Center Stage Summer 2022
The latest from the B'nai B'rith World Center-Jerusalem.
Table of Contents
Israel’s Ambassador to Ukraine at B’nai B’rith World Center Award for Journalism Ceremony: The Most Significant Impact of the War in Ukraine on Israel is Yet to Come
Israel’s Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky delivered the keynote address at the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem Award for Journalism Recognizing Excellence in Diaspora Reportage for 2022, held on July 6 in Jerusalem. In a wide-ranging speech entitled “Not our war,” Brodsky said, although the war takes place at a far distance from Israel and the Middle East, in an area that has always been in the periphery of Israel’s national interests, the war in Ukraine has several direct implications for Israel, most of them negative, making Israel an inseparable part of what is happening.
The many areas in which the war in Ukraine has significant impact on Israel turns a war that ostensibly is not Israel’s into a war that is ours. The war presents Israel with very difficult choices between being part of the West on the one hand and maintaining Israel’s strategic interests with respect to Russia, a superpower on the other. So far, Israel has managed to maneuver in a pretty good way, choosing to be relatively cautious, yet with a clear line of solidarity with Ukraine.
This is indeed Israel’s war, although so far it has been exposed to only the tip of the iceberg; the most significant implications lay ahead, he said.
In his acceptance speech, Award winner Ariel Kahana said his experiences in Diaspora communities taught him that the Jews of the Diaspora are indeedת in the words of the prayer, “delivered into distress and captivity”; captivity not of the body but of the mind and the spirit. Our role is to connect with them from Israel as much as we can. Jews all over the world yearn for a connection to Israel; this is a historic change, as not long ago, Jews of the Diaspora saw Israel as a temporary experiment and their role was to help us; now the roles are reversed, and Israel is at the center.
In a heartfelt address, Certificate of Merit recipient Yisrael Katzover – the first journalist from the ultra-Orthodox press to be recognized by the Award – said that throughout his 60-year career, his motto has been “I seek my brethren” – a Torah passage taken from the story of the sale of Joseph. His search is for closeness with his brothers. The B’nai B’rith Award is a tribute to our work searching and reporting on the lives of our brothers in the Diaspora in the desire to bring Babylon and Jerusalem closer together, because with every year that passes, the crevasse between the two is regretfully ever-widening, like two continents moving away from each other. Through my travels to nearly every Jewish community in the world I discovered with great pain that the Diaspora has become the greatest national creation of the Jewish People. I regret this fact. Our job as Diaspora correspondents is to build bridges between Israel and the Diaspora and in so doing, we continue the tradition of Jewish travelers who many hundreds of years ago – even millennia – chronicled distant Jewish communities and sought out the ten tribes.
Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Shlomo Nakdimon a B’nai B’rith member and former member of the Award Jury – called on the Jews of the world, first and foremost in Ukraine, to immigrate to Israel; you should know that you have no other place to live than the Land and State of Israel.
This was the first year in which the B’nai B’rith World Center Special Citation for Fostering Israel-Diaspora Relations through the Arts carried the name of Israel Prize Winner and singer/songwriter Naomi Shemer. Her daughter Lely Shemer noted that maintaining a connection to Jewish communities around the world was of great importance to her mother and that she did so from early in her career until shortly before her death, when she traveled to Washington when she was unwell and resorted to a wheelchair. She has not been with us for some time, but she is always with us, but she left many treasures behind.
Shuly Nathan, who debuted Shemer’s famous song “Jerusalem of Gold”, thanked Naomi and Lely Shemer for discovering her and exposing her to so many Jewish communities and countries around the world.
Ariel Kahana, political correspondent at Yisrael Hayom, was recognized for a series of articles and interviews about anti-Semitism in the United States, Israel-Diaspora relations and the integrity of the relationship in the time of COVID-19. Yisrael Katzover, a veteran diplomatic and military reporter and commentator at Hamodia, received the Certificate of Merit for a series of articles on Jewish communities in Arab countries.
Veteran Yedioth Ahronoth journalist Shlomo Nakdimon received a Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his extensive and exceptional body of work, which spans more than six decades and reflects a profound commitment to the essence of the award.
Since its establishment in 1992, the B’nai B’rith World Center Award for Journalism has recognized excellence in reporting on contemporary Diaspora Jewish communities and on the state of Israel-Diaspora relations in Israeli print, broadcast and online media. The award is widely recognized as the most prestigious prize in the Israeli media industry for Diaspora reportage and was established to help strengthen the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora. The award highlights the important contributions the media can make toward strengthening the relationship between Israel and world Jewry by encouraging quality reporting on Diaspora communities and Israel-Diaspora relations.
B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem Director Addresses Global Anti-Semitism Program in Israel
“New Tools in Combating Contemporary Anti-Semitism” Program Featured Keynote Speaker U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Deborah Lipstadt
B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider played a key role in a program on combating contemporary anti-Semitism with Deborah Lipstadt, the United States special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, held by the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Diaspora Affairs and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on July 5. In addition to Lipstadt, Noa Tishby, Israeli Special Envoy for Combating Antisemitism and Delegitimization, US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides and Israel Minister of Diaspora Affairs Nachman Shai were also featured speakers.
In a presentation about online anti-Semitism, Schneider spoke about B’nai B’rith’s “Online Antisemitism: A Toolkit for Civil Society,” which launched earlier this year in recognition of the growing threat posed by online Jew-hatred that reverberates over social media. Schneider noted that the toolkit was launched in partnership with UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), indicating the seriousness with which the U.N. views this problem. He also noted that not all interaction takes place on the web and that B’nai B’rith has implemented many projects to break down barriers and display Jewish communities in a positive light, such as the European Days of Jewish Culture.
“Online Antisemitism: A Toolkit for Civil Society,” initiated by B’nai B’rith Director of EU Affairs Alina Bricman and created together with the counter-extremism organization the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, launched in April and is available to read on our website.
Israel-Hellenic Forum Reconvenes in Athens for First Time Since Covid-19 Outbreak
The Israel-Hellenic Forum—established in 2019 by the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem to further relations between academics, public intellectuals, journalists and leaders in Greece, Cyprus and Israel—reconvened in Athens for the first time since its inaugural meeting in Jerusalem in November 2019.
The meeting, entitled “Athens Discourse: A World in Transition” was held June 27-June 29 in cooperation with the Institute of International Relations (IDIS) at Panteion University with partial funding from the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
More than 40 leading Greek, Cypriot and Israeli figures participated in the event, including: Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror, former Israeli National Security Advisor and Senior Fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security; Israel Ambassador to Greece Yosef Amrani; Nikos Christodoulides, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus; Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikolaos “Nikos” Dendias; Professor Kostas Ifantis, Scientific Director of the Centre for Foreign Policy Planning at the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Member of Hellenic Parliament Professor Dimitris Keridis, the Greece-Israel Parliamentary Friendship Group Chairman; and B’nai B’rith CEO Dan Mariaschin.
In his opening keynote address, Dendias said that in the current complex geopolitical environment, it was the strategic choice of Greece to deepen and expand regional schemes of cooperation. The Abraham Accords and the Negev Forum are testament to the willingness of some countries to enhance relations to safeguard security. But the ongoing war in Ukraine is a stark reminder the Europe is not a war-free zone as we had hoped. The Eastern Mediterranean, too, is continuously facing challenges. Greece’s foreign policy believe that this is the only ticket to a better society, to a better world.
Following the minister, Mariaschin said Israel, Greece and Cyprus are making up for lost time, assisted and propelled in the process by the rapid development of relations that have resulted in what we now call the 3+1 process (Israel, Greece and Cyprus plus the United States). The chaos, uncertainty and unrest roiling the Eastern Mediterranean has brought us all closer together, and for good reason. Other partners, like Egypt, and perhaps, at some point, Morocco, can only strengthen the objective of pushing back against attempts to unravel the security infrastructure that seeks to maintain stability in the region. The challenges before us have given us both important issues on which to advocate.
In his parting speech before completing his term of office, Amrani said that the Israel-Greece relationship is the pillar of the Israeli-Hellenic partnership. Defense and security cooperation has been the engine of the close relationship between Greece and Israel; both countries need to reinforce their value and position in the region in relation to the United States. Israel has expanded its regional alliances to distant neighbors and the 3+1 structure must also be adapted to changing regional and global realities. The Abraham Accords are a regional effect of real politics and the new Negev Forum provides the platform for its expansion to include Greece, Cyprus, India and others. Israel is a strategic advantage for the EU, contributing to Europe’s stability, energy, food security and other challenges it will face in the future.
Sessions included “Reviewing the Tripartite Relationship” “Effects of the conflict in Ukraine on the Eastern Mediterranean Region,” and “Regional Developments: The Abraham Accords, diplomatic forays and threat analysis.”
New ideas for bi- and tri-lateral cooperation were raised, including the forging cooperation between NGOs engaged in disaster relief, and plans have begun to organize the forum’s next meeting in Nicosia, Cyprus that would complete the first cycle of meetings in all three capitals. In addition to conference sessions, the participants also toured the Ancient Agora and traveled to Nafplio—Greece’s first capital after gaining independence—and the ancient site of Mycenae.
The meeting was widely covered in the Israel, Greek and Cypriot press:
Established by the B’nai B’rith World Center – Jerusalem, the Israel-Hellenic Forum is a setting for discussion and cooperative action by Israeli, Greek, Cypriot and related academics, intellectuals, journalists, elected officials and other public figures who have shown support in the public sphere for the burgeoning relationship solidified in recent years between these three countries – reflected in the regular tripartite meetings between their leaders and the flourishing state-to-state relations. The Forum was launched in November 2019 in Jerusalem at an inaugural conference with the attendance of over 60 participants from Israel, Greece, Cyprus and the US. Its activities have continued since with events in Athens and on-line consultations.
Lost Czech Torah Scroll Rededicated in Theresienstadt Concentration Camp
The B’nai B’rith World Center was instrumental in co-hosting a program commemorating the Czech Jewish community and Czech Holocaust victims at the Theresienstadt concentration camp on May 15 marking 77 years since the ghetto’s liberation.
Named “March of the Living Scroll: A Journey of Remembrance and Renewal,” the program included the rededication of a Torah scroll once used by the Olomouc Jewish community—one of 1,564 Czech and other Torah scrolls rescued by a Jewish philanthropist in 1964 after surviving the horrors and oppression of Nazism and Communism under appalling conditions in an abandoned synagogue and placed under the auspices of the Memorial Scrolls Trust (MST) in London. These scrolls have become symbols of Jewish continuity and have been loaned to Jewish communities, synagogues and institutions around the world.
The Olomouc scroll went on loan to Beit Theresienstadt, Kibbutz Givat Haim Ihud, Israel, where it will become an inspirational source of a unique Bar/Bat Mitzvah Jewish Heritage educational program.
B’nai B’rith had a significant presence in pre-war Czechoslovakia, with 16 lodges and 2,000 members across the country, including in Olomouc. Its activity ceased with the German invasion on March 15, 1939. The Renaissance Lodge in Prague was established in 1991 as the legal successor of the organization’s pre-war activity.
Other partners in the March of the Living Scroll program include the International March of the Living, the Terezin Memorial and the Jewish Museum in Prague.
The March of the Living Scroll began at the Bohusovice Train Station near Terezin—the same train station where tens of thousands of Jews arrived from November 1941, when the camp was established, until May 1945, when the SS fled advancing Red Army troops. The march commenced with the sounding of the Shofar by Rabbi David Maxa and proceed in silence to the crematoria. B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider read a letter from B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin in which he warned that “In the 21st century we are still witness to the effects of this greatest tragedy to befall our people. Holocaust revisionism and denial, aided by the internet via social media, is rising daily just as the number of survivors and eyewitness to the horror and barbarity meted out by the Nazis and their collaborators, is dropping precipitously. We must put in place as many programs of Holocaust education and remembrance as possible, lest the passage of decades and the re-writing of history erase the memory of the victims and the terrible crimes committed on this soil and throughout Europe.”
Outside the crematoria, Schneider also paid tribute to Aaron Menczer, a member of Aliyat HaNoar in Vienna before the war, who organized the escape of hundreds of Jewish children—most of them stateless and therefore especially vulnerable—to Yugoslavia together with the head of Aliyat HaNoar Recha Frier. In February 1939 Menczer accompanied a group of youngsters to Eretz Israel, but despite the pleading of friends, he returned to Vienna to continue his rescue activities. On Sept. 24, 1942, Menczer was transferred with his group to Theresienstadt where he continued his educational activities. In August 1943 he was given responsibility for a group of 1,269 orphaned children who were transferred to the ghetto from Bialystok. Six weeks later he asked to join them when they were deported to Auschwitz where they were all gassed.
Aaron Menczer and Recha Frier were presented posthumously with the Jewish Rescuers Citation—a joint program of the B’nai B’rith World Center and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust.
Participating in the program were two survivors of Theresienstadt—who shared their memories: Dita Kraus, who was deported from the Ghetto to the Children’s Block in the “Family Camp” at Auschwitz as a young woman and Hannah Sternlicht, who lost her parents in Auschwitz and survived on her own at the harsh labor camps of Freiberg and Mauthausen. Dita Kraus and Hannah Sternlicht recently published books in which they describe their experiences at the camp.
Hannah Sternlicht: “I often ask myself how I managed to survive. I am sure it has a great deal to do with my upbringing, although all that ended when I was 12. At first, I did not share what I had gone through, but when I saw my daughter take an interest and look for literature about the Holocaust, I realized that I must tell my story and pass it on. Despite the difficulty of revealing it all, I consider it a calling and obligation. I promised myself that, so long as I can, I will continue to do so.”
Dita Kraus: “I never look back to the past. I always look forward, think of what will happen tonight, tomorrow, next month. I look to tomorrow, to the future. If I do look back into the past I prefer to remember the days before the war.”
After completing the march to the Small Fortress, the mission participated in the official Czech Republic national commemoration marking 77 years since the liberation of Theresienstadt, during which B’nai B’rith’s participation was noted. The event was attended by the Speaker of the Czech Chamber of Deputies, Prime Minister, members of government, supreme court judges, members of the diplomatic corps and other officials.
Also participating were the president of the Jewish Federations in Bohemia and Moravia, Petr Papousek; Tomas Kraus, director of the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic and president of B’nai B’rith Prague Lodge; Tami Kinberg, Beit Theresienstadt director; Phyllis Heideman, president of the International March of the Living and B’nai B’rith Honorary President Richard D. Heideman.
Tami Kinberg, Beit Theresienstadt Director: “Taking the Torah Scroll from Britain back to the Czech Republic and from there to Israel embodies a significant educational journey that links us to the wonderful history of European Jewry. The salvaged Torah Scrolls are not just a symbol of victory for the Jewish spirit but also of Jewish revival. We are excited to receive the Torah Scroll in Beit Theresienstadt and to harness it to link Bar/Bat Mitzvah children to the generations of their nation.”
Phyllis Heideman, International March of the Living President: “The March of the Living marches wherever Jews lived, survived, and were murdered during the Holocaust, to ensure that the memory is not forgotten. Now, perhaps more than ever before in our lifetime, we must do all within our power to keep Holocaust memory alive. The rescue, preservation, and restoration of over 1500 Torah Scrolls from Prague alone is true testament to the spirit of the Jewish People under all circumstances.”
Alan Schneider, Director of B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem: “International B’nai B’rith is honored to participate in this sacred initiative of redeeming a Torah Scroll from the depths of the ruined Jewish communities of Czechoslovakia. This is one of many efforts that the organization initiated or took part in since the Holocaust ended. B’nai B’rith was active in Europe through hundreds of bureaus, beginning in Germany in 1882 and until the wonderful community was destroyed in the Holocaust and which is only partially restored today. Many members of the organization perished in the Holocaust. Until the Nazi forces repealed B’nai B’rith’s status as an independent organization and seized its assets in 1938, it operated 16 bureaus, including one in Olomouc, the origin of the Torah Scroll to be brought to Beit Theresienstadt. We are therefore especially excited to participate in this event that reflects victory over the Nazis who intended to destroy, not only the people of Israel, but also to obscure its Torah, beliefs and culture.”
Leadership Mission to Cyprus, Israel and Greece
The fifth biannual Greek-Jewish Leadership Mission to Cyprus, Israel and Greece took place on 28 April – 5 May concluding in Athens following extensive high-level meetings and site visits in all three countries. The mission has been sponsored since 2012 by B’nai B’rith International, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organization, the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) and the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA). As in the past, the World Center was responsible for the Israel leg of the mission.
Initiated by B’nai B’rith CEO Dan Mariaschin and Conference of Presidents Vice Chair Malcolm Hoenlein, together with AHI President Nick Larigakis and AHEPA Executive Director Basil Mossaidis, the program is geared to strengthening the 3+1 (Greece, Cyprus, Israel, plus the U.S.) relationship, promoting U.S. interests in the Eastern Mediterranean region and deepening the connection between the Greek and Jewish communities in the U.S.
Leading this year’s mission were: B’nai B’rith CEO Dan Mariaschin, B’nai B’rith Foundation Chair Irving Silver and Frances Silver, and B’nai B’rith World Center Director Alan Schneider, Conference of Presidents Chair Dianne Lob, CEO William Daroff and Vice Chair Malcolm Hoenlein, AHEPA Supreme President Jimmy Kokotas and AHI President and CEO Nicholas Larigakis.
Among those who met and briefed the mission were Cypriot Presidential Commissioner Photis Photiou, President of the House of Representatives Annita Demetriou and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ioannis Kasoulides, Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Foreign Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Minister of Justice and Deputy Prime Minister Gideon Sa’ar, Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Ram Ben Barak, General Security Service head Ronen Bar, and incoming Israeli ambassador to Greece Ambassador Noam Katz, Greek Foreign Minister Nikolaos Dendias, Chief of Staff General Konstantinos Floros and Deputy Minister of Defense Nikolaos Chardalias.
Site visits included the Tomb of Macedonites war memorial and military cemetery in Cyprus and the Cyprus-Israel Friendship Monument, where thousands of Jews were interned by the British, Palmachim Air Force Base, and the Old City of Jerusalem in Israel and Tanaga Air Force base in Greece. All speakers stressed the strategic importance of the tripartite relationship and provided examples of the profound intimacy that categorizes the relationship between Cyprus, Israel and Greece on the military and government levels.
To mark Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day in Israel, the mission participants solemnly read out the names of some of the 60,000 Greek Holocaust victims and 362 Greek Righteous Among the Nations.
The B'nai B'rith World Center and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael marked Heroism of Jews Who Rescued Fellow Jews at Holocaust Commemoration Ceremony
B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-JNF) held their 16thannual joint ceremony to honor Jews who rescued fellow Jews during the Holocaust, the only Yom HaShoah event dedicated annually to commemorating the heroism of Jewish rescuers.
The ceremony was held Yom Hashoa (April 28) at B’nai B’rith Martyr’s Forest “Scroll of Fire” Plaza and was streamed in Hebrew on the World Center Facebook page (here) and in English on the B’nai B’rith International Facebook page (here). The “Jewish Rescuers Citation”—a joint program of the B’nai B’rith World Center and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust (JRJ)—was conferred on 13 rescuers who operated in France, Holland, Germany, Slovakia, Lithuania, Czechia and Denmark.
Speakers at the ceremony included: Sar-Shalom Jerbi, director, Education and Community Division, KKL-JNF; Alan Schneider, director, B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem; Brig. Gen. Kobi Karni, commander, Border Guard Combat Training Center; Ambassador Hans Docter, ambassador of the Netherlands to Israel.
Docter said in his remarks, “Here, at the forest of the Martyrs, 6 million trees were planted in memory of the innocent Jewish lives that were cut short. It is our responsibility to keep these 6 million memories alive and to say today, and every day, Never Again.”
The phenomena of Jewish rescue and the instructive stories of thousands of Jews who labored to save their endangered brethren throughout Europe have yet to receive appropriate public recognition and resonance. Many who could have tried to flee preferred to stay and rescue others; some paid for it with their lives. With great heroism, Jews in every country in occupied Europe employed subterfuge, forgery, smuggling, concealment and other methods to ensure that Jews survived the Holocaust, or assisted them in escaping to safe havens, and in doing so foiled the Nazi goal of total genocide against the Jews. The organizers of the ceremony view it as especially important to expose Jewish youth to these narratives as a model for Jewish solidarity and courage.
B’nai B’rith Meets with Diplomats in Israel
B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider met on March 16 with the leader of the EU delegation in Israel, Ambassador Dimiter Tzantchev, to discuss the recently-released B’nai B’rith report “Aligning Principles and Practice – EU Assistance to the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian NGOs – Rethinking the Approach to Meet Normative Goals.”
The meeting took place as the European Parliament deliberated a new Action Plan that determines the goals and conditions of EU funding for the Palestinian Authority (PA), UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency) and Palestinian NGOs. In the report, B’nai B’rith argues for greater transparency in EU procedures for debating and approving the Action Plan, calls on the EU to develop a system of effective conditionality linked to implementing individual rights and the rule of law, and encourages the EU to adopt its own version of the Taylor Force Act to make its support conditional on the PA dismantling its “pay for slay” practice. The meeting also touched on B’nai B’rith’s long history in Europe and current engagement across the continent, including aid efforts to the Ukrainian people.
Schneider also met on March 16 with Bulgaria’s ambassador in Israel, Rumiana Bachvarova. A former deputy prime minister, Bachvarova discussed current Israel-Bulgaria relations and the rescue of Bulgarian Jewry during the Holocaust.
B’nai B’rith CEO Dan Mariaschin, B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider and Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Vice Chair Malcolm Hoenlein met with Ambassador Kyriakos Loukakis at the Greek Embassy to Israel. The conversation centered on strengthening the trilateral relationship between Israel, Greece and Cyprus.
Schneider also met with Mihajlo Tripić, charge d’affaires ad interim at the embassy of Serbia to Israel and other senior embassy staff: Dušan Vujović, counsellor and consul; LTC Milomir Isailović, defence attache; and Honorary Consul Aleksandar Nikolic, who also heads the newly opened Serbian Representative Office in Jerusalem. The meeting focused on traditionally close Jewish-Serbian relations, the fate of Jews in Serbia during the Holocaust and restitution, Israel-Serbia relations and the Serbian heritage of Theodor Herzl, whose grandfather served in the mid-1800s as a sexton to Rabbi Judah Ben Shlomo Hai Alkalai, a prominent precursor of the modern Zionist movement and the Sephardi rabbi of the Serbian border town of Zemun, then at the military frontier of the Austrian Empire and today a suburb of the Serbian capital Belgrade. They also discussed Serbia’s boycott of the Durban IV event at the U.N. General Assembly.
Schneider met on November 2021 with the ambassador of Kenya to Israel Samuel N. Thuita and his staff to discuss Kenya-Israel relations and Israel-related resolutions at the U.N.
Schneider met with Ambassador Osvaldo dos Santos Varela of Angola on November 3rd. The discussion focused on voting on Israel-related U.N. resolutions. They also discussed Israeli observer status at the African Union and raised ideas for strengthening the relationship between the two countries.
Ambassador Kyriakos Loukakis of Greece, who has taken up the post for a second time after serving his country as ambassador to Israel about a decade ago. The two met in Athens just prior to the ambassador’s reappointment. They discussed programs initiated by B’nai B’rith to strengthen Israel-Greek-Cyprus relations, including a bi-annual Jewish-Greek American mission to Israel, Greece and Cyprus and the Israel-Hellenic Forum, established by the World Center in 2019 to expand the relationship between Israel, Greek and Cypriot politicians, journalists, academics and other public officials.
A meeting was held with Albanian Ambassador to Israel Bardhyl Canaj at the Embassy of Albania in Israel on October 11, 2021. Topics discussed included the importance of building on warm relations between the two nations and areas of cooperation in the region, particularly humanitarian aid. Albania was also praised for refusing to participate in the Durban IV event at the U.N. General Assembly.
B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider represented B’nai B’rith at an event on January 31 at the embassy of the Republic of Kosovo in Jerusalem marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The event focused on the Jewish community of Kosovo before and during the Holocaust. In her presentation, carge d’affairs Inis Demiri—the granddaughter of a Jewish survivor and Kosovar rescuer—noted that 258 Jews were deported from Kosovo during the German occupation that followed the Italian capitulation, 92 perishing at Bergen Belsen. She added that the Kosovo embassy in Jerusalem represents the emotional ties between the two countries and bond between Jews and ethnic Albanians.
B’nai B’rith Hosts Delegation of International Ambassadors and Other Senior Diplomats to Israel
B’nai B’rith brought its latest delegation of international ambassadors and other senior diplomats to Israel.
Over the course of nearly a week (February 27-March 4) the diplomats—from diverse regions of the world—met Israeli policymakers, toured sites of historical significance, learned about critical regional threats and opportunities, and encountered the vibrant democracy, technological innovation and demographic diversity of the Jewish state.
The visitors, who currently serve as deputy permanent representatives at the United Nations, received briefings from officials at Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, representatives of the Israel Defense Forces and members of the Knesset, including Yossi Shain, Ibtisam Mara’ana and Yuval Steinitz. They toured holy places in Jerusalem as well as Yad Vashem, the national Holocaust memorial and museum.
On Mt. Herzl, they witnessed the human toll of the struggle for Israel’s preservation and peace at the memorial to fallen Israeli service members and, on the 100th birthday of Yitzhak Rabin, at the gravesite of the assassinated prime minister and Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
The delegation was presented by Palestinian Media Watch Director Itamar Marcus with evidence of endemic incitement to violence against Israelis and met with those affected by anti-Israel terrorism, including Benjamin Horgan, whose wife was murdered while jogging near their home. The diplomats gathered with Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi near the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and inspected a cross-border attack tunnel dug by Lebanese-based Hezbollah.
The diplomats, who were greeted by Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz and by Minister of Aliyah and Integration Pnina Tamano-Shata, also visited places of Christian pilgrimage on the Sea of Galilee and the international headquarters of the Baha’i faith, a UNESCO world heritage site in Haifa. Members of the religious minority continue to face systemic persecution in Iran.
As Israel offered to assist peacemaking in Ukraine—mindful of sizable Jewish communities in, large groups of Israeli citizens from and important ties with both that country and Russia—the diplomats heard from Daniel Rakov, a Ukrainian-born expert on Russian policy in the Middle East, on the acute complexities involved in this undertaking.
The delegation’s intensive program in Israel was organized by the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem and the B’nai B’rith Office of United Nations Affairs in New York, with support from the Genesis Prize Foundation, Robert Kraft, Concert—Together for Israel and Matan—United Way Israel.
Over recent years, B’nai B’rith has brought dozens of ambassadors and other diplomats—from United Nations Headquarters, UNESCO and the U.N. Human Rights Council—to Israel.
Major Junction in Sderot Named for Jewish Rescuer Recognized by B’nai B’rith World Center
A major junction in the southern city of Sderot was named for Wolf Galperin, a Jewish rescuer who was recognized in 2017 by the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers with their joint Jewish Rescuers Citation. Galperin (94)—a resident of Sderot—attended the ceremony on March 9 along with four of the 131 children from the Kovna Ghetto that he rescued. The junction sits at the entrance to a new neighborhood of Sderot with over 1000 units already built in the face of the rocket threats from the Gaza Strip that sits just one kilometer west of the city limits.
Speakers at the event included Sderot mayor Alon Davidi, Committee Chairman Aryeh Barnea and B’nai B’rith World Center Director Alan Schneider. Davidi said that Wolf’s heroism would serve as an example for future generations in the city. Barnea said that endangering himself to rescue others instead of focusing solely on his own survival, Wolf offered to the Jewish people and to the world an example of altruism and human solidarity that seems to us today an impossibility. Schneider said that Wolf Galperin junction and the large neighborhood that has sprung up around it are part and parcel of the resilience of the city that has flourished in the face of ongoing attacks and threats from Gaza and suggested that when the new Olim from Ukraine and Russia move to the city, as they inevitably will, they should be taken to see Wolf Galperin junction and be introduced to the story of his bravery.
Although he was only 17 years old at the time, Wolf Galperin made the decision to support and safeguard, to the best of his ability, a group of 130 Jewish children from his hometown of Kovna, Lithuania, between the ages of seven and 14, including his younger brother. The children were some of the last Jews who were captured by the Nazis prior to the liquidation of the ghetto in 1944. The women, men and children were taken to and separated at Stutthof, a concentration camp in Sztutowo, Poland. The men and children continued on their journey to the Landsberg concentration camp, where 130 of the youngest children were segregated in a barbed wire holding area, presumably to await their deaths. Galperin, who was not among them, crawled under the barbed wire to be with his brother. A day later Galperin and the children were taken to Dachau and in an effort to maintain their morale, Galperin worked to divert the children’s attention from the barbarity surrounding them. Recognizing that the Nazis valued order and obedience, he taught the children to march in formation. On July 31, 1944, the children were transferred to Auschwitz-Birkenau, along with Galperin, and once again they began to march.
It is generally believed by the survivors that their orderly behavior among the chaos, grief and hysteria that was the norm was what drew the Germans to allow the group into the camp (rather than being and to be assigned for work detail. The children were tattooed with sequential numbers B-2774 to B-2902. During the High Holidays in 1944, 90 members of the original group were removed from the camp and never seen again. Galperin himself was also taken away, surviving in forced labor and death marches until he was liberated on May 2, 1945. Of the 40 survivors from the initial group of children, 28, including Galperin, made their way to Israel.
B’nai B’rith Co-Hosts Conference on Israel-Diaspora Relations
The B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem and the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI)—a Jewish Agency think tank—held a major conference on February 15 entitled “An Eye Gazes towards the Diaspora: on the responsibility of Israel toward the Jewish diaspora.”
The conference focused on Section 6 of Israel’s National State Basic Law (The Connection with the Jewish People) and was designed for winners of the B’nai B’rith World Center Award for Journalism Recognizing Excellence in Diaspora Reportage (est. 1992), members of the Award jury and other interested parties. Award winners from ynet, Israel Radio, Israel Television, Haaretz, Jerusalem Post, Yisrael Hayom and Makor Rishon participated in the conference and offered insights on Israel-Diaspora relations.
Opening presentations were made by B’nai B’rith World Center Board member Daniel Schydlowsky (who initiated the conference); JPPI President Yedidia Stern; Yaakov Hagoel, chairman of the Zionist Executive and acting chairman of the Jewish Agency Executive and Jewish Agency CEO Amira Aharonovich. Minister of Diaspora Affairs Nachman Shai presented Israel’s activities on behalf of Diaspora communities.
The program included a panel discission entitled “What is the responsibility of the State of Israel to Diaspora Jewry?” addressed by three members of the Journalism Award jury—former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Sallai Meridor, Sergio Della Pergola of Hebrew University and Yehudit Auerbach of Bar Ilan University and Einat Wilf, a JPPI senior research fellow. JPPI Vice President Shuki Friedman presented an analysis of the Nation State Law and its references to Israel’s responsibilities toward the Diaspora while JPPI Senior Research Fellow Shlomo Fischer presented a survey of attitudes of American Jews toward Israel and Israel-U.S. relations.
Book by Honorary President Richard D. Heideman Looks on the Multipronged Warfare Against Israel launched by World Center
The B’nai B’rith World Center, together with Gefen Publishing, Heideman Nudelman Kalik PC and the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, held an event on Feb. 13 to launch a new book by Honorary B’nai B’rith President Richard D. Heideman, “The Bloody Price of Freedom.”
The book analyses the multipronged diplomatic, boycott and terror warfare against Israel and the global Jewish community, providing tools countering the demonization of Israel and anti-Semitic attacks upon the Jewish people. The book addresses the insidious attacks, propaganda, economic, academic and other boycotts as well as the misapplication of international law in the United Nations and elsewhere that has been leveraged against Israel. A special section on the International Court of Justice’s 2004 nonbinding advisory opinion on the construction of Israel’s terrorism-prevention security fence includes detailed illustrative maps.
To launch the book B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin hosted a panel discussion with with (l-r) Irit Kohn, past president, International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists; Yossi Kuperwasser, former director general, Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Yifa Segal, founder and former chair, International Legal Forum.
In opening remarks, B’nai B’rith World Center Director Alan Schneider noted that “Coming after the author’s earlier book, ‘The Hague Odyssey,’ in which he meticulously presented the U.N.’s handling of Israel’s security barrier and the advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice in 2004 that found it illegal under international law, ‘The Bloody Price of Freedom’ is another important contribution to our understanding of the system that encircles Israel and tries to strangle it.”
In a letter presented at the event, B’nai B’rith World Center Chairman Haim V. Katz praised Heideman as “a dedicated fighter for Zionist, Israeli and Jewish causes—our causes.”
Opening the panel discussion, Mariaschin said Jews and Israel now face “a perfect storm of anti-Semitism that envelops us globally, coming from the left, the right, and from Islamists and transmitted over social media with increasing ferocity and frequency. So many of the vectors of contemporary anti-Semitism are focused on marginalizing, demeaning, demonizing and delegitimizing Israel and Zionism. Added to all of this is an explosion of Holocaust denial and trivialization, and perhaps worse, the politicization of the Holocaust in international fora.”
Kohn noted that the new book will help to dispel widespread ignorance about Israel and justify its cause also for Israel’s own citizens who are divided on many cardinal issues pertaining to the state’s legitimacy. She also called on Israel to emphasize the many crimes committed by Hamas and other Palestinian factions in their war against Israel.
Kuperwasser said that left-wing radicals are arrayed against Israel and are making inroads into the center-left. To counter that Israel supporters must speak the same language, using appropriate vocabulary to present Israel’s justified arguments and counter the trend toward intersectionality backed by the progressive movement. Because Israel is strong and prosperous, a growing number of countries want to intensify relations, but this has not yet been successfully translated to multilateral fora including the U.N. “The BDS movement is just another arrow in the quiver of Iranian arrows against Israel and it must beware in the face of a cynical world that stands aside as the Ukraine is threatened with invasion,” he said.
Segal argued that Israel is way behind its detractors in the war of narratives and ideas. She said loaded legal terms such as “apartheid” and “annexation” can be successfully used against Israel because their formal meaning is not generally known, also to our own young generation. The Abraham Accords broke the Arab bloc against Israel and offered another voice to the Arab League.
In his concluding remarks, Heideman noted that the Nazi manifesto of 1920 had 20 points aimed at dehumanizing the Jewish people that led directly to the Shoah and the annihilation of millions. Today we hear that “Hitler should have been allowed to finish the job” and young people are believing it and repeating it. In 1944 the Arab League convened and passed a plan for the economic boycott of the Jews in their countries. Israel, Zionism and their supports have faced a conspiracy of painting it as racist, pushed by the Arab League, at the U.N. and by NGOs. This conspiracy and boycott were broken by the Abraham Accords that followed 25 years during which no Arab country established relations with the State of Israel.
“This book was written for the Israeli victims and families of terrorism who lost the fiber and fabric of their families,” Heideman said. “There is a profound linkage between terrorism, anti-Semitism and the demonization of Israel, and the global Jewish community, including in Israel, must work together to illuminate the danger of the repetition of history. Silence is not an option.”
B’nai B’rith World Center Co-Sponsors Film Premiere of “Recognition”
The B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust co-sponsored the premiere screening of the film “Recognition” at the Jerusalem Cinematheque, on January 23, in the context of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The film, produced and initiated by former B’nai B’rith International vice president Abraham Huli and directed by Shoshi Ben Hamo, tells the exceptional story of the rescue of Jews by fellow Jews who endangered their lives to do so during the Holocaust.
The film is presented from the viewpoint of the rescuers, many of whom could have hidden or escaped but chose to rescue their Jewish brethren while knowingly endangering themselves. The rescuers operated in cities, villages, ghettos and camps, and employed resourcefulness, tenacity and courage, risking their lives to save others. Some paid with their lives.
The film was shot in Israel, France, Poland, Greece, Holland and Hungary, and features professor Gideon Grief as historical advisor. The World Center has championed Jewish rescue over the past 20 years as part of its Holocaust education initiatives.
Following the screening, a Jewish Rescuers Citation was presented in memory of Teddy Kollek (1911-2007), former mayor of Jerusalem, in recognition of his heroic efforts to rescue fellow Jews in Czechoslovakia, Germany and Austria, where he met in April 1939 with Adolf Eichmann, head at the time of Jewish Affairs at the Security Service (Sicherheitsdienst—SD). The citation was presented to Kollek’s daughter Osnat by World Center Director Alan Schneider and Committee Chairman Aryeh Barnea. Taking considerable personal risk at a dangerous time, Kollek succeeded in convincing Eichmann to apply to Austrian Jews the same regulations that allowed Jews to still leave Germany with entry permits from foreign countries, saving many lives. Osnat Kollek noted that later in life, her father confessed that he suffered from nightmares about the fate of Jewish children murdered by the Nazis who could not be saved through efforts like his.
Since the establishment of the Jewish Rescuers Citation in 2011 by the B’nai B’rith World Center and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers, nearly 600 heroes have been honored for rescue activities. Ceremonies were held in Israel, France, Holland, Italy, Canada, Belgium, Greece and the U.S. The Jewish Rescuers Citation was established in an effort to help correct the generally held misconception that Jews failed to come to the aid of fellow Jews during the Holocaust.
B’nai B’rith Attends Funeral of Aura Herzog (Z”L)
B’nai B’rith World Center – Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider represented B’nai B’rith at the funeral of Aura Herzog (z’l) on January 12. Herzog, who was married to Israeli President Chaim Herzog, was the First Lady of Israel from 1983–1993. She was the mother of current Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Herzog. In addition to her role as first lady, Herzog also served Israel as a diplomat and was active in promoting a number of causes, including the arts and culture and the environment.
Aura Herzog’s—née Ambache—family helped to found Motza, a town established by the Jerusalem Lodge of B’nai B’rith.
B’nai B’rith Attends IDF Briefing for Civil Society Organizations
B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider attended, along with heads of other civil society organizations engaged in public diplomacy, a briefing by Deputy IDF Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi and incoming Head of the International Media Branch at IDF Spokesperson’s Unit Lt. Col. Amnon Shefler. The briefing covered threats posed to Israel by Iran, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Lebanon and other regional actors, and the promise offered by the Abraham Accords and regional economic cooperation. The event included a conversation on IDF-civil society interface in combating misrepresentation of the IDF’s actions and the attack on Israel’s right to self-defense in public discourse.
B’nai B’rith World Center Presents Annual Gift to Israeli Orphans
B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider travelled on December to the northern Israeli Druze village of Yarka to present the annual B’nai B’rith Edith ‘Pat’ Wolfson and Roselle and ‘Benjamin’ Bernard Roseman Endowment Fund for Israeli Youth to the orphans of Hosam Zghaiyir (32), Neil (4.5) and Nisan (1.5). Zghaiyir, a police volunteer, was killed on Sept. 21 when he and police officer Amri Abu Rish were hit by a vehicle while seeking permits from Palestinian workers at a construction site in Nahariya. The main suspect, contractor Nasim Sah from the Lower Galilee city of Arraba, was partially handcuffed when he ran over the policemen twice before fleeing the scene but was arrested the same day and has been in custody since.
Following a religious Druze ceremony, Zghaiyir was given a police burial in Yarka with Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, Minister Hamed Amar and Likud MK Fateen Mulla, who lives in the town, in attendance. Abu Rish remains in serious condition.
During an emotional meeting in the Zghaiyir home with Hosam’s widow Ranen, his father, father-in-law and children, Hosam was described as a dedicated father and husband who, although a full-time employee of the Israel Electric Corporation, found the time to volunteer with the police. When he was killed, Hosam was standing in for Jewish policemen who were observing the Sukkot holiday. The B’nai B’rith World Center has administered the Wolfson Roseman Endowment Fund for Israeli Youth since 2005.
B’nai B’rith Attends Opening of Serbian Representative Office in Jerusalem
B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem director Alan Schneider represented B’nai B’rith at the opening on November 2021 of the Representative of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia at Margalit Startup City in Jerusalem. The office will be headed by Aleksandar Nikolic, Serbia’s honorary consul. Guests of honor at the event were Tatjana Matic, Minister of Trade, Tourism and telecommunications of the Republic of Serbia, Marko Cadez, resident of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia and Israeli Minister of Finance Avigdor Lieberman.
B’nai B’rith Helps Renovate Damaged Synagogue in Lod
Following a B’nai B’rith International solidarity visit to the city of Lod in central Israel, the organization donated funds for the renovation of the Yeshuat Hashem synagogue in the Ramat Eshkol neighborhood, the heaviest hit in Arab rioting that rocked the country in May during the Guardian of the Wall operation against Hamas in Gaza. The synagogue, established by the Georgian Jewish community, was firebombed and shot at during the riots in which one Arab resident was shot to death and one Jewish resident lynched.
Lod Municipality CEO Aharon Attias sent a letter of gratitude to B’nai B’rith, noting “the deep partnership and empathy you expressed during your visit in the city of Lod after Operation Guardian of the Walls. The challenge the city is facing on a daily basis is not simple at all. The residents are carrying on their back a very complex burden but with great pride. I cannot estimate what this coping would look like without the knowledge that Jews in Israel and around the world share their love and care for the citizens of the city. Thank you B’nai B’rith for taking an active part in restoring the synagogue in the old city of Lod. I am hopeful for better and safer days.
The B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem has managed the interaction with the synagogue caretakers who have infused new life into the sanctuary since May.
B’nai B’rith World Center Hosts Local Government Delegation from Germany
The B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem hosted on October 21 a visiting delegation of German local government officials for a meeting with Israel foreign ministry officials and a tour at Yad Vashem – The World Holocaust Remembrance Center.
The delegation was led by Alexander Legler, country commissioner for Aschaffenburg and the mayors of Stockstadt am Main and Alzenau, Rafael Herbaria and Stephan Noll. The delegation met at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with former Israel consul general in Munich, Sandra Simovich, director of the ministry’s Central Europe department, which also covers Germany. The discussion touched on many issues pertaining to strengthening Israeli-German civic relationships, including the intention of the mayors to sign twin-cities agreements with Israeli cities or regional councils, initiate youth exchanges and visit in the spring with a large delegation of mayors.
While in Israel, the delegation also visited the Galilee Heights and Hof HaSharon regional councils, participated in the MuniWorld conference for Brainstorming on Smart Cities and Urban Security that took place in Tel Aviv and toured the Old City of Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. Introduction to the delegation was made by B’nai B’rith Frankfurt Lodge President Ralph Hofmann.