B’nai B’rith Leaders Were Instrumental in Momentous Initiative
During a celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month President Barack Obama referenced a letter on display in the White House from the Missouri lodge of B’nai B’rith, dated January 5, 1863, to President Abraham Lincoln. The letter protested General Ulysses S. Grant’s Order #11.
Grant’s Order #11 expelled Jews “as a class” from the Tennessee Department in December of 1862.
“But what happened next could have only taken place in America,” Obama said. “Groups of American Jews protested General Grant’s decision. A Jewish merchant from Kentucky traveled here, to the White House, and met with President Lincoln in person,” Obama said.
That Kentucky merchant was Cesar J. Kaskel, the head of the B’nai B’rith Kentucky lodge, who organized the delegation that met directly with President Lincoln.
“The letter to Lincoln and the Order #11 from the Library of Congress, sit on display side by side in the White House and tells the story of how B’nai B’rith efforts led to a repeal of Grant’s order,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin. “These precious documents demonstrate that during the early days of B’nai B’rith, we were—and continue to be—dedicated to eliminating prejudice, discrimination and anti-Semitism.”
Mariaschin and Director of Legislative Affairs Eric Fusfield represented the organization at the event.
Documents related to this incident are part of the archives of B’nai B’rith. Other files related to this incident are part of the archives of B’nai B’rith and served as resource materials for Professor Jonathan Sarna’s newly-published book, “When General Grant Expelled the Jews,” which recounts the full account of this incident and Grant’s later relationship with the American Jewish community.
This week B’nai B’rith transferred its extensive archives to the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati, Ohio. The two organizations will partner on projects and programs related to the archives in the near future.
At the White House, Daniel S. Mariaschin, B'nai B'rith International executive vice president stands with Rabbi Gary Zola, Director of the American Jewish Archives, near a display exhibiting General Ulysses S. Grant’s Order #11, expelling Jews from the Tennessee Department, in 1862. Side by side is a letter to President Abraham Lincoln, from the B’nai B’rith lodge in St. Louis, dated January 5, 1863, protesting the order.
In response to the attack on two Holocaust-related monuments in Budapest last week—on the heels of an international dispute over the reinterment of writer Jozsef Nyiro—B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin sent the following letter to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban:
“On behalf of B’nai B’rith International’s members and supporters in over 50 countries, we write to express our deep dismay over the attack on two Holocaust-related monuments in Budapest last week. On May 24 a memorial by the Danube River honoring resistance fighters was defaced with spray-painted Stars of David and anti-Semitic phrases. This attack came days after assailants hung pigs’ feet on a statue of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who rescued thousands of Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust.
These alarming events took place as a dispute over the reinterment of writer Jozsef Nyiro, who collaborated with Hungary’s fascist war-time regime, played out between authorities in Hungary and Romania. While we are gratified that the Romanian government barred the reburial of Nyiro’s ashes, we are nonetheless troubled that a commemoration ceremony honoring Nyiro took place in Odorheiu Secuiesc and was attended by 2,000 people, including Hungarian National Assembly Speaker Laszlo Kover and Jobbik party leader Gabor Vona.
B’nai B’rith deplores the public display of anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi sentiment evident at the memorial defacements. We call on your government to unequivocally condemn these hate crimes. We further lament the glorification of Jozsef Nyiro, whose views were openly anti-Semitic and pro-fascist. Any ideology or movement that promotes intolerance and elevates the Nazi legacy must be forcefully opposed.
Mr. Prime Minister, the confluence of these deeply disturbing events has created an important moment for Hungary. We hope that your government will use this opportunity to emphatically denounce anti-Semitism and hatred and signal to the international community that Hungary stands firmly in favor of tolerance, human rights and democratic principles.”
B’nai B’rith International strongly condemns the stabbing of Aharon Zindani who died of multiple stab wounds after being attacked earlier this week in Sanaa, Yemen, by a Muslim man who reportedly accused him of witchcraft. Zindani was a leader in the Yemeni Jewish community in Sanaa, which numbers fewer than 100 people.
“We urge the Yemeni authorities to do everything in their power to bring the perpetrator to justice,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs. “This type of ruthless violence cannot and must not be tolerated.”
Yemeni Jews have encountered anti-Semitism for years. But Jewish communities in the region are at an even greater risk today as tensions have increased over the last year and a half due to the turmoil brought on by the Arab Spring.
“This appalling and saddening episode serves as a reminder of the pervasive anti-Semitism and discrimination that must be addressed in the region,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin. “We urge an assurance of the community’s safety and the safety of all minorities in the country.”
At the AJA, the collection of the most important Jewish membership organization in American Jewish history will be accessible to scholars, researchers and students the world over
B’nai B’rith International—widely considered by scholars and historians to be the most important Jewish membership organization in American Jewish history—has announced that the contents of its archives and its Holocaust and Related Materials Archives will be relocated to The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati, Ohio (AJA). The AJA is located on the historic Cincinnati campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
The expansive collection showcases not only B’nai B’rith’s history but also momentous occasions in Jewish history dating back to 1700.
“These extensive archives reflect the evolution of B’nai B’rith which, in many ways, parallels the evolution of the American Jewish experience and its connection to Jewish communities around the world,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin. “We are pleased with our decision to partner with the American Jewish Archives, a respected research center whose scholars carry out crucial primary research on American Jewry. We are confident that as a premier repository of such documents they will be an outstanding custodian of our archives.”
Rare images of the men who founded B'nai B'rith at Sinsheimer's Café in New York City on October 13, 1843.
The archive's thousands of manuscripts, charters, medals, letters, memorabilia and other artifacts demonstrate changing societal needs from the needs of orphans to those of the elderly, from assistance to immigrants to the preservation of Jewish identity in an open society. These archives represent a treasured primary resource for researchers and extend from former mining towns in the American West to the Jewish presence on the Island of Rhodes.
“Once we moved from our former headquarters building it was regrettable this treasure trove of material was not as accessible as we would have liked and we are delighted that this is no longer the case,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs. “We are confident that through this important agreement to relocate the archives, the collection will continue to serve as a valuable historical resource. We look forward to ongoing cooperative programming between the two organizations to enhance a better understanding of American Jewish heritage. This partnership is also fitting as the B’nai B’rith headquarters were once housed in Cincinnati.”
Before the 1940s the B’nai B’rith headquarters were housed in the president's home city. From 1925 to 1938, when Alfred M. Cohen—a prominent Ohio lawyer and civic leader—was serving as the International President of B'nai B'rith, the organization's headquarters were located in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Noted historian Jonathan D. Sarna has called B’nai B’rith, established in New York in 1843, “the most important Jewish fraternal organization in American Jewish history.” With a continued presence in more than 50 countries, B’nai B’rith International works on behalf of the global Jewish community by advocating for Israel, combating anti-Semitism, protecting seniors, promoting community service and aiding in disaster relief.
“B'nai B'rith has played a shaping role in American Jewish life for more than 150 years,” said Sarna, the Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University and Chief Historian, National Museum of American Jewish History. “Its massive collection of papers sheds light on everything from national crises to local philanthropic initiatives; they mirror the American Jewish experience as a whole. How fitting that this invaluable collection will now be housed at the American Jewish Archives, where the papers of so many of B'nai B'rith’s leaders and members are already reposited.”
“Our center is deeply honored by B'nai B’rith's decision to entrust its archival treasure trove to the American Jewish Archives,” said Dr. Gary P. Zola, Executive Director of the AJA and Professor of the American Jewish Experience at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. “We are fully cognizant of B'nai B’rith's tremendous historical significance. Not only will we preserve these remarkable records in perpetuity, but we are firmly committed to making these records accessible to all those who are interested in making use of them."
"The American Jewish Archives is heaven for researchers like me,” added Dr. Sarna. “Treasures are brought to our desk and the staff caters to our every need. The B'nai B'rith papers could not have found a happier home."
The collection includes:
> Correspondence between and photos of B’nai B’rith leaders and U.S. presidents including Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton
> Rare newsletters and books published by B’nai B’rith’s European lodges, 1886-1937
> Internal correspondence and confidential reports illuminating B’nai B’rith’s relationship with Vatican leaders before and during the groundbreaking Second Vatican Council, 1961-1966
> Original minutes, charters, memorabilia and other items from American lodges spanning the 1870s-1980s
> Telegrams, internal memos and eyewitness accounts documenting the response of B’nai B’rith and other Jewish organizations to the rise of Nazism
Professor Dr. Cornelia Wilhelm, DAAD Professor at Emory University’s Department of History/Jewish Studies Department noted that, “The order's record keeping was extremely thorough and has produced enlightening vital statistics of early 19th century American Jewry (age, occupation, birthplace, marriage status, number of children, death rate and reason, etc.), which are otherwise barely available.”
Historians widely agree that few organizations shaped modern American Jewish history more profoundly than B’nai B’rith. “Scholars have long hoped to cull its historical records to shed light on the workings and impact of this very significant institution,” added Dr. Hasia R. Diner, the Paul and Sylvia Steinberg Professor of American Jewish History at New York University.
"This collection is invaluable not only for what it reveals of B'nai B'rith's operation, but also for the display of its links with other facets of American Jewry," noted Dr. Michael A. Meyer, Adolph S. Ochs Professor of Jewish History at HUC-JIR Cincinnati. "The American Jewish Archives is to be congratulated for obtaining this large collection."
New York high school students have submitted original book entries about tolerance and diversity for the B’nai B’rith International Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge. The winning entries will be announced at a gala event Thursday, May 31 at the New York Stock Exchange. At the event, B’nai B’rith will also present an award to Bonnie Hammer, chairman of NBC Universal Cable Entertainment and Cable Studios, for her commitment to initiatives confronting racism and bigotry.
This education and awareness contest—now in its sixth year—challenges teens to write and illustrate children’s books that explain diversity and tolerance to elementary school-aged children. The contest aims to enlighten, inspire and educate America’s young people and their families in an effort to destroy prejudices and strengthen the future of our youth.
The first place winner will receive a $5,000 college scholarship and will have his or her winning submission professionally published and donated to libraries and elementary schools in New York City. The teacher who oversaw the creation of the first place submission will receive a $500 stipend to use for classroom or organizational materials, and the school will win a $500 grant. The second place winner receives a $2,000 scholarship, and the third place winner earns a $1,000 scholarship.
A panel of judges from B’nai B’rith International, as well as the New York worlds of education, the arts and government reviewed the submissions and selected the winners. The New York Stock Exchange Foundation and the USA Network’s Characters Unite campaign, two organizations that are dedicated to promoting diversity, tolerance and acceptance, generously provided the philanthropic support necessary for B’nai B’rith to again offer the program in New York City.
B’nai B’rith honored Hammer because of a shared dedication to diversity, tolerance and acceptance. Hammer oversees leading cable brands USA, Syfy, E! Entertainment, G4, Chiller, Cloo and Universal HD, as well as production entities Universal Cable Productions and E! Studios. An industry leader in network programming and branding, Hammer originally joined the company in 1989. Among her accomplishments at USA, she created the network’s Emmy-winning “Erase the Hate” public affairs initiative, which confronted the issues of racism and bigotry. In 2009, Hammer drew on the legacy of “Erase the Hate” to create “Characters Unite,” a pro-social program dedicated to combating intolerance and promoting acceptance.
> Click here for more information on Diverse Minds.
B'nai B'rith International Writes Letter to Lithuanian President Condemning Honor of Country's Nazi-Backed Regime Leader
In response to Lithuania’s decision to posthumously honor Juozas Ambrazevicius, the head of the Lithuanian Provisional Governments established in 1941, B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin sent the following letter to Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite:
“B’nai B’rith deplores the glorification and reinterment – with full honors – of a man who headed Lithuania’s Nazi-backed regime during the Holocaust. We call on you to cancel all public tributes to Ambrazevicius and to unequivocally condemn the role that he and his puppet government played in orchestrating the mass murder of Lithuanian Jewry.
Madam President, any ideology or movement that glorifies Nazism and minimizes the tragedy of the Holocaust must be forcefully opposed. The fact that Ambrazevicius’ regime attempted to restore the country’s independence in no way mitigates the atrocities they and the Lithuanian Activist Front committed against the victims of the Holocaust in Lithuania. We hope that you will set an international example in underscoring this crucial principle.”
B'nai B'rith Encouraged by Methodist Conference Vote Against Divestment But Remains Deeply Concerned About Future Actions
B’nai B’rith International commends the delegates at the convention of the United Methodist Church (UMC), the largest mainline Protestant denomination, who overwhelmingly voted yesterday against an aggressive resolution supporting divestment from three U.S. companies that trade with Israel.
By a vote of 684 to 286, UMC delegates voted against divestment from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard—companies that divestment advocates have targeted for perceived complicity in Israeli defense efforts and other policies with which the UMC has disagreed.
The conference participants also declined to endorse the Palestinian Christian document “Kairos,” which demonizes Israel and implores the use of sweeping economic and other measures against the Jewish state.
“The opposition to the irresponsible divestment resolution signals that United Methodists will stand against one-sidedness and the singling out of Israel for hostility,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs. “These types of misguided resolutions do not help advance peace in the region. Peace can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the conflicting parties.”
However, B’nai B’rith remains deeply concerned about a UMC motion that was passed calling on countries to prevent the import of products made in Israeli settlements. Moreover, those promoting anti-Israel sanctions have suggested that such steps be considered by the Board of Pension and Health Benefits, a standing UMC agency. Notably, the UMC was not urged to sanction Iran, Syria or companies engaged with these and other countries most guilty of violating peace and human rights internationally.
Several geographic regions of the UMC that promoted anti-Israel sanctions have already individually decided to engage in divestment. B’nai B’rith maintains that peace in the Middle East cannot be achieved by divestiture aimed at one of the parties to the conflict.
Another Protestant denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), will consider divestment at its General Assembly in late June in Pittsburgh.
“Peace can only be achieved when Israel and the Palestinians return to the negotiating table. Israel has continually expressed its desire to find peace through negotiations. It is wrong for outside groups to ignore the unwillingness of the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table and attempt to pressure Israel to do what it is already anxious and willing to do: find peace,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin. “We will continue to monitor situations like this, including June’s Presbyterian General Assembly, to ensure that Israel is not unfairly hurt or maligned.”
B'nai B'rith World Center Announces Winners of 2012 Award for Journalism Recognizing Excellence in Diaspora Reportage
The B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem has announced that Israeli Channel 2 News reporter Lee Abramovich is the recipient of the 2012 Award for Journalism Recognizing Excellence in Diaspora Reportaģe in Memory of Wolf and Hilda Matsdorf. The jury also decided to present foreign correspondent citations to AP correspondent Diaa Hadid and Jana Beris (Jerozolimski), editor of the Uruguayan Jewish weekly Semanario Hebreo.
Abramovich will receive the journalism award for her July 9, 2011, report on Channel 2 News about Orthodox American Jews who make live kidney donations to Israeli patients. The moving report revealed this little-known phenomenon, as well as the donors’ motivations and support structure.
AP correspondent Hadid will receive the foreign correspondent citation for her June 18, 2011, article on Tripoli’s Jewish community and the remnants of the city’s Dar al-Bishi synagogue during Libya’s revolution. Uruguayan editor Beris won the citation for her interview with Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency, published on March 24, 2011. Semanario Hebreo—edited in Israel and distributed in Uruguay 50 weeks a year—was established in 1960 by Beris’ father, Joseph Jerozolimski. When he passed away in 2004, Beris became editor.
Since its establishment in 1992, the B’nai B’rith World Center Award for Journalism has recognized excellence in reportaģe on contemporary Diaspora Jewish communities and on the state of Israel-Diaspora relations today in the Israeli print and electronic media. The award is widely acknowledged in the media industry as the most prestigious prize in its field in Israel. The award ceremony will be held this summer.
Members of the distinguished award jury are: Professor Yehudith Auerbach, head of the Communication and Journalism Studies Division, Bar Ilan University; David Horovitz, former editor-in-chief, Jerusalem Post; Sara Frenkel, Diaspora reporter, Broadcast Authority and Lifetime Achievement Award winner for 2002; Shalom Kital, former general director, News Company, Channel 2; Bambi Sheleg, founder and editor-in-chief, Eretz Acheret and award winner for 2011; and Asher Weill, publisher and editor of Ariel, The Israel Review of Arts and Letters (1981-2003).
The B’nai B’rith World Center Award for Journalism is named for the late Wolf Matsdorf, former editor of the B’nai B’rith World Center journal Leadership Briefing and a journalist in Australia and Israel; and his wife, the late Hilda Matsdorf, a pioneer in social work in both Australia and Israel. The award is made possible through donations from the Matsdorf family and from Daniel Schydlowsky, a member of the B’nai B’rith World Center International Board of Governors, with homes in Lima, Peru and Washington, D.C.