B’nai B'rith Commemorates International Holocaust Remembrance Day - Program Focuses on Jews who Rescued Fellow Jews
In commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the United Nations, B’nai B’rith International focused attention at a New York program on “Jews who Rescued Fellow Jews during the Holocaust,” and presented a citation in honor of Aron Grunhut for his extraordinary efforts saving Jews in Slovakia.
In introductory remarks, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination Fabrizio Hochschild, of Chile, spoke about his Jewish late grandfather’s little-known efforts, from Bolivia, to save thousands of Jewish refugees by helping them immigrate to that country.
This morning’s posthumous honoree, Grunhut, was an Orthodox businessman and leader in several Jewish organizations in what is now Bratislava, Slovakia. He began his rescue activities in 1938, when he participated in saving Jewish refugees sent to Hungary from Austria. At the same time, he had a tent camp built for stateless Jews in Slovakia, and organized their journey to the British mandate of Palestine. In 1939, he further chartered two steam boats to smuggle 1,365 Jews from Slovakia, Hungary, Poland and Austria to pre-state Israel.
Grunhut was arrested in Slovakia in 1943 for his activity in the resistance. After his release, he joined his wife and young son, who were hidden under false identities, in Hungary. From a hiding place, Grunhut contacted the Hungarian underground and financed the smuggling of Jewish refugees by train from Budapest to Damascus, saving another 300 children. He himself found refuge in the basement of the former Czechoslovakian embassy in Budapest, living there with his wife and son until the end of the war. The family returned to Bratislava after the war, but left for Israel in 1948.
B’nai B’rith International President Gary P. Saltzman welcomed Grunhut’s granddaughter, Yael Goren, who accepted the rescuer’s award on behalf of Benny Goren, her father, now a resident of Florida.
“We have gathered to focus on a unique, important and largely overlooked aspect of the history of the Holocaust. While for decades significant attention was justly focused on acknowledging and honoring non-Jews who heroically helped rescue Jews during the Holocaust — many of them are recognized by Israel’s national Holocaust authority, Yad Vashem, as ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ — there has been far less awareness of Jews who, frequently enduring the most trying and precarious of circumstances themselves, took the initiative and risk to aid others facing Nazi persecution and mass murder,” Saltzman said.
B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider and Haim Roet, chairman of the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jews who Rescued Fellow Jews during the Holocaust, also spoke at the event by phone from Israel. They discussed the history of the citation and why such recognition of Jewish rescue is necessary.
Goren spoke of Jew’s courageous efforts to save Jews.
“My grandfather, though many times he was the leading force behind his deeds, could not act alone. He had to have the support of other Jewish fighters and this is what they were, even if they didn’t carry a weapon. They put theirs and their dear ones’ lives at risk — at a higher risk — when it was risky enough just to be Jewish — selfless and fearless against all odds to save other people, other fellow Jews. My father would then celebrate his 90th birthday in just of a couple weeks, couldn’t be here today. I’m here on behalf of my father that would have been here on behalf of his father. Those that were younger kids during the war are now at least in their 80s. We have very limited time to make sure that all of these unknown brave stories are told and documented before we won’t have [anyone] to ask anymore,” Goren said.
B’nai B’rith’s program preceded the official U.N. Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony — addressed by the body’s secretary-general, Antonio Guterres — which leaders of the organization also attended. B’nai B’rith played an active role in the United Nations’ adoption of Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2005. Last week, Director of United Nations and Intercommunal Affairs David Michaels, in remarks on a U.N. panel, detailed many of B’nai B’rith’s efforts to commemorate the Holocaust, promote diversity and combat hatred around the globe.
Michaels said: “My organization was founded as a pioneer of civil-society humanitarianism by German Jewish immigrants in this city 175 years ago — a century before their peers and relatives would experience the culmination of unthinkable anti-Semitism and inhumanity in the Holocaust. And in the ashes of the Holocaust, my organization helped lead Jewish communal engagement in San Francisco in 1945 in the founding of the United Nations, as we have in the life of the U.N. ever since. And notwithstanding the well-known and real strains that have since emerged in this relationship, this engagement has reflected profound Jewish aspiration to see this body fulfill the vision of peace inscribed on the Isaiah Wall across the street from here.”
He concluded: “Vigilance and concrete action against all forms of bigotry remain critical at a time of resurgent Nazi-glorification in parts of Central Europe and elsewhere, of the rise of so-called racial nationalists in the United States, and of persistent Holocaust-denial and demonization of Jews across much of the Middle East.”
To view last week’s U.N. panel on the lessons of the Holocaust, click here.
To view today’s B’nai B’rith program on Jewish rescuers, click here.
Photos from the Event:
President Touches On Some Key B'nai B'rith Priorities In State of the Union - We commend his stance on Jerusalem; Express concern about Health Care Reform Impact on Seniors
B'nai B'rith International President Gary P. Saltzman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin have issued the following statement:
We salute President Donald J. Trump for his steadfast support of Israel during his State of the Union address. His December announcement, which he reiterated in his address tonight, to move the U.S. embassy to its rightful place in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, was a significant declaration. The refusal of the global community to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s rightful capital has long been objectionable. Israel is the only country in the world whose choice of a capital is not internationally recognized. We commend this administration for its unequivocal support of Jerusalem and for reviving the U.S.-Israel relationship.
We are disappointed that the president’s priorities, as outlined in his speech, don’t strengthen programs on which older Americans rely. The new tax law’s elimination of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate sets up older Americans for higher health care premiums. The mandate as implemented in the original ACA had done a commendable job of keeping health care premiums for older people somewhat in check.
We urge the president to work with Congress to ensure that any shortfall in federal revenue from tax cuts will not give cover to lawmakers to cut vital programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and nutrition assistance, that so many Americans rely on to meet their basic day-to-day needs.
In his address, Trump also stressed infrastructure rebuilding. We had hoped his plan would call attention to the dearth of affordable housing for seniors. B’nai B’rith, the largest national Jewish sponsor of low-income housing for older Americans, has a nearly half-century commitment to safe, affordable housing for older persons. Any infrastructure plans should include helping seniors of low-income live independently, safely and securely.
The president also talked about an immigration plan that includes a path to citizenship for 1.8 million immigrants brought to this country as children. B’nai B’rith continues to call for both parties to agree on a plan for comprehensive immigration reform. Enforcement must be coupled with a path to normalization that is more efficient than our current procedures. In supporting the passage of a Dream Act, we co-signed a letter to Congress that stressed: “While Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) provided temporary relief, we believe that these young people deserve the chance to live, study and work in the United States without constant fear of deportation. With DACA slated to end in March 2018, they now face possible detention and deportation to countries they may not know or remember.” Our position is that comprehensive immigration reform should be bipartisan and expeditious.
We agree with the president’s assessment that the Iran nuclear agreement is not a good deal. Since its inception, we have expressed concern about the feasibility of a nuclear deal with Tehran. The global threat posed by Iran’s access to nuclear weapons cannot be overstated. A nuclear-armed Iran is a chilling prospect, given Tehran’s hegemonic reach, through its proxies, into the far corners of the Middle East and well beyond.
Given that the State of the Union is meant to sum up the last year and to look ahead as the president frames his top priorities, in the coming days we will use the president’s speech as a blueprint to work with the White House on issues important to our organization and our constituencies.
B’nai B’rith International President Gary P. Saltzman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin have issued the following statement:
U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) toured one of B’nai B’rith International’s housing facilities to meet with residents and discuss the critical importance of housing for adults with limited means. Sam J. Stone B’nai B’rith Covenant Apartments in Peoria, Ill. is a residential facility sponsored by B’nai B’rith in partnership with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
“I had a great discussion with the seniors of B'nai B'rith Covenant Apartments today about all of the issues affecting them and their families. Our seniors worked hard all of their lives and they deserve to retire with dignity, and that includes providing them with affordable housing options through the Section 202 program. I believe that all seniors should be able to retire with peace of mind which is why I'm fighting hard to protect the Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare benefits they've earned,” Bustos said.
Bustos’ tour of the building included a model apartment, two community rooms, laundry room, food pantry and the computer/library room. Other amenities were outlined for the Congresswoman: how the Peoria Public Library book program works, how transportation to doctor appointments is provided and much more.
The Congresswoman held a Q-and-A session with about 75 residents and answered questions regarding affordable housing rental subsidies, Social Security, veteran issues, nutrition assistance programs and Medicare.
This type of housing is in constant demand, and researchers say for every low-income senior housing apartment nationwide there are 10-12 seniors waiting for a spot.
“It was a pleasure hosting Congresswoman Bustos at B’nai B’rith Covenant Apartments. Her visit highlighted the importance Section 202 plays by providing affordable housing for low-income seniors to age in place. Affordable housing accompanied by programs like Medicare and Social Security allow seniors to retire with dignity,” B’nai B’rith International Assistant Director for Aging Policy Evan Carmen said.
The B'nai B'rith Senior Housing Network in the United States consists of 38 buildings in 27 communities, includes some 4,500 apartment units and serves more than 8,000 people.
“I have been here for seven years and I moved here after I retired because of the amenities they provide to the residents and especially security. I was looking for security and I find it here at B’nai B’rith, there are many programs here for seniors that benefit them, and it’s just one big happy family here,” said resident Ruth Bush.
CEO: “…it is the moral responsibility of all people of conscience to aggressively confront every form of racial, religious, or ethnic hatred…”
B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin presented at the International Conference of the Responsibility of States, Institutions and Individuals in the Fight against Anti-Semitism in the OSCE Area on Jan. 29 at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Rome.
Mariaschin spoke in a plenary session, titled “The Meaning of Responsibility,” with Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council Rabbi Israel Meir Lau and Founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio professor Andrea Riccardi.
Mariaschin discussed the connection between anti-Semitism and anti-Israel hatred: “Such manifestations of blatant anti-Israel sentiment demonstrate a willingness to vilify the Jewish state and apply double standards to it — to condemn Israel for actions for which no other country in the world would receive similar criticism. Demonization, de-legitimization and a double standard — what Natan Sharansky called the “3 D’s” of anti-Israel criticism — are in evidence in many parts of the world. While for many centuries Jews have been singled out by anti-Semites for discriminatory treatment, Israel is now regarded as the Jew among nations and is similarly singled out as a pariah nation by the international community, a country targeted for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions.”
He also noted, “Meanwhile, a contemporary version of Holocaust denial has emerged, as Israel’s detractors claim that Jews are worse than Nazis and that Israel is perpetrating a ‘Holocaust’ upon the Palestinians. Rhetorical attacks on Israel often feature phrases such as ‘ethnic cleansing,’ ‘forced transfers,’ and ‘human rights violations’ and ‘racism.’ Claims that Jews are exploiting the Holocaust to collect reparations money or that they have used the Holocaust to justify the creation of an ‘apartheid’ state also serve as troubling examples of the misuse of the Holocaust for political purposes.”
Click here to read Mariaschin’s remarks as prepared.
The conference began with an audience at the Vatican with Pope Francis for delegates and speakers. In his remarks, the Pope said: “I offer you a warm welcome and thank you for your presence here. I am grateful for the noble aim that brings you here: to reflect together, from varying points of view, on the responsibility of States, institutions and individuals in the struggle against anti-Semitism and crimes associated with anti-Semitic hatred.”
B’nai B’rith International honored Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales at the Casa de la Cultura in Guatemala City, Guatemala for his decision to move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem and for his unwavering support of Israel.
B’nai B’rith International Director of Latin American Affairs Eduardo Kohn, B’nai B’rith Latin America Vice Chair Marcelo Burman, B’nai B’rith Board of Governors member Samy Eppel, Executive Director of District 23 Alberto Jabiles and Guatemala B’nai B’rith President Zelik Tenembaum attended a meeting with Morales, Vice President Jafeth Cabrera and Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel.
The B’nai B’rith delegation presented Morales with a shofar and a plaque highlighting Guatemala’s record of defending human rights. We also praised Morales for his courage and determination for the embassy announcement and for recognizing that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Additionally, B’nai B’rith reiterated our commitment to human rights, the fight for democracy and our relationship with Guatemala.
Morales told our delegation that moving the embassy to Jerusalem is the right action to take legally and historically. He also said that Guatemala is the United States’ strongest ally in combating and preventing terrorism in America.
Our delegation told Morales that the Jewish people will always be grateful to Guatemala for its crucial role in Israel’s birth, and for the great roles then Ambassador Jorge García Granados and then President Juan José Arevalo played in recognizing the Jewish state.
Bulgarian Ambassador to the United States Tihomir Stoytchev addressed the B’nai B’rith Diplomatic Encounter Series luncheon on Jan. 24 and talked about Bulgaria’s history of cooperation and friendship with the Jewish people.
Stoytchev spoke of the long history of “mutual respect, understanding and support” his country has with its Jewish population. In particular, he focused on what he said was a significant example of human compassion in history – the remarkable story of the rescue of the Jewish population of Bulgaria during the Holocaust. In his remarks, he also pointed out that the Jewish community today is vibrant and well integrated into Bulgarian society and assured Jews are always welcome.
B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin introduced the event by detailing the heroic story of how the elements of the Bulgarian population — including the Orthodox Church, members of Parliament and many other citizens from all walks of life — came together to save the country’s Jewish population of 48,000 from deportation and certain death at the hands of the Nazis. The 1943 rescue of the Jews of Bulgaria, which was an Axis ally, is a compelling story. Tragically however, more than 11,000 Jews from Northern Greece and parts of Yugoslavia, which were under Bulgarian military administration, were sent to the death camps.
The ambassador also presented the priorities of the Bulgarian Presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2018: The future of Europe and of the young people — economic growth and social cohesion; security and stability for a stronger and united Europe; European perspective and connectivity of the Western Balkans; digital economy and skills of the future. The priorities are focused on delivering “solidarity, security and stability” for Europe.
Through the B’nai B’rith Diplomatic Encounter Series, which launched in 2002, diplomats and professionals meet to talk about some of the most topical domestic and foreign policy issues.
An 18-member delegation of leaders of the American Hellenic and American Jewish organizations completed a third, three-country Leadership Mission to Greece, Cyprus and Israel, to explore the major political, economic and security developments underway in the eastern Mediterranean and to advance the interests of the United States in the region. Meetings were held with more than 20 high-ranking government and military officials—in addition to policy analysts and community leaders—from the three countries and the United States. The participating organizations included: the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (Order of AHEPA), the American Hellenic Institute (AHI), B’nai B’rith International and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
In a statement, the groups noted: “Our meetings clearly revealed that the trilateral relationship between Israel, Cyprus and Greece is on a sustained course and is expanding on all levels. We believe the relationship has developed into a partnership, helping to foster peace and stability in the eastern Mediterranean and the broader region where instability exists. Further, the partnership possesses the potential to allow the eastern Mediterranean to become a community of nations based on shared common values and aspirations. To this end, we hope the trilateral partnership blossoms into a multilateral one. We applaud the leaders of these three countries for their ongoing and increasingly close cooperative relationship, and we look forward to a fourth Trilateral Summit in 2018. The American Hellenic and American Jewish communities are committed to advancing the trilateral partnership. We will continue to work to foster closer cooperation with the United States and support the common efforts to achieve tangible and measurable outcomes. For example, we are optimistic about initiatives involving youth exchanges. Finally, we are grateful to the many leaders who afforded us the opportunity to exchange views and ideas. The friendship and hospitality shown to us made the trip even more meaningful and productive.”
Leadership Mission: Listing of Meetings, Briefings & Visitations
Leadership Mission: Participating Organizations
American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (Order of AHEPA) is a leading membership-based grassroots service association for American citizens of Greek heritage and Philhellenes. Its mission is to promote the ancient Greek ideals of Education, Philanthropy, Civic Responsibility, and Family and Individual Excellence through community service and volunteerism.
American Hellenic Institute (AHI) is a non-profit Greek American think-tank and public policy center that works to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece and Cyprus, and within the Greek American community.
B’nai B’rith International is a worldwide Jewish community service organization widely known as one of the world's most influential humanitarian, human rights and advocacy organizations.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations is the central coordinating body representing 53 national Jewish organizations on issues of national and international concern.
B’nai B’rith International President Gary P. Saltzman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin have issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith Milan, B'nai B'rith World Center-Jerusalem and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jews who Rescued Fellow Jews During the Holocaust will confer a Jewish Rescuers Citation upon Enzo Cavaglion (98 years old), for saving the lives of Jewish refugees in northern Italy during the German occupation.
Enzo Cavaglion was one of the 14 founding members of the partisan group “Italia Libera” (Free Italy), established on Sept. 12, 1943 — the same day that Cuneo, Italy was occupied by the German First SS Panzer Division — by Duccio Galimberti, an outspoken anti-Fascist lawyer from Cuneo. They ensconced themselves in the sanctuary of the Madonna del Colletto, 18 kilometers to the west of Cuneo, about halfway up the steep ridge separating the valley of the Gesso from the valley of the Stura to the north. Enzo and his younger brother, Riccardo Cavaglion, stayed with the group until October 1943, when they had to leave to help their own families escape arrest in Cuneo.
In addition to the combat they waged against the Germans and Italian Fascists, Enzo and Riccardo also helped Jews who sought refuge in villages around Cuneo. More than 1,000 Jews living in the remote Italian-occupied French Alpine village of Saint-Martin-Vesubie fled in the face of the German army that invaded the area following the announcement on Sept. 8 of the armistice signed between Italy and the Allies.
Men, women, children, the elderly and disabled scaled the Maritime Alps over the international border into Italy in a harrowing ordeal, only to find the Germans already roaming the area. About 300 people were captured and sent to Auschwitz. The remaining 700 found refuge among the welcoming local peasant population. Enzo and Riccardo found hiding places for them, furnished them with the necessary documents and hid them in the mountains in order to evade the Nazis. Survivor Harry Burger credited Enzo and Riccardo with saving his life and his mother’s life by warning them that the Nazis were hunting for them. Another survivor, Alfred Feldman, wrote in his memoir, “One Step Ahead: A Jewish Fugitive in Hitler’s Europe,” that he witnessed a daring theft of identity cards by Enzo and Riccardo from the mayor’s office in Vignolo, Italy, that were then falsified and distributed to some of the refugees. Enzo performed all of these activities despite the additional danger he faced as a result.
Following the presentation at Enzo Cavaglion’s home, a ceremony will take place on Jan. 21 at 3:30 p.m. (local time) at the Cuneo Synagogue in Contrada Mondovì, Italy.
The program includes speeches by key government officials, B'nai B'rith World Center-Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider and Enzo’s son, noted history professor Alberto Cavaglion, who will formally accept the award.
B’nai B’rith Milan President Paolo Eliezer Foà will host the ceremony.
Since its establishment in 2011, the Jewish Rescuers Citation has been presented in an effort to correct the public misconception that Jews did not rescue fellow Jews during the Holocaust. To date nearly 200 heroes have been honored for rescue activities in Germany, France, Hungary, Greece, Slovakia, Yugoslavia, Russia, Lithuania, Poland, Holland and now Italy.
For more information on the history of the Jewish Rescuers Citation click here.
photos from jewish rescuers' citation events in italy
Leading American Hellenic, American Jewish Groups to Evaluate the Critical and Evolving Relationship Between Greece, Cyprus and Israel
The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (Order of AHEPA), the leading membership-based grassroots service association for American citizens of Hellenic heritage and Philhellenes; the American Hellenic Institute (AHI), a leading Greek American public policy center and think tank; B’nai B’rith International, a worldwide Jewish community service organization widely known as one of the world's most influential humanitarian, human rights and advocacy organizations; and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the central coordinating body representing 53 national Jewish organizations on issues of national and international concern; will embark on their third International Leadership Mission to meet the leaders of Greece, Cyprus and Israel. The mission convenes Jan. 14, in Athens, Greece; continues to Nicosia, Cyprus, Jan. 16 and 17; and concludes in Israel, Jan. 17 to Jan. 19.
B’nai B’rith’s delegation includes President Gary P. Saltzman, CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin, Chairman of the Executive Peter Perlman, B’nai B’rith Foundation Chairman Irving Silver and B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider.
The strengthening cooperation between Greece, Cyprus and Israel in a trilateral partnership continues to develop, helping to foster peace and stability in the eastern Mediterranean and the broader region. The delegation of American Hellenic and American Jewish community leaders aim to explore the major economic (business and tourism), energy sector and security developments underway with high-ranking government officials and visits to military installations.
This Third International Leadership Mission — a joint 18-member delegation — represents the ongoing organizational cooperation between the American Hellenic and American Jewish communities and broad diaspora support for the trilateral relationship. The four organizations will build upon two previous, groundbreaking three-country leadership missions in January 2014 and January 2016, which were widely recognized and praised as contributing to intergroup and international cooperation and friendship.
Who: American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (Order of AHEPA)
American Hellenic Institute (AHI)
B’nai B’rith International
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
What: A three-country Leadership Mission by American Hellenic and American Jewish organizational leaders to explore developments across various sectors of the trilateral relationship between Greece, Cyprus and Israel
When: Jan. 14 to 19, 2018
Where: Athens and Salamis Island, Greece; Nicosia, Cyprus; and
Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa, Israel
Contact: Alan Schneider, Director, B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem tel: +972-2-6251743; mobile: +972-52-5536441
See where B'nai B'rith International stands on the issues.