B'NAI B'RITH IN YOUR COMMUNITY AND AROUND THE GLOBE
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- On Europe’s Streets: Annual Marches Glorifying Nazism – Groundbreaking New Report
- International Holocaust Remembrance Day Events Emphasize Survivors’ Stories
- B’nai B’rith Director Of Legislative Affairs Rabbi Eric Fusfield Serves On Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s Commission To Combat Anti-Semitism
- B’nai B’rith Disaster Relief Helps Earthquake Victims
- EU-Israel Relationship Strengthened By B’nai B’rith World Center Immersive Israel Experience
- Reflecting On One Year Of War In Ukraine: Webinar
- Mental Health Issues For Seniors: Center For Senior Services And National Alliance On Mental Health Team Up
- 2022 Annual Report
- Isadore Garsek Lodge Dinner Raises Funds To Assist Ukrainian Refugees
- Atlanta’s Achim/Gate City Lodge Focuses On Traditional And New Initiatives
- B’nai B’rith France Celebrates Tu B’Shavat Traditions With Seniors
- B’nai B’rith Talks
- Remembering: Moishe Smith (1950-2023), Past President Of B’nai B’rith
- Remembering: Klaus Netter (1930-2022): From Holocaust Refugee To Fighter For Human Rights
- Retiring: Rhonda Love, B’nai B’rith Vice President Of Programming
- Backstory: 1933 Conference For The Relief Of German Jewry
On Europe’s Streets: Annual Marches Glorifying Nazism - Groundbreaking New Report
The B’nai B’rith Office of European Union Affairs in Brussels and Berlin’s Amadeu Antonio Stiftung, a foundation that combats racial injustice, have partnered with journalists, historians, activists, government officials and legal experts to publish “On Europe’s Streets: Annual Marches Glorifying Nazism.” The report, which was funded by the German Foreign Office, was released during a live online event in Brussels on March 14.
The report, intended for Jewish groups, government agencies, law enforcement and civil liberties organizations, provides background information on 12 marches occurring in cities including Dresden, Germany; Budapest, Hungary and Madrid, Spain.
The document provides a legal analysis detailing existing Holocaust heritage, militant democracy and memory laws in Europe and the relevant legal frameworks enacted to address issues involving public demonstrations involving hate speech. It provides information on existing regulations and statues which have been put in place to combat these phenomena. Additionally, the case law of the European Court of Human Rights also offers legal precedent for the adequate implementation of these laws.
Consequently, in many cases in which marches glorifying Nazism and/or fascism persist with impunity, it is with the acquiescence or active participation of those charged with the responsibility to act to prevent them.
“On Europe’s Streets” includes recommendations for local, national and European level action to curb the recurring manifestations of hate on Europe’s streets.
Katharina von Schnurbein, European Commission coordinator on Combatting Anti-Semitism and Fostering Jewish Life, writes in her foreword to “On Europe’s Streets”: “We are thankful that B’nai B’rith International and the Amadeu Antonio Stiftung are contributing valuable insights and recommendations to ongoing efforts to secure a European public space free from hatred and anti-Semitism and which honors the memory of the Holocaust.”
In reviewing the report, Robert J. Williams, advisor to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and UNESCO chair on Genocide Education noted: “This invaluable resource on notorious efforts to heroize fascist individuals and movements provides the foundations needed for a vigorous response by governments and civil society. It also demonstrates the international links between extremist movements, proving that there is a need for a global response to rising hatred and attempts to whitewash the past.”
“On Europe’s Streets,” the second publication issued by the B’nai B’rith Office of European Affairs, was preceded in April 2022 by “Online Anti-Semitism: A Toolkit for Civil Society,” geared to build literacy among Jewish professionals, lay leaders and community members at large, as well as wider allies from across civil society for the purpose of identifying and tackling anti-Semitism on the internet.
FROM THE PRESIDENT
My family, like yours, is an interesting alchemy of characters who cannot deny our heritage and familial characteristics, good and bad. On my father’s side, his parents escaped the pogroms of Georgia, USSR, for the safety offered by the United States just after the beginning of the 20th century. They made their way through Omaha, Nebraska, finally settling in San Antonio, Texas. They raised five boys and two girls, who grew up during the depression, which marked them all. From oldest to youngest, they found ways to deal with the traumas of their time.
The oldest, my Uncle Rick, was the leader who excelled in school, completing medical school in California. The next brother married his high school sweetheart, which was a true love story that lasted until their deaths, and I believe beyond. My father and my Uncle Art served in the military during World War II and used the GI Bill to achieve business degrees from Stanford and the University of California Berkely, with help from my Uncle Rick. These four brothers did their best to help their youngest brother and their sisters throughout their lives. Family values were deeply instilled in all. I think of their trials and triumphs regularly as I play my role in so many families that I am a part of.
The biggest family that we are all part of is the human family. Whether you believe in the story in Genesis, or genetics, we all likely descended from a small number of Homo sapiens. The Human Genome Project suggests that we each have between 20,000 and 25,000 different genes, which explains the incredible variety of our species. Even with the variety, we have all become more interconnected than ever thanks to the communication made possible by the internet. Efforts to understand and help our brothers and sisters worldwide have new possibilities limited only by man’s imagination.
As Jews, we are members of a significant subset of the human race. There are thousands of variations in our Jewish family, beginning at the time of the Twelve Tribes, and continuing with the differences between our Ashkenazi and Sephardic communities. The value of helping our fellow persons has been instilled in us as Jews through Tikkun Olam and tzedakah.
B’nai B’rith was organized to help our fellow Jews who had immigrated to New York. It has grown into a colossus, helping Jews and non-Jews alike around the world. As the elected leader of our B’nai B’rith family, I am proud to see all the efforts across the world by our brothers and sisters to help people whenever they need it most. We have most recently raised a significant amount of money to help those suffering in Turkey and Syria after the horrific earthquake in February.
Even as our members come together to help others, at times we have our own family issues to work through. We have divisions that affect whole regions and B’nai B’rith International is asked to help find solutions. It has been a consistent challenge that gets passed from president to president at times. We must reach out in the spirit of B’nai B’rith to remind members of why we are all here.
It is in times of trouble that family values are the most important, as families must pull together to avert the worst of disasters and to work together to find solutions to problems and to ease the pain of the weakest. We are living in perhaps one of the most fateful times for our Jewish family since the Shoah and the founding of Israel.
Like many of you, I spend a significant amount of my time reading about the goings on in Israel. As I watch the reports of protests there at the end of every Shabbat, my anxiety continues to reach higher levels than ever. The age of political divisiveness has reached unthinkable heights in today’s Israeli politics. One can argue all day about which side is right. Given the plethora of political parties, it is a complex balagan. The fact that the fabric of the nation is being stressed to the harshest level outside of a war cannot be argued. The fact that Israel exists in a very tough neighborhood makes the potential constitutional crisis even more dangerous.
B’nai B’rith has been fully supportive of Israel since its founding, and nothing that happens in Israel as the parties work through the legal crisis will change that. We can only watch and support our family, friends and brothers and sisters who are living there. What happens in Israel affects Jews worldwide. B’nai B’rith has been quick to issue statements in the press and on social media calling for peace and condemning all acts of violence. We have spoken out against the three recent murders of Israeli young men, as well as the settlers’ violent responses. The West Bank, which has always been difficult and dangerous, is now a powder keg. With some in the government ready to put an end to the “two-state solution,” tensions and frustrations have reached a boiling point.
We at B’nai B’rith will continue to support Israel, and anyone who supports a peaceful resolution to the crisis. Israel is a Jewish family, a melting pot of Jews from all corners of the world who have made Aliyah to be home. With this commitment to the Jewish homeland, we must remain optimistic that peace will once again reign.
In today’s world, all of our families’ values are being tested as never before. May God grant all of our families peace.
FROM THE CEO
Israel Connections: Personal And Professional
I’m writing this column from Tel Aviv, a relatively new city in a land thousands of years old. It sits on the Mediterranean with gleaming office towers and sandy beaches, its streets clogged with traffic and lined by cafes and gentrified neighborhoods, and it pulsates with energy.
Tel Aviv is the product of the original version of “Start Up Nation.” The city’s founders began with miles of sand dunes, the Zionist dream of Theodor Herzl not quite two decades old, and little else. But they did have a vision of the future, for themselves and for the Jewish people, and, little by little, a metropolis began to take shape.
I was raised in a proudly Zionist family. My first recollection of hearing about Israel is connected to a photograph, most likely taken in the mid-1950s, on the mantelpiece in our home in New Hampshire. It was a family photo of my mother’s first cousin Chaya, her husband, Shmuel, and her children, Dalia, Amatzia, Shlomo and Boaz.
Chaya was the sole survivor of her family in Lithuania; an ardent Zionist, she left for pre-State Israel in 1934, where she met and married Shmuel, an immigrant from Bulgaria. They settled at Kibbutz Beit Zera, in the Jordan Valley, and raised their four children amid the banana fields, fishponds and cow sheds where they worked hard in the sun and made their vital contributions to the building of the state.
More than that, they lost two of their three sons in the service of defending what it was they helped build. Boaz was killed on the Golan Heights during the Yom Kippur War, and Shlomo in a military plane crash two years later.
My first visit to Israel was in 1972 as a graduate student, and then later, as a Jewish professional. In those early years, I would spend weekends at Beit Zera, usually in the summer. The weather was unbearably hot, but I found the kibbutz, with its date palms and cooing doves reassuringly idyllic. I loved the communal dining room, the kibbutzniks in their blue work shirts animatedly discussing the issues of the day, the library tended by my cousin Chaya, and the pronounced sense of purpose exhibited by residents, old and young, of this small, extraordinary community.
Another first cousin of my mother, Sender, also survived the Holocaust by escaping a ghetto, joining the fight against the Nazis and ultimately making his way to Israel. There he met Fanny, a survivor from Romania, and they raised two sons, about my age, in Tel Aviv. They lived first on Levanda Street, near the old central bus station, and later on Derech Haifa (now Derech Namir) in North Tel Aviv. I would visit them as well on my trips to Israel, especially enjoying Fanny’s cafe hafooch, a stronger and tastier version of cappuccino, and her toasted cheese sandwiches.
Our family connection to Israel grew decidedly stronger when I married Michal and inherited her extended family. Born in India to Joshua and Mercia, from Bukharian and Baghdadi families, respectively, Michal worked for the Museum of the Diaspora (now the ANU Museum) in Tel Aviv in its earliest stages. You could say the joining together of our two families represented in itself a kind of living museum of the Diaspora, coming as we did from the United States, Lithuania and Russia on the one hand, and India and Bukhara on the other.
Both of my sisters have made Aliyah to Israel, and most of their families live there as well. And from the early 1970s to the mid-1990s, dozens of relatives on my mother’s side left Moscow and Soviet Georgia for the Jewish state.
Professionally, it has been my good fortune to have worked for organizations that have connected me to Israel in a multitude of ways, from fighting bias against the country at the United Nations and its agencies, to bringing leadership missions and others for immersive visits to Israel itself. I am immensely proud of B’nai B’rith’s role in the building of the state, including the establishment of its national library, a hospital and schools, and the leadership role of Eliezer Ben Yehuda, father of the modern Hebrew language, in our first lodge in Jerusalem, going back to 1888.
In the nearly 50 years that I have been traveling here, for business and to be with family, I’ve witnessed tremendous changes, and not only to the Tel Aviv skyline. Its economy in the early days was driven by exports of oranges, cut flowers and polished diamonds. Today, it is brainpower that fuels its economic success. In my first trips in the early 1970s, I would pack new towels and sheets and Gillette razor blades as gifts for my relatives. Today, products from around the world fill Israeli stores in busy shopping malls. Israel’s inter-city train system gets better by the year, now featuring the new line between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and one day service from Tel Aviv to Eilat. Check out the flight board at Ben Gurion International Airport, and you’ll see planes traveling to Dubai, Bahrain, Beijing, Oslo, Azerbaijan, Bangkok and Mumbai. Israeli universities and hospitals excel in a wide range of fields from agriculture to biomedical technology to robotics and so much more, underpinning Israel’s “Start Up Nation” nickname.
Of course, Israel’s neighborhood remains a tough one. Terrorism continues to pose a daily threat to Israelis as they walk to synagogue or go shopping. Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon are amassing vast inventories of increasingly sophisticated rockets. And their patron, Iran, threatens Israel daily with calls for the “Zionist cancer to be excised” from the Middle East. Israeli families still must send their young men and women to defend their country, when their counterparts in other places are enjoying the carefree days of young adulthood.
Despite that, the Abraham Accords and normalization of relations with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan, and Israel’s intensification of ties with India, South Korea and a number of countries in Africa, hopefully suggest a brighter future in a region still wracked by chaos and instability.
To get to modern Israel’s 75th anniversary, the Jewish people endured and suffered 2,000 years of exile. In a few places we were tolerated; in most we were treated as outcasts, or worse. Herzl’s vision of a Jewish state, first enunciated in the last years of the 19th century, thankfully came to fruition in 1948, but not before the Holocaust—the greatest disaster to befall our people—took one third of our numbers in just a six year period.
In that photo of Chaya and her family on our mantelpiece, it appears that they are squinting a bit, looking into the sun. Over the years, I’ve often thought of how that picture served as the basis not just for my affection for those relatives, but for my love of Israel and its centrality to who we are as Jews and for our rightful place in the world.
On Israel’s 75th anniversary, my wish for the nation and its people—for all of us—is that the radiance of that photo will continue to shine on an Israel, safe, strong and united—and at peace.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day Events Emphasize Survivors’ Stories
International Holocaust Remembrance Day—Jan. 27—was commemorated by B’nai B’rith International in virtual and in-person events around the world, with an emphasis on firsthand survivors’ stories and the importance of remembrance going forward.
B’nai B’rith held its annual observance virtually on Jan. 26. The program, titled “Each Life a World: Survivors in Their Own Words,” was hosted by B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin and featured Ivan Lefkovits, a Holocaust survivor from Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia), and Kelley Szany, senior vice president of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.
Mariaschin said this year’s program was dedicated to the need to hear directly from Holocaust survivors themselves about their experiences during the Shoah. Lefkovits shared personal testimony of his survival of both the Ravensbrück—where he, his mother and older brother were taken in 1944—and Bergen-Belsen Nazi concentration camps.
Szany spoke with Mariaschin about the museum’s innovative exhibits that use new technology to preserve and tell the stories of Holocaust survivors.
Mariaschin also delivered remarks at a remembrance event at the Italian Embassy in Washington, D.C. The event, jointly hosted by the embassy and the Italian Cultural Institute, centered around the topic of women during the Holocaust. “Bocche Inutili” (“Useless Mouths”), a film that tells the story of a group of women prisoners and their experiences in a concentration camp, was screened during the event. The film’s director Claudio Uberti, Italian historian Ana Foa and Italian Ambassador to the United States Mariangela Zappia gave remarks.
“With the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the process of rebuilding Jewish life, of rebuilding Europe, of rebuilding democracy… of rebuilding humanity, began,” Mariaschin said. “This process, we hope, will never end. All of society must bear the responsibility to uphold the memory of the Shoah, even though none of us may ever be able to process and understand what happened.”
In Europe, B’nai B’rith co-hosted the 2023 Holocaust Remembrance Conference, “Remembering the past. Shaping the future,” with the European Union Commission, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and the Swedish Presidency Council of the EU. B’nai B’rith was represented by Stéphane Teicher, permanent representative to UNESCO and the Council of Europe; Alina Bricman, director of European Union Affairs; and Samuel Holzmannhofer, legal affairs officer.
Holocaust survivor Henriette Kretz gave testimony at the event. There were also remarks from Margaritis Schinas, European Commission vice-president for Promoting our European Way of Life; Paulina Brandberg, Swedish minister for gender equality and deputy minister for employment; Ambassador Ann Bernes, chair of the Swedish Presidency of the IHRA; and Professor Yehuda Bauer, IHRA honorary chair and a distinguished historian and Holocaust survivor.
Ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day, the B’nai B’rith EU Affairs team partnered with the Yad Vashem School and the World Union of Jewish Students for a three-part program called “Young Ambassadors of Holocaust Remembrance.” Over two weeks, participants in the IMPACT: Emerging Leaders Fellowship, a virtual fellowship program for Jewish students and young professionals, heard stories from Holocaust survivors; learned about modern methods of memorialization, particularly on social media; and were tasked to share the stories they learned with their peers.
In Latin America, representatives of B’nai B’rith Panama, B’nai B’rith Ecuador and B’nai B’rith Uruguay attended commemorations held by their country’s congresses.
B’nai B’rith Chile and the Jewish Community of Chile hosted an event in the Foreign Ministry, featuring Foreign Minister Antonia Urrejola as keynote speaker. Urrejola said that “no matter how painful it can be, all the world must remember the tragedy of the Holocaust.”
In Mexico, in addition to the government’s commemoration, B’nai B’rith presented a lecture, “Holocaust, the paradigm of genocides,” by Israeli professor and writer Mario Sinay. The event was hosted by the National University of Mexico.
At a Jan. 29 ceremony marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem and the Committee to Recognize Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust presented their joint Jewish Rescuers Citation to 10 rescuers, all of them posthumously. Speakers at the ceremony included Alan Schneider, director of the B’nai B’rith World Center; Aryeh Barnea, chairman of the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust; Yaakov Asher, CEO of Moreshet – Mordechai Anielevich memorial institute; and Ambassador Radu Ioanid, ambassador of Romania to Israel, along with relatives of the rescuers.
B’nai B’rith Director of Legislative Affairs Rabbi Eric Fusfield Serves On Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s Commission To Combat Anti-Semitism
On his first day as Virginia governor in January 2022, Glenn Youngkin issued an executive order mandating the formation of a commission to investigate the state’s startling number of anti-Semitic incidents—2,717 recorded in 2021—and formulate a plan to remedy this crisis.
In May, Rabbi Eric Fusfield, B’nai B’rith’s director of legislative affairs and deputy director of the International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy, was selected as one of the 19 members of the Commission to Combat Anti-Semitism, experts from legal, law enforcement, philanthropic and government sectors.
Fusfield noted: “The Virginia Commission should serve as a model for other states. The national amplification of its example can lead to growing awareness in states and localities where greater information and resources can be helpful in addressing a problem to which no jurisdiction is immune.”
In December 2022, the Commission released its findings in the online report, “Combating Anti-Semitism in Virginia.”
Statistics which reveal the trajectory of online and virtual hate speech and attacks are augmented by information on its origins and its perpetrators, right and left-wing extremists spanning all economic strata.
The commission’s recommendations included the promotion of Holocaust education and the teaching of courses on Judaism, providing opportunities for interfaith dialogue at elementary schools and colleges. Enhanced security at synagogues and community centers was prioritized along with improvement in the reporting of hate crimes and enforcement of penalties. The commission urged that the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism be applied under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect students from anti-Zionist harassment on campus. Finally, members encouraged adoption of a statewide statute to exclude commerce with businesses that boycott Israel. A state task force would assist in implementing the recommendations.
These initiatives to counter anti-Semitism and ultimately prevent it were intended to improve life for all Virginians, making the state, as noted in Commission Chair Jeffrey Rosen’s introduction to the report, “the best place to live, work and raise a family.”
Postscript: In the first months of 2023, several bills were sponsored in the Virginia legislature in response to the Commission’s report and recommendations. They focused on, among other issues, the strengthening of penalties for online discrimination as well as in person anti-Semitic violence.
One of the four bills proposed, House Bill 1606, incorporating the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism into existing state regulations regarding discrimination and hate crimes, was adopted into law on February 23.
In compliance with another aspect of the Commission report, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares marked Jewish Advocacy Day, February 7, by announcing his plan for the organization of a task force whose members would investigate, monitor and combat anti-Semitic incidents in the state, including those occurring at colleges and universities.
B’nai B’rith Disaster Relief Helps Earthquake Victims
On Feb. 6, two large earthquakes measuring 7.6 and 7.8 on the Richter scale hit southeastern Turkey near the Syrian border during the night, causing widespread devastation. As of March 10, the death toll numbered over 50,000. Large parts of the surviving population have limited access to shelter, safe drinking water and food.
B’nai B’rith International opened its Disaster and Emergency Fund to aid survivors in both countries. B’nai B’rith matched the first $10,000 in contributions dollar for dollar.
With their homes, hospitals, schools and roads destroyed, residents continue to suffer each day. Please consider a donation to help us respond to these urgent needs. Contribute to our Disaster and Emergency Relief Fund here.
Donors can also call 800-573-9057 to pay with a credit card, or mail checks to B’nai B’rith Disaster and Emergency Relief Fund to:
B’nai B’rith International Disaster and Emergency Relief Fund
1120 20th Street NW, Suite 300N
Washington, D.C. 20036
EU-Israel Relationship Strengthened By B’nai B’rith World Center Immersive Israel Experience
From Dec. 4-8, 2022, the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem hosted an immersive experience in Israel for members of the European Parliament (MEP), in anticipation of the country’s transfer of government.
World Center Director Alan Schneider commented: “The MEP mission provided participants—some for the first time—the opportunity to experience Israel free of media bias, anti-Israel resolutions or reports. The group experienced our vibrant democracy in action in the exciting days following the general elections, while negotiations were underway to form the new government. We continue to believe that there is no substitute for visiting and experiencing this country rather than relying on preconceived beliefs.”
Participants included co-chair of the soon-to-be-launched Abraham Accords Network of the European Parliament, Swedish MEP David Lega; Latvian MEP and former chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the national Parliament Inese Vaidere; Spanish-Venezuelan MEP Leopoldo López Gil, father of prisoner of conscience and Sakharov Prize winner Leopoldo López Mendoza; Slovenian MEP Romana Tomc and Croatian MEP Karlo Ressler. Alina Bricman, B’nai B’rith director of European Affairs, Schneider and B’nai B’rith volunteer leaders accompanied the delegates.
This trip followed the October 2022 EU-Israel Association Council in Brussels, convened for the first time in a decade, and visits to Israel by the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and president of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, both advocates of cooperative partnerships.
The group met with Knesset members, officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its Agency for International Development Cooperation, IDF leaders and representatives of Israel’s Innovation Authority, as well as European diplomats posted to the country. Officials from the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Bahrain were also in contact with the participants—strengthening ties advanced by the Abraham Accords.
At Yad Vashem–Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Center–MEPs honored the six million Jews murdered during the Shoah and discussed ways to counter Holocaust denial and distortion. They toured the Old City of Jerusalem, previewed the Museum of the Jewish Solider in World War II, visited Jaffa’s Jewish-Arab school and met with municipal personnel in Tel Aviv, where they attended MUNI EXPO 2022, showcasing innovative approaches to local and global sustainability.
Parliament members discussed Jewish-Arab relations, regional security and threats posed by Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as Europe’s engagement with the Iranian nuclear deal, the impact of the Abraham Accords and rising worldwide anti-Semitism. Other subjects included Israel’s policy toward Russia’s war against Ukraine, Iranian weapons transfers to Moscow and its implications for Europe’s relationship with Tehran.
Reflecting On One Year Of War In Ukraine: Webinar
Feb. 24, 2023 marked one full year of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the largest military attack on European soil since the end of World War II. In this program (recorded live), we took stock of the war’s toll, the impact on the Ukrainian Jewish community, humanitarian aid efforts and what might lie ahead for Ukraine.
The program was moderated by B’nai B’rith Director of EU Affairs Alina Bricman and B’nai B’rith UK Director of Bureau of International Affairs Jeremy Havardi, featuring panelists Michael Brodsky, ambassador of Ukraine to Israel, and Oksana Galkevich, JDC program director in Ukraine. B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin and B’nai B’rith UK National President Alan Miller also provided remarks.
Participants discussed civil society responses to the war, as well as Israel’s humanitarian and diplomatic efforts in support of Ukraine. Looking back on 365 days of war, this grim anniversary is a reminder that the attention and support of the international community and individuals across the globe are as important as ever.
Mental Health Issues For Seniors: Center For Senior Services And National Alliance On Mental Health Team Up
As the nation’s largest national Jewish sponsor of subsidized housing for seniors, we take a holistic approach to the well-being of our residents. Mental health issues are of tremendous importance for B’nai B’rith’s Center for Senior Services. According to CSS Associate Director Janel Doughten, the social isolation due to medical conditions, mobility issues, hearing loss and other problems that often come with aging can cause depression, and these problems were only compounded by the pandemic, which brought social isolation and its mental health ramifications into focus.
In 2022, CSS began working with the National Alliance on Mental Illness New Orleans to discuss and educate on mental health and aging through trainings and virtual programs.
Representatives of NAMI New Orleans first participated in CSS’s annual Managers and Service Coordinators meeting held in New Orleans in June 2022. Liz Yager, NAMI New Orleans director of development, and Judge Calvin Johnson (ret.), interim executive director of NAMI New Orleans at the time, joined to share their knowledge on mental health resources for older adults.
Johnson, who shared his experience as an older adult during the pandemic and in caring for his elderly mother-in-law, later joined B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin in October for a conversation on mental health in vulnerable populations, such as seniors.
Johnson said one of the biggest issues the aging population faces is loneliness, which impacts all aspects of their life, especially their mental health.
During B’nai B’rith’s 2022 Annual Leadership Forum, Doughten hosted a panel with NAMI New Orleans Executive Director Gyl Wadge Switzer and NAMI New Orleans board member Betty Tedesco, as well as President of Health Benefit ABCs and the International Association for Indigenous Aging William F. Benson. The panel discussion focused on the challenge of aging and building resiliency in older adults.
“One thing as a lifetime mental health advocate I have had to say repeatedly: Mental illness is not a part of normal aging. We have to take it seriously. We have interventions that work, and we need to be aware of them and educate older adults,” Switzer said.
In the future, CSS hopes to work with NAMI affiliates in other locations.
“This is a great connection for us at CSS, because having a point of contact for a national organization that has multiple local affiliates gives us easy access to other affiliates, especially for the buildings,” Doughten said.
2022 Annual Report
2022 was a year full of accomplishments.
Isadore Garsek Lodge Dinner Raises Funds To Assist Ukrainian Refugees
Alex Nason, immediate past president of the Isadore Garsek B’nai B’rith Lodge in Fort Worth, Texas, fled the Soviet Union in 1980 with the assistance of the Jewish Agency. Now, Nason hopes to give Ukrainians fleeing the war in their country the same opportunity.
On Feb. 19, the lodge held a fundraising dinner to raise money for the Jewish Agency, which is helping Ukrainian refugees resettle in Israel. Nason organized the event along with lodge members Dan Sturman, Yevgeniy and Rina Ostrinsky, Jim Stanton, and Rich and Terry Hollander.
“In total, during the last year, the agency has helped over 60,000 Jews and non-Jews to resettle. It’s a huge effort, and it requires tremendous logistics and money,” Nason said in his address at the dinner.
Sophia, Nason’s wife, and fellow lodge members cooked a four-course authentic Ukrainian meal for the dinner, including green borscht, chicken with buckwheat, cabbage salad and desserts. Caviar and Ukrainian vodka were also served.
In addition to the dinner, there was a performance by Dallas-based musician Goga as well as dancing. A painting by Anastasia Tishutina, a Ukrainian artist and newly arrived refugee, was auctioned.
Tickets for the dinner sold out, with 250 attendees, and an event for those on the waitlist was held the following day. Attendees included city and school leaders.
“It’s a great feeling to know that we live in a city where the city leaders stand together with the Jewish Community in fighting anti-Semitism and supporting Jewish causes,” Nason said.
A total of $56,000 was raised by the event, which will go to the Jewish Agency to assist its efforts in resettling Ukrainian refugees.
Atlanta’s Achim/Gate City Lodge Focuses On Traditional And New Initiatives
On Christmas Day 2022, more than 150 volunteers from the Atlanta Jewish community served in eight hospitals, assisted living facilities and nursing homes as part of the B’nai B’rith Atlanta Achim/Gate City Lodge’s Pinch Hitter Program. Since 1980, the program has brought in volunteers to cover for non-medical health care workers on Christmas Day to allow them to spend the holiday with their loved ones. Though the program had to take a couple of years off due to the pandemic—offering The Gift of Talent program during that time instead—it resumed in December.
The program is organized by the Achim/Gate City Lodge and the B’nai B’rith Center for Community Action.
To help raise money for B’nai B’rith’s Ukraine Disaster Relief Fund, Achim/Gate City Lodge President Helen Scherrer-Diamond organized the sale of vintage toys—Beanie Babies, porcelain dolls and Madame Alexander dolls. Fifty percent of proceeds raised by the sale went directly to the relief fund.
The Beanie Babies were donated by a Jewish community member from Dunwoody, Georgia, the porcelain dolls by Amity Hospice in Marietta and the Madame Alexander dolls by a neighbor of lodge members Jerry and Lois Kravitz.
Through the sale, the Achim/Gate City Lodge contributed $298 for B’nai B’rith’s Ukraine relief fund.
B’nai B’rith France Celebrates Tu B’Shavat Traditions With Seniors
The B’nai B’rith France National Solidarity Commission partnered with lodges in Paris to organize and support a festive Tu B’Shevat observance which brought music-making and traditional gifts of fruits, plants and flowers to seniors in assisted living residences, including the Moise Leon Home, located in the City of Lights.
Founded in 2019, B’nai B’rith France’s National Solidarity Commission selects and funds worthy projects in all regions of the country.
Commission President Etienne Levy noted: “It was a memorable moment, honoring the holiday and the spirit of community through the celebration of growth and renewal, including the trees which mirror our own roots and our lives.”
B’nai B’rith Talks
What have we talked about recently?
Recovering Nazi-plundered silver + “Three Minutes in Poland: Discovering a Lost World in a 1938 Family Film” + Mapping Holocaust Memorial Monuments + Jews in America during the Gilded Age.
Check out all of B’nai B’rith’s virtual content for meaningful discussions on today’s most pressing and interesting issues.
In addition, watch engaging content from our December 2022 Leadership Forum. With a focus on global anti-Semitism, Israel, disaster relief efforts, mental health and aging, and domestic and international policy priorities, there’s something for everyone.
You can also catch up on “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.
Events To Be Announced
Remembering: Moishe Smith (1950-2023), Past President Of
We are deeply saddened by the passing of Moishe Smith, past president of B’nai B’rith and a longtime leader in the Jewish community. The obituary below was prepared by Moishe’s family.
It is with profound sadness that the family of Moishe Smith announces his sudden passing in Boca Raton, Florida on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, at the age of 72. Loved and cherished husband and best friend of Renee Bates. Pre-deceased by his wonderful parents, Inez and Jack Smith. Most loving stepson of Linda Smith. Beloved and adored brother and brother-in-law of Leslie and the late Maureen, Karla and Joe Morrison, David, Anna Silverman, Leah, Eileen Smith and Fred Guzzo, Nathan and Cindy, Mark and Judy, Leiba and Michael Metz; and Monique Bates and David Griffiths, Barkley Bates and Christelle Gauchas.
Moishe will be fondly remembered by his many nieces and nephews, with whom he shared wonderful relationships, and by the B’nai B’rith community around the world.
Moishe was a well-known restauranteur and caterer in and around Ottawa. From his beginnings slicing smoked meat alongside his late father, Jack, Moishe carried on the family traditions with a knife, cutting board and his famous white chef coat. As much as Moishe loved life, he loved the food business.
A stalwart leader for Jewish advocacy, Moishe was the youngest-ever president of B’nai B’rith Canada (1989-1991); and the first non-U.S. Citizen to be elected president of B’nai B’rith (2007-2009). Moishe served on many distinguished boards, including the World Zionist Organization; Canada Israel Committee; United Jewish Appeal; the Ottawa Food Bank; Ottawa Tourism and Restaurants Canada. He was a very proud member of Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity.
Contributions in Moishe’s memory may be made to The Ottawa Lodge B’nai B’rith #885 Past Presidents Fund at the Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation, https://ojcf.ca or the charity of your choice.
May Moishe’s memory always be for a blessing.
Remembering: Klaus Netter (1930-2022): From Holocaust Refugee To Fighter For Human Rights
Former B’nai B’rith Geneva representative Klaus Netter dedicated his life to the United Nations and was an important voice for human rights throughout his life
By Anita Winter, B’nai B’rith representative to the U.N. in Geneva
He wasn’t one to like to talk about himself. Rather, Klaus Netter was a tireless, honest worker who never lost sight of his goal of a fairer and more peaceful world. And this even though his own life in childhood was marked by one of the darkest chapters in human history: In 1936, at the age of five, Klaus fled with his family to Brazil to escape Nazi persecution.
He lost his native Germany, the country where his family had lived for generations and was well integrated. The Nazis had revoked their German citizenship when they fled. Klaus was to live as a stateless person for 10 years in Brazil.
Klaus first attended a Brazilian kindergarten and later an American school. He spent 11 years in South America. He then moved to the United States, first to Syracuse University and then to Berkeley, where he studied economics. In 1958 he returned to Germany to write his doctoral thesis. In Kiel he met his future wife. Sonja had miraculously survived the horrors of the Nazi regime and the bombings in Kiel.
At the beginning of the 1960s, the couple moved to Geneva, and he accepted a position at the United Nations. He remained there until 1990 with a short interruption, during which he worked in Paris as an economist at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. At the U.N., he worked for the Conference on Trade and Development, which he left in 1990 as deputy director.
Throughout his life, Klaus was closely associated with Israel. His first trip in 1949 had already deeply impressed him and he returned to Israel again and again. He once described it to me as follows: “The common thread of my life is my love for Israel.” After working at the United Nations, he spent three years in charge of a private fund aimed at integrating Ethiopian immigrants into Israel.
Zionism was an important part of his life, and his mother had shaped him in it, he told me. As a student he was active as a member of the national executive committee of a Zionist student organization. This commitment lasted a lifetime, even if he was not allowed to speak politically for any particular country during his time as a U.N. official.
After his professional retirement, however, he volunteered to represent B’nai B’rith International, the world’s oldest Jewish service organization, at the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva.
The UNHRC was also the place where I got to know Klaus. With much wisdom and encouragement, he introduced me to the council in his always sensitive manner. It is a great honor for me to be able to pass on his legacy to the next generation and to represent him as his successor at B’nai B’rith. I owe him so much as my mentor.
Klaus aspired to see the Human Rights Council, whatever political disputes might be found there, engaged in defending Israel from violence. He deeply regretted that Israel did not enjoy peace. As a close observer of current events, he also followed with great concern steadily growing anti-Semitism in Europe.
“Klaus Netter was the heart and soul of our efforts to defend Israel at the U.N. Human Rights Council. His knowledge of the U.N. system, his wise counsel and his dedication to Jewish values, and to the mission of B’nai B’rith, made him a unique leader in the universe of non-governmental organizations in Geneva,” said B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin.
“Knowing Klaus has been one of the highlights of my years at B’nai B’rith,” Director of U.N. and Intercommunal Affairs David Michaels adds. “We were privileged to work with him on countless statements at the UNHRC, and to meet together with many ambassadors and other diplomats. The consummate gentleman of a bygone era, his integrity, humor and humility left a deep impression on me.”
On Dec. 7, Klaus Netter died at the age of 92. He is survived by a daughter and two grandchildren. His death is a great loss for all of us. We lose not only a dear, good-hearted friend, but also a person who spent a lifetime raising his voice for human rights with great perseverance and wisdom.
We owe Klaus Netter immeasurably. Anyone who met him will never forget him.
Retiring: Rhonda Love, B’nai B’rith Vice President Of Programming
Rhonda Love, who served as B’nai B’rith’s vice president of Programming, director of the Center for Community Action (CCA) and of the Center for Jewish Identity (CJI) celebrated her retirement in December after 45 years with the organization. A 2002 recipient of the Julius Bisno Professional Excellence Award, Rhonda was known to her colleagues and to B’nai B’rith members and supporters as a dedicated leader whose numerous accomplishments were focused on B’nai B’rith projects that educated and assisted others on many levels.
Earning an M.A. in public administration from Baruch College, Rhonda joined the B’nai B’rith staff in 1977 as a District One administrative assistant and was promoted to positions of increasing responsibility from that time.
In 1995, she became B’nai B’rith’s director of the Center for Community Action, where she worked with leadership and committee members to realize many diverse and wide-ranging projects, including Enlighten America education—a program aimed at preventing hate crimes—and the B’nai B’rith Cares for Kids program, where she is remembered as the creator of the Buddy Bear, a cuddly stuffed animal that continues to bring comfort to children experiencing trauma.
Rhonda facilitated collaborations with other Jewish organizations and philanthropies, including Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) where she worked to incorporate community service projects into the Jewish fraternity’s mission. From 1989, she served as the North American Representative for Yad Vashem’s Unto Every Person There is a Name, a Holocaust Remembrance Day name-reading ceremony held on campuses and in public spaces across the country.
In addition to coordinating numerous fundraising campaigns as staff liaison for the Disaster Relief Committee, Rhonda helped to forge the 2002 partnership with the Brothers Brother Foundation for B’nai B’rith’s Communities in Crisis program, bringing medical care and supplies to people affected by natural and manmade disasters, developed in response to the economic crisis in Argentina that impeded access to treatment and medicine.
As a regular contributor to B’nai B’rith’s Expert Analysis blogs, Rhonda addressed topics pertinent to B’nai B’rith concerns including community service, Jewish learning, holiday observances and the history of B’nai B’rith and Israel.
B’nai B’rith leaders and members received the benefits of Rhonda’s expertise during the training sessions she conducted for lodges and districts, and through pamphlets she wrote on community service, Jewish learning and program implementation.
We send congratulations and all best wishes to Rhonda and her family. She will be greatly missed.
FROM THE VAULT
B’nai B’rith’s Earliest Swiss Lodges
Beginning in the late 19th century, individuals afflicted with tuberculosis and other respiratory ailments journeyed to Switzerland, for treatment at one of the country’s specialized hospitals or sanitariums high in the mountains, where the cold climate was believed to be beneficial. Despite the considerable expense entailed, what was called “the cure” offered the only hope for recovery at the time. Although the two Swiss B’nai B’rith lodges organized in Zurich and Basel in the first decade of the 20th century largely devoted their missions to the needs of sick and often poor Jewish patients, members engaged in other types of assistance, notably in helping to alleviate the crisis affecting young people in Austria and Hungary after World War I.
Zurich’s Augustin Keller Lodge, named for a 19th century Swiss Catholic statesman known for his championing of Jewish rights, assisted in paying the fees and in providing Kosher meals to Jewish TB patients, and supported the Etania Jewish Hospital in Davos, Switzerland, which opened in 1918.
In 1919, lodge members sent railroad cars packed with food and clothing to Vienna’s starving Jewish children, many of whom were homeless. Using funds from the American B’nai B’rith, the lodge paid for many who had been orphaned or abandoned to immigrate to Switzerland, where they became residents at one of B’nai B’rith’s own children’s homes or were adopted by families. Among other charities, lodge members contributed to a yeshiva in Montreux, a home for the aged in Lugano and a children’s vacation home and colony in the country, where neglected children from urban slums received medical care and wholesome food.
Established in the landmark city where the First Zionist Congress occurred in 1897, the Basel Lodge maintained a children’s vacation home and hospital, sponsored educational programs and lectures and ran a training program for visiting nurses. During World War I, along with the lodge in Copenhagen, Denmark, the Basel Lodge assisted in locating Jewish prisoners of war and paid for their return to their homes. Both lodges supported “Hakoah,” Jewish athletic clubs with hundreds of members across the country.
The global Depression ended many charitable lodge endeavors, but for several years Basel members attempted to raise money for German Jews deprived of their jobs and businesses by the Nazis.
Today, Switzerland’s four lodges, including Augustin Keller, which has been in continuous operation since 1909, are involved in many important projects.