 None Shall Be Afraid Essay Contest
As attacks on Jews in the United States, Israel and around the world, online and in person, spiked at an alarming rate, B’nai B’rith International invited young people to respond to these incidents through the 2022 None Shall Be Afraid Essay Contest.
Open to students aged 18-22, the contest encouraged the next generation to offer suggestions on how a community can identify and stop this hatred. The essays were judged blindly by a panel from B’nai B’rith International. The three winners received scholarship funds. First place was awarded a $2,500 scholarship, second place $1,000 and third place $500.
B’nai B’rith International created the None Shall Be Afraid initiative to keep a focus on anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in our society. None Shall Be Afraid was inspired by the 1790 letter from George Washington to the congregants of Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, where he quoted Micah 4:4, “Everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.”
The NSBA Essay Contest called on college-aged people to take their place in combating the world’s oldest hatred.
First place winner Adrian Weiss, whose essay is below, is 19 years old and a sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin. He plans to graduate in 2025. Weiss wrote on the importance of identifying anti-Semitism in order to combat it, especially in a world where it comes from all sides of the political spectrum and manifests in countless forms.
Second place winner is Jennifer Karlan, 19, Harvard College, class of 2026. In her essay, she discussed anti-Zionism as a form of Jew-hatred and the importance of educating young Jewish people so they can combat this hatred.
Third place winner is Daniel Evans, 20, University of Rochester, class of 2024. Evans wrote on education and information as essential tools in the fight against anti-Semitism.
Learn more about B’nai B’rith’s None Shall Be Afraid initiative here.
Winning Essay by Adrian Weiss
University of Texas at Austin, Sophomore
“It’s not like anti-Semitism really exists anymore,” insists a boy I considered a close friend. “The Jews are just manufacturing oppression.” Still dressed in my Shabbat clothes and wearing a kippah, I’m at a loss for words. I’m surrounded by liberal, college-educated social justice advocates, and not a single person notices, let alone responds to the blatantly anti-Semitic claim. These are people with whom I’ve gone to Black Lives Matter rallies and protested alongside for women’s rights. They consider themselves anti-racist, feminists, and champions of the downtrodden. But for them, as for many other young progressives, Jews don’t count.
I feel a responsibility to educate, to point out the harmful global conspiracy trope and trace its lineage to the foundational anti-Semitic text The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. But I, like many Jews, feel the futility of addressing the internalized anti-Semitism that’s so prevalent in today’s society.
It’s not enough to bring up the neo-Nazis that linger outside the campus Hillel, the graffitied swastikas in the university bathrooms and the “from the river to the sea” chants heard during my college’s annual anti-Israel protests. These are isolated symptoms of the greater disease of anti-Semitism, ingrained so deeply into the fundamental beliefs of the modern world that it’s virtually unnoticeable. After all, how can you fight anti-Semitism in a society which remains largely convinced of its nonexistence?
I grew up in Austin, about a three hour drive from Colleyville’s Congregation Beth Israel, the synagogue held hostage this January in one of the most recent acts of American anti-Semitic violence. In its initial response, the FBI declared the attack “was not specifically related to the Jewish community,” a statement that received backlash from multiple U.S. Senators and was later updated to define the event as an act of anti-Semitic terrorism. This failure to recognize, and therefore address, acts of anti-Jewish prejudice isn’t uncommon, and contributes to the survival and prevalence of the world’s oldest hatred in the modern era.
Anti-Semitism is on the rise and only through clear identification as such can it truly be eradicated. There are several theories: a rise in inflammatory rhetoric and political polarization. Frankly, the cause isn’t nearly as important as the response – or lack thereof. In the last decade, right wing anti-Semitism has grown exponentially more hostile in the echo chambers of the internet, transforming from regurgitated anti-Semitic tropes into widespread dissemination of conspiracy theories, inspiring numerous hate crimes and anti-Semitic incidents. In return, these attacks are met with, at most, verbal criticism from the non-Jewish community. As anti-Jewish hatred skyrockets, it’s simply not enough.
But anti-Semitism isn’t inherently on one side of the political spectrum – it’s just a tool to unite people under a common Jewish enemy. There’s an innate hypocrisy to leftist anti-Semitism, often disguised as attacking “Zionism, not Jews” as it translates what would otherwise be considered hate-speech into the language of social justice activism. Emotionally charged and inaccurate phrases like “apartheid state” or “ethnic cleansing” are overused to the point that many young, well-meaning liberals don’t even realize they’re parroting the centuries-old anti-Semitic tropes of Jewish replacement and the blood libel. A misplaced sense of moral righteousness lies at the heart of the anti-Zionist movement, making it even more difficult to confront. Beyond the buzzwords and Instagram activism, their words seem exponentially less harmful than the terror attacks from far-right anti-Semites.
But words have power and an insidious ability to alter our thought processes. Repeating the false claim that “Zionism = Racism” won’t directly harm a Jew in the same way as a neo-Nazi’s bullet, but it has equally dangerous consequences as it delegitimizes the Zionist movement, shaping the public perception of Israel and by extension, the Jewish people, singled out as ineligible for the basic human right of self-determination. Yes, there’s a difference between criticizing the State of Israel and anti-Semitism. But when the rhetoric shifts from critiques of specific Israeli policy into rallying cries for the complete destruction of the country, when Jews in America, many of whom have never even been to Israel, are being attacked in the streets for their perceived Zionism, it crosses the line into Jew-hatred.
But anti-Semitism isn’t just a Jewish issue, and it isn’t just hate crimes. It transcends isolated incidents and fringe conspiracy theorists to strike at the heart of a democratic system of governance. The rise of anti-Semitism is a signal of social failure, its very existence incompatible with the social equality essential to liberalism. Its bigotry deconstructs democracy, framing government actions as a conspiracy run by a shadowy cabal (a word derived from kabbalah) of Jewish elites. It transforms Jews into a cultural Other, defined solely by social alienation on account of an intrinsic “Jewishness.”
A society that normalizes anti-Semitism is a society which accepts individuals as inferior by virtue of ethnicity, religion, or culture. It’s a society that spits in the face of social values such as tolerance and equality and creates an “Us versus Them” culture. Anti-Semitism isolates us from each other, from community participation. Anti-Jewish hatred kills Jews, but it also kills society.
So how do we fight this hate?
The first step towards preventing anti-Semitism is identifying its existence. We have a responsibility to establish a clear understanding of what constitutes an act of anti-Semitism, identify harmful rhetoric and dog whistles, and understand the structural anti-Semitism of Western society. As anti-Semitism isn’t just a Jewish problem, we need to cultivate partnerships with non-Jews and inform them about the patterns of anti-Semitic discourse.
After defining acts of anti-Semitism, they need to be honestly addressed and dealt with as a form of hate crime. Authorities should be held accountable – by Jews and non-Jews alike – for their reactions, or lack thereof, toward anti-Semitic incidents. Finally, we can engage in discussions with the people around us and share our personal experiences with anti-Semitism.
In the face of hatred, we can either remain silent or stand up and fight anti-Semitism. And now, more than ever, it is time to fight.
B’nai B’rith UK Ramps Up Ukrainian Aid Program After Russian Invasion
Aid Efforts Touch B’nai B’rith Globally
Even in normal times, life is an uphill battle for a majority of people in Ukraine, where the government does not extend a safety net to residents who cannot afford basic necessities or who need medical care.
When the Russian invasion began, B’nai B’rith around the globe, including the United Kingdom, Israel, Australia, Canada and the United States joined forces to provide humanitarian relief to those whose lives were upended by the violence. Partnerships were established to supply food and necessities to thousands who had become homeless and to care for older people unable to evacuate from locations under attack.
From Day One, B’nai B’rith United Kingdom (BBUK) President Alan Miller and member Malcolm Factor, administrator of its longtime Ukraine philanthropy, were mindful of the suffering. Factor noted, ”B’nai Brith UK has been operating two major charitable programs in Ukraine for 25 years: the Medicine Program in Kyiv [prescription drugs supplied to the elderly] and the Tikva Children’s Home Shoes Project in Odessa [BBUK purchases shoes for its residents]. With established connections, B’nai B’rith UK was able to spring into action.”
Reporting and Responding to the Crisis
Describing the dire situation, Miller’s newsletters informed members on how BBUK was helping those in the war zone and in places where refugees had evacuated and were struggling to survive: Many sought aid at local B’nai B’rith lodges. They reported on Felix and Irene Levitas, Kyiv’s lodge president and secretary, and their daughter, Svetlana, the English-speaking coordinator of the Medicines Program. Leaving Kyiv, they were itinerant before arriving in Warsaw.
Coordinating fundraising efforts with lodges across the continent and with B’nai B’rith in Washington, D.C., BBUK’s Ukraine Emergency Appeal over the summer raised more than £95,000 ($108,000), including generous contributions from B’nai B’rith in Italy and Switzerland. This money was used to evacuate the elderly and to feed thousands of Jewish refugees from Donbas, Mariupol and Kharkiv staying in Chernivtsi in southwest Ukraine, in partnership with its B’nai B’rith lodge. Support was also extended to refugees in Chisinau, Moldova, where a lodge has recently been initiated. BBUK continued to fund its Tikva Shoe Program and sent additional contributions to the orphanage, which had relocated to Romania.
B’nai B’rith also helped Jewish people remaining in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odessa, and organized hospitality for asylum seekers in Britain and Italy, working with the Italian B’nai B’rith, whose own programs provided employment and other opportunities for Jewish immigrants in Moldova, in coordination with B’nai B’rith in Romania and Bulgaria.
By September, Factor could state, “The BBUK Emergency Appeal fund is now providing not only medicines but refugee assistance on a wide scale, including expanding the Shoe Program to include 500 more children.” Returning to Kyiv, the Levitas family was attempting to restart the Medicines Program for those patients who had remained in the city.
Winter Update: B’nai B’rith Latin America
Through B’nai B’rith’s work with its affiliate, the American Jewish International Relations Institute (AJIRI-BBI), representatives from both organizations met with Argentine Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero, Costa Rican Foreign Minister Arnoldo André and Dominican Foreign Minister Roberto Álvarez. The AJIRI-BBI team illuminated the strong anti-Israel culture at the United Nations and encouraged Argentina, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica not to support highly biased anti-Israel U.N. resolutions. Representatives from B’nai B’rith, AJIRI-BBI and other Jewish organizations spoke in person with Cafiero and Álvarez on the sidelines of the opening sessions of the 77th U.N. General Assembly. The meeting between B’nai B’rith, AJIRI-BBI and André took place over Zoom.
Senior B’nai B’rith officials also held a virtual meeting with Federico Villegas, president of the U.N. Human Rights Council, to discuss concerns about anti-Semitic remarks made by Miloon Kothari, who is a member of the U.N.’s latest anti-Israel Commission of Inquiry.
Lens on Latin America
Launched in March 2022, the “Lens on Latin America”/”Con El Lente En Latinoamérica” virtual program series focuses on issues of interest to B’nai B’rith and the Jewish community as they relate to the region.
The Organization of American States’ (OAS) first Commissioner to Combat Anti-Semitism Fernando Lottenberg spoke with “Lens” hosts B’nai B’rith Director of Latin American Affairs Eduardo Kohn and Special Advisor of Latin American and U.N. Affairs Adriana Camisar about Latin American relations with its Jewish communities and the State of Israel. You can watch the interview here.
You can also watch our sixth “Lens on Latin America” episode, with Israeli Ambassador to Mexico Zvi Tal, where he discusses 70 years of diplomatic relations between Israel and Mexico. Watch here.
Combating Anti-Semitism in Chile
Following an incident in September in which Chilean President Gabriel Boric refused to receive the credentials of Israeli Ambassador to Chile Gil Artzyeli, B’nai B’rith responded, condemning Boric’s refusal as a “a deep diplomatic offense” that “threatens decades of positive Chile-Israel relations.” B’nai B’rith officials also met with Chilean Foreign Minister Antonia Urrejola on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly to discuss the incident. B’nai B’rith Latin America has since held several conversations with leaders of Chilean Jewish communities to express its support.
B’nai B’rith in Latin America commemorated the Nazi Pogrom of November 1938, also known as Kristallnacht/Pogromnacht or the Night of Broken Glass, in countries across the region. Dignitaries, Jewish community members and special guests gathered for public, in-person events, following two years of restricted events due to the pandemic.
“B’nai B’rith commemorates the Night of Broken Glass in Latin America having in mind two goals: One, remembrance—remembering that the heinous Nazi pogrom of November 1938 was the first step of the heavy brutality against the Jews before the Holocaust. Second, warning—anti-Semitism is on the rise and Latin American countries are not exceptions. In these events B’nai B’rith points out the duty of all the society to fight against discrimination in general and anti-Semitism in particular,” said Eduardo Kohn, B’nai B’rith director of Latin American Affairs.
Events were held in Chile and Argentina, in partnership with Christian Jewish Confraternities; as well as in Peru and Venezuela, where the EU Ambassador to Venezuela Rafael Cochao was keynote speaker; and in Mexico, featuring the ambassadors of Bulgaria, Germany and Israel and a presentation by Israeli historian and Holocaust expert Mario Sinay.
In Costa Rica, a presentation on music made during the Holocaust was attended by more than 300 people.
A Holocaust survivor gave testimony at an event held by B’nai B’rith Brazil. Professor Maria Luiza Tucci, who teaches history at the University of São Paulo, also delivered a lecture at the event.
B’nai B’rith Panama presented on Nov. 15 the film “The Rescue,” about the life of Col. Jose Arturo Castellanos, a Salvadoran consul in Geneva during World War II who saved 40,000 Jews by providing them citizenship documents from El Salvador.
An event held by B’nai B’rith Uruguay was attended by Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle, ministers, congress members, ambassadors, and Catholic and Christian leaders. Keynote speaker Ana Ribeiro, vice minister of education and a prominent professor of history, said in her address, “Remembrance is a strong way of resistance, and the Jewish people has learned to have a strong memory and to face with courage and resilience the heinous attacks suffered in its history, the worst of all of them, the Shoah.” Some 500 people attended the event.
B’nai B’rith Talks
Policy experts, diplomats, historians, authors, chefs, actors, athletes, tech experts, scholars, musicians and more—what have we talked about recently?
- “Saving Freud: The Rescuers Who Brought Him to Freedom.” We spoke with the book’s author about the harrowing, real story of how an eclectic group of well-connected friends came together to rescue Sigmund Freud from the Nazis.
- New York’s Jewish history. Hidden in plain sight are NYC’s synagogues, past and present. We explored the evolution of Manhattan’s Lower East Side through the fate of its synagogues.
- “I’ll Have What She’s Having” – An exhibit about the Jewish Deli and how these iconic eateries weaved their way into American food and culture.
- Mental health of older adults. A discussion including an assessment of psychological issues affecting seniors in the wake of COVID-19 and other important topics.
- Piecing together the nuances of life in ancient Israel and Canaan, especially for women. A pioneering archeologist described the recent excavations which have revealed a more complete picture of how people ate, drank, worshipped and went about their daily lives in biblical times.
- “Admiral Hyman Rickover: Engineer of Power.” We explored the enduring legacy of the man who became known as the “Father of the Nuclear Navy.”
Don’t forget to check out “Lens on Latin America”/”Con El Lente En Latinoamérica,” an interview series in Spanish with English subtitles focusing on pressing issues across Latin America. Watch it here.
Check out all of B’nai B’rith’s virtual content for meaningful discussions on today’s most pressing and interesting issues issues.
Reflections on B’nai B’rith’s Kakehashi 2022 Cultural Exchange
By: Oren Drori, Program Officer for U.N. Affairs
The Kakehashi program—a cultural exchange run by the government of Japan in partnership with B’nai B’rith—recently held its fifth cohort trip. It was an honor to represent B’nai B’rith, along with Director of Development Andrea Cure, as we traveled with the group from the B’nai B’rith Connect young leadership division. This trip was originally scheduled for March 2020 but was cancelled as a result of the pandemic. Japan has only recently re-opened to international travelers. Many of the Connect participants who were set to go in 2020 were able to join in 2022.
The Kakehashi program is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for young people to explore Japan, learn about its culture and history, and interact with Japanese officials and diplomats. The experience provides an important sharing of perspectives, as we learn about the interests and concerns of the Japanese government, as it better understands the issues that matter to the American Jewish community. The trip also serves to strengthen the bonds between the Japanese and American people, and B’nai B’rith is pleased to be part of the bridge connecting the two.
Our time in Japan was divided between two cities: Tokyo and Hiroshima. While we did see the sites in Tokyo, during much of our time in the capital we were engaging with officials—including the vice foreign minister, an advisor to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the foreign ministry’s Middle East department head, and diplomats at the Israeli embassy. The majority of the time on the trip was actually spent in Hiroshima, and that is where I feel the biggest impression was made.
For Americans, of course, Hiroshima is an especially meaningful city to visit. As we were told by an official from the mayor’s office (a meeting with the mayor was also part of our itinerary), the majority of tourists to Japan come from other Asian countries, but in Hiroshima, Americans make up the largest group of visitors. As an American, one feels the weight of history while walking in Hiroshima. The famous domed building still stands, and the city has kept other damaged structures as memorials to the atomic blast of Aug. 6, 1945. Rebuilt and thriving, the entire city models itself as a monument to peace.
Touring the city with our guide Shin, the son of a survivor of the blast, and visiting the museum, the group heard stories and saw images of the horrors of that day that will stick with us for the rest of our lives. But, more than anything, the time in Hiroshima reinforced for me the imperative to ensure that rogue regimes are never able to acquire the technology to be able to unleash such devastation on Tel Aviv, New York or any other city. Japan certainly agrees on that overall goal, although its approach to achieving it is sometimes different than ours.
At the conclusion of the trip, we were all incredibly grateful to the Japan International Cooperation Center (JICE), which runs the Kakehashi program, for organizing such an amazing experience with immense skill, and to B’nai B’rith for arranging for us all to have this opportunity. This Kakehashi cohort was especially pleased to visit now, as so many were set to travel right as the pandemic began, and we were one of the first Kakehashi groups to return following Japan’s re-opening to world travelers. I hope it will be the first of many B’nai B’rith Kakehashi groups in the post-pandemic future to renew our partnership and take it to new heights.
Funds Raised Will Support Rebuilding and Recovery Following Hurricane Ian
As Hurricane Ian approached the Florida coast in September, B’nai B’rith opened its Disaster and Emergency Relief Fund to raise money to assist victims of the hurricane, which had been upgraded to a Category 4 as it neared the state.
The storm brought high winds—up to 100 mph in some areas—a dangerous storm surge and historic flooding. Across the state, about 600,000 homes lost power. At the time this article was written, the death toll from Hurricane Ian stood at 148. Following the storm, President Joe Biden approved a major disaster declaration for Florida.
B’nai B’rith has opened its Disaster and Emergency Relief Fund to assist victims of numerous hurricanes, including Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, when B’nai B’rith distributed $1.1 million to support rebuilding and recovery efforts across the Gulf States.
Our longstanding tradition of helping communities in distress began in 1865 in pre-state Israel when we raised funds to aid victims of a cholera outbreak. Since then, B’nai B’rith has helped countless people across the globe who have faced adversity after natural and man-made disasters.
Annual Marathon of Meetings on Margins of U.N. General Assembly Emphasize Peace
In conjunction with the opening session of the 77th United Nations General Assembly in New York in September, a B’nai B’rith delegation—led by CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin—held its annual marathon of meetings with world leaders.
This General Assembly attracted the largest number of attendees since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. On the sidelines, B’nai B’rith’s leadership delegation met with representatives from Argentina, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Turkey and the Vatican.
Topics highlighted in these meetings included the threats posed to the world by Iran, the urging of U.N. fairness toward Israel, opposing Palestinian efforts to circumvent direct peacemaking with the Jewish state and the encouraging of more concerted efforts to tackle global anti-Semitism.
“As the presidents of both Iran and the Palestinian Authority again came to the United Nations vilifying Israel rather than offering a better future to their people—possible only through cooperation and mutual respect—Israel’s prime minister affirmed in the General Assembly Hall his country’s deep commitment to peace,” said B’nai B’rith Director of U.N. and Intercommunal Affairs David Michaels, who was part of the delegation. “Our meetings with world leaders, on behalf of the Jewish people globally, reinforced this positive message. Partnership, as through the Abraham Accords, is the future; Iranian nuclear ambitions and Palestinian terrorism are a recipe for the status quo, and worse.”
European Days of Jewish Culture: Strengthening Connections
A Paris exhibit on combating violence through the arts; a display devoted to movie star and inventor Hedy Lamarr in a medieval Slovenian synagogue; a Klezmer recital in Calabria, Italy; Jewish history in Oporto, Portugal; a Tel Aviv-based Kosher viticulture roundtable; and a survey of Jewish life in Płock, Poland—these diverse offerings evidence the regional approaches to “Renewal,” the 2022 European Days of Jewish Culture. The festival’s continuously expanding content now includes online and in-person events on the continent and in the United Kingdom.
Running from Sept. 4 through Dec. 31,“European Days” is organized by the European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage (AEPJ), a consortium of philanthropies, businesses and government agencies; B’nai B’rith Europe is a primary supporter. The National Library of Israel is also a festival partner.
Valerie Bello, B’nai B’rith UK (BBUK) coordinator for European Days of Jewish Culture and Heritage, said: “We believe that heritage plays an increasingly significant role in the national life of the U.K., strengthening people’s connection with their locality, making them conscious of their history and identity and forging bonds between individuals and their communities.”
Bello also noted it was special to return to in-person programs: “We’re encouraged that this year many people are once again enjoying the events that are taking place as part of our heritage activities. We are delighted that, after the past two difficult years of the pandemic, crowds are returning to in-person events, open days, exhibitions and guided walks as well as those still being held virtually. It’s wonderful to see that some of the open days are receiving non-Jewish visitors of all ages and we’re always pleased when this potential for interfaith understanding is achieved, while providing a rare opportunity for our own community to explore our heritage.”
BBUK’s digital booklet lists events in England, Scotland and Ireland including its own history, cuisine and art lectures, introduced by a May 2021 video of B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin’s conversation with AEPJ President François Moyse and Director Victor Sorenssen.
B’nai B’rith in Switzerland and Germany also organized programs.
“European Days” was launched in 2000 in Strasbourg, France, by AEPJ Honorary President Claude Bloch, a B’nai B’rith leader and cultural historian. Her late husband, Georges Bloch, served as B’nai B’rith International Council chair.
“European Routes of Jewish Heritage,” AEPJ’s attractive website, is a resource listing significant sites throughout Europe and the U.K. Arranged by country and subject matter, its sections focus on old and new Jewish landmarks including monuments, museums and synagogues.
Seniors Team Advocates for Passage of Inflation Reduction Act
Legislation Will Help Lower Rx Drug Costs
The B’nai B’rith Center for Senior Services (CSS) tirelessly advocates for older Americans in the halls of Congress. As the largest national Jewish sponsor of low-income, nonsectarian senior housing in the United States, B’nai B’rith is positioned to understand—and act to mitigate—challenges older adults confront relating to health care, affordable housing and income security.
In early 2021 Congress began consideration of legislation that would lower the price of prescriptions drugs for seniors. With the high cost of medicine a top concern for so many seniors, CSS made prescription drug reform a priority of our advocacy. For over a year, CSS experts discussed the importance of these reforms during myriad meetings with congressional offices that represent regions where B’nai B’rith has sponsored senior housing properties. The CSS team stressed the need for Congress to make health care more affordable for older people. In addition, our CSS team provided advocacy material to residents of our senior housing network, so they could appeal directly to their elected officials about this important issue. CSS also pressed for this legislation through B’nai B’rith’s online publications, understanding the positive effects that lowering prescription drug prices could have on many lives.
In August, President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) into law—a victory for older Americans nationwide.
The law contains numerous benefits for the future: Medicare will be able to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies on certain drug prices, and Medicare recipients will have their out-of-pocket prescription drug spending capped at $2,000 per year. These two changes alone should lower the prices seniors pay for their prescriptions. Additionally, Medicare recipients will also benefit from a $35 monthly cap on insulin and “no charge” for all covered vaccines.
Another feature of this legislation carefully monitored by the CSS team is that the subsidies provided will make health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) more affordable for older Americans. According to the Urban Institute, extending these subsidies will ensure that the number of uninsured older adults (ages 55 to 64) will not increase by more than 300,000 people.
This legislation has the potential to provide a small economic cushion to seniors who struggle to pay their bills. B’nai B’rith is proud to have advocated for this bill and pleased it will make prescription drugs for older adults more affordable. The publication you are reading is named IMPACT, and the IRA certainly fits that bill.
World Center-Jerusalem Sponsors a Taste of the Real Israel for Latin American Journalists
Following the sponsorship and organization of a successful 2019 visit to Israel for diplomatic and U.N. Human Rights Council personnel from the Czech Republic, Guatemala and Italy, B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem hosted another weeklong Israel immersion experience in October 2021, the first since the country’s easing of pandemic precautions. Eleven senior Latin American journalists were chosen by B’nai B’rith Districts in Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Panama and Uruguay, whose leaders accompanied them on the trip.
World Center Director Alan Schneider commented: “This was a landmark event of intensive emersion into Israeli society, history, politics and security issues. We remain convinced that there is no substitute to actually visiting Israel and being exposed to its many facets, in order to get a true grasp of the country and draw correct conclusions.”
Similar to the previous mission, meetings, receptions and tours of significant historical sites were geared to providing content for reporting and social media posts written by the delegates, who met with educators, business executives, scientific and medical innovators, and representatives of diverse faith-based and ethnic communities. Taking place prior to the general elections, the trip also afforded an opportunity to learn about and engage with individuals involved in Israel’s governance.
Speakers included: Lior Hayat, head of the National Public Diplomacy Directorate; Oded Ravivi, mayor of Efrat; Ambassador Jonathan Peled, Foreign Ministry deputy director general and head of the Latin American and Caribbean Division; Lior Ben-Dor, director of the Egypt and Maghreb Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Middle East experts Jana Beris, Dr. Mordechai Kedar and Dr. Eli Camon; Michel Strawczynski, director of the Research Department at the Bank of Israel and economics professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; and IDF Major Nechemya Burkey.
The group visited Israeli start-ups including ReWalk (robotics), Fresh Start (food processing technology) and Watergen (energy efficient water production), and nonprofits, Sindyanna of Galilee, marketing agricultural products and run by Jewish and Arab women, and IsraAID, Israel’s largest international humanitarian aid organization, which works with and was founded by B’nai B’rith.
Former B’nai B’rith Senior Vice President Installed as Supreme Master of AEPi
Scott Knapp, a B’nai B’rith board member, was installed as Supreme Master of AEPi fraternity during its 109th convention in August.
Knapp previously served as a B’nai B’rith senior vice president and B’nai B’rith Connect chair and was a recipient B’nai B’rith’s Label A. Katz Award for young leaders in 2018. Knapp’s installation was conducted by Elan Carr, former AEPi supreme master and former U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism.
In attendance at the ceremony were Seth J. Riklin, president of B’nai B’rith; former President Gary Saltzman; U.N. Chair Millie Magid; Andrea Cure, director of development; and Rebecca Rose, associate director of development and special projects.
B’nai B’rith Connect was represented by Joshua Sushan, national chair; Trey Meehan, D.C. chair; and Rachel Silvestain, a longtime Connect leader.
AEPi and B’nai B’rith have partnered since 2007, working together to provide community service, educational and advocacy programming to encourage fraternity brothers to stay active in the Jewish community after graduating college.
B’nai B’rith Colorado: Vibrant at 150
Members and guests celebrated the sesquicentennial of B’nai B’rith Colorado, its lodge in Denver, with a gala tribute and dinner on Oct. 20 at the History Colorado Center museum. In his anniversary message, B’nai B’rith Colorado President Frank Goldman, along with Senior Vice President Margo Rocklin Goldman, proudly acknowledged the lodge’s legacy in supporting people of all faiths and as “a unifying force, [which has] sprung into action to address the urgent needs of the day” as it advances its mission “to become the single largest hub to community service projects in the Colorado Jewish community.”
What was then called the Denver Lodge was organized in April 1872 by Jewish merchants, financiers and others involved in the city’s booming mining industry as a way to help both Jewish and non-Jewish people locally and worldwide. Over the years, there were notable milestones, beginning in 1899, when members helped to found Denver’s National Jewish Hospital for patients afflicted with tuberculosis and other pulmonary conditions prevalent among the poor. Operating today as National Jewish Health, it’s one of the world’s primary institutions focusing on research and treatment of respiratory ailments.
From the start, the lodge has supported projects in Israel, and has contributed to relief aid for individuals and communities in the aftermaths of natural and man-made disasters.
In 2020, B’nai B’rith Colorado raised more than $100,000, earmarked for the purchase and distribution of pandemic protective gear at senior and community centers, clinics and other facilities. This year, the lodge has joined forces with Jewish Family Service to provide holiday gifts for children of income-challenged families.
B’nai B’rith Colorado led the initiative that supported the passage and implementation of the 2020 Holocaust and Genocide Studies in Public Schools Act, mandating the teaching of its history as part of the state’s core high school curriculum. Its members also assisted in the realization of the 2022 Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP), which funds physical security enhancements and activities to nonprofit organizations at heightened risk of terrorist attack.
Read about another important community service project tradition, B’nai B’rith Colorado’s annual Leadville Cemetery cleanup, here.
Yad Vashem Honors Children’s Book Sponsored by B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem
“The Photo that Saved Us,” a Holocaust rescue story published in Israel with the support of the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem won the 2022 children’s book prize from Yad Vashem—the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem. Praised for its educational value, accessibility for children of all backgrounds and compelling narrative, its text was described by the judges as one that “successfully [touched] the hearts of many young readers.”
World Center Director Alan Schneider noted: “We were honored to help bring this significant Holocaust story to young readers and that this has been recognized by Yad Vashem.”
The book marks the debut publication of Israeli-born author Maya Klinger-Cohen, who lives and works in Canada.
“The Photo That Saved Us” tells the true story of two families, the Mandils, who escape from Yugoslavia after the Nazi occupation in 1941, and the Veselis, the friends who hide them after they arrive as refugees in Albania. Devout Muslims, the Veselis obey the Albanian Besa (honor) Code, which commands that a host protect a guest, even at the sacrifice of his or her own life.
Four Veseli family members were the first Albanians honored as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 1987; in 2004, two additional family members were also recognized. The Mandils reside in Israel.
Photojournalist Ruth Gruber Celebrated as Jewish-American Hall of Fame Inductee
A Nov. 13 online ceremony commemorated the life of legendary photojournalist Ruth Gruber (1911-2016), the 2022 inductee to the Jewish-American Hall of Fame (JAHF), which sponsored the event with B’nai B’rith and the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement (CAM). Founded in 1969 by Mel Wacks, JAHF, a part of the American Jewish Historical Society, commissions a portrait medal of each honoree, chosen for their lasting contributions to life in the United States. The medals are housed in the permanent collections of Cincinnati’s Skirball Museum and the Virginia Holocaust Museum; each is minted in limited numbers for purchase by collectors.
Designed by Eugene Daub, the 2022 medallion depicts the parka-clad Gruber looking through her camera’s viewfinder, as she was photographed during her stint in Alaska in the 1930s.
B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin’s remarks underscored Gruber’s “brave and compassionate legacy. Her dedication and love, not only for her own people but for those of all nations, inspire us to remain strong in our continuing efforts for change as we repair the world in tribute to her memory.”
Representing the U.S. government in 1944, Gruber escorted 982 victims of Nazi oppression on a ship from Italy to America, where they were given refuge for the duration of the war at Fort Ontario in Oswego, New York. She stated in her memoirs that the experience sparked her engagement with her faith and dedication to Jewish causes.
Gruber’s book about the ill-fated 1947 voyage of the Exodus, whose passengers—European Displaced Persons Camp inmates—attempted to make Aliyah but were barred by British troops on arrival inspired Leon Uris’s bestselling novel, which was adapted as a film in 1960.
Other speakers at the ceremony included Wacks; Gemma Birnbaum, American Jewish Historical Society executive director; and David Michaels and Celia Michaels-Evans, Gruber’s children.
Pandemic and War: Impact on Jewish Life in Budapest
B’nai B’rith Budapest Hosts Conference on Vital Changes in the Region
During its Nov. 13, 2022 online conference, “Pandemic and War: New Effects in Anti-Semitism in the 21st Century,” B’nai B’rith Budapest presented experts from government agencies and civil rights organizations, the Hungarian media and the Jewish community, who spoke on topics impacting Jewish life in the region.
Noting the crises that have occurred over the last several years, B’nai B’rith Budapest President Péter Breuer has written that ”Jewish communities had to face growing anti-Semitism due to the different theories on COVID-19 pandemic. We are a neighboring country to Ukraine; the war had huge effects on us as well. We have heard different conspiracy theories, as the Ukrainian minister has Jewish ancestors. We were curious to hear from the different lodges if they had experienced the same. How have they coped with these difficulties? And what are their plans for the future?”
Participants outlined the legacy of anti-Semitism and its current manifestations in Eastern Europe and delineated ways in which new and age-old lies that are now infecting younger generations can be combated through educational, cultural and athletics initiatives. Audience members also heard reports on B’nai B’rith lodges in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, as well as on the Hungarian Jewish community and advancements made by its women leaders.
Presenters included: József Sebes, president of the Raoul Wallenberg Association; Vince Szalay-Bobrovniczky, deputy state secretary responsible for civil and society relations in the Office of the Prime Minister in Hungary; and Tamás Büchler, EU Networks Overcoming Anti-Semitism (NOA) project coordinator.
The lodge, which was founded in 1990 after the end of the Communist regime in Hungary, organized its previous online conference, “The Renaissance of Hungarian Jewry,” in July 2020.
Funded by the lodge, “Anti-Semitic Public Speech in Hungary,” a book published every two years in Hungarian and English, serves to monitor individuals and groups that disseminate hate speech.
Michael Oren’s Detroit Jewish Book Fair Appearance Sponsored by Great Lakes Region
B’nai B’rith Great Lakes Region hosted a Nov. 3 presentation by author and former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren at the Detroit Jewish Book Fair. Oren introduced his new novel, “Swann’s War,” a World War II whodunit set in rural Maine, whose protagonist is a female police officer.
Known for his award-winning nonfiction books, Oren has also written several volumes of short stories.
Garsek Lodge Celebrates Thanksgiving with Area Seniors
On Nov. 17, Isadore Garsek Lodge hosted a festive pre-Thanksgiving lunch for 40 seniors from Fort Worth’s Jewish Family Service Program at Beth-El Congregation, where lodge members helped to cook the traditional holiday fare.
Garsek President Alex Nason remarked, “Thanksgiving lunches for Tarrant County seniors have been served by our lodge for the last 30-plus years. Seeing the smiling faces of our guests and hearing their words of appreciation are great rewards for all who are involved. Our lodge members feel that they are doing a mitzvah for people who most likely are alone during this holiday.”
Throughout the year, the lodge reaches out to the Fort Worth-Dallas community, enhancing life for people of all ages.
Bohemia Lodge Concert Program
Members of the Czech B’nai B’rith lodges were devoted to funding cultural activities—sponsorship of art exhibits, lectures and plays and the publication of books. Concerts and recitals were frequently held in the mansion that served as its Prague headquarters (in use by B’nai B’rith today). On Feb. 18, 1920, members of the Bohemia Lodge heard young singers and instrumentalists play music by 19th century Austrian, German and French composers.
Pianist Viktor Ullmann (1898-1944) left a legacy of gorgeous, but now rarely heard chamber works. Dating from the time he was imprisoned in Theresienstadt, his short opera “The Emperor of Atlantis,” in contrast, is often staged. A fable about an evil, insane despot, its libretto by poet Peter Kien is set to Ullmann’s haunting score, rich with echoes of American jazz and including a leitmotif whose sequence of notes is derived from the Gershwin song “The Lady is a Tramp.” The Nazis suppressed its performance in the camp and Ullmann and Kien were murdered a few months later.