Montgomery County Students Win Writing Contest with Book About Variety At A Bakery …
and in Life
The winning book in this year’s Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge, a contest where high school students write and illustrate children’s books about tolerance and diversity, is “Cake Kingdom” written by Kayla Trinh (Clarksburg High School) and illustrated by David Ng (Damascus High School). The winning book was announced at a May 28 award ceremony at Pepco Edison Place Gallery. B’nai B’rith is pleased to work in partnership with Pepco for the third straight year to present this scholarship contest.
“This [intolerance] is one problem, one issue where one person can make a difference,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin, who presented the award to the winners. “B’nai B’rith has made it a priority to promote tolerance.”
In Trinh and Ng’s story “Cake Kingdom,” a large wedding cake at a bakery ridicules and ostracizes the other cakes as, one by one, the baker reveals they all have different colors on the inside. After all of the confection’s rejections, the wedding cake is left alone and sad. Finally, a customer orders a slice of the wedding cake—unveiling its multi-colored inside and reuniting it with its cake companions.
“It was delightful to see the writing of this contest,” said Joe Rigby, chairman, president and CEO of Pepco Holdings Inc. He noted how vital it is to celebrate differences that make us special and unique.
The winners share a $5,000 college scholarship and their book has been professionally published. It will be distributed to local schools, libraries and community organizations, as well as to the annual TODAY Show Holiday Toy and Gift Drive. “Cake Kingdom” will also be published in an e-book format, available for free download in the iBooks Store.
This is not Trinh and Ng’s first time in the contest. Last year, they won second place. While Ng has enjoyed illustrating since childhood, Trinh only writes occasionally—making their win all the more impressive. The two students, attending different high schools, have known each other since middle school.
Second place winner Rachel Bird from Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda wrote and illustrated “Our Different Families” and received a $2,000 scholarship. Third place winners Laura Carty and Lauren Remaly from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Bethesda wrote and illustrated “Francine's Happy Accident” and will share a $1,000 scholarship. In addition, Ng’s and Trinh’s schools will each receive a $500 grant.
“A world with all kinds of people is like a garden with all kinds flowers,” said keynote speaker and award-winning children’s book author Jacqueline Jules in an inspirational speech. She recited an original poem titled “Tag Your Dreams,” which urged the audience to, “Play tag with your dreams, chase them until you’re breathless.”
This education and awareness initiative was created in conjunction with B’nai B’rith programs that promote tolerance and communicate a message of equality among all citizens. The contest aims to enlighten, inspire and educate America's young people and their families in an effort to abolish prejudices and strengthen ties among today’s youth.
Over the last seven years, B’nai B’rith has published 20 original children’s books and awarded more than $165,000 in college scholarships and grants.
A diverse panel of judges from the worlds of education, the arts, business and government, along with B’nai B’rith International leaders, reviewed the submissions and selected the winners. Judges this year include: Kaya Henderson, chancellor of D.C. Public Schools; Sybille A. Jagusch, chief of the Children’s Literature Center at the Library of Congress; Anita Merina, national coordinator for Read Across America at the National Education Association; Kim Westheimer, director of Welcoming Schools at Human Rights Campaign; and DeRionne P. Pollard, president of Montgomery College.
Pepco officials announced that the company will again sponsor the contest in 2015.
Book Writing Contest Focusing on Tolerance and Diversity
The winner of this year’s Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge in the Delmarva Peninsula region is “Kira Kiwi, How Will School Be?” written and illustrated by Monica Keszler from Charter School of Wilmington, in Wilmington, Del. Diverse Minds is a contest where high school students write and illustrate children’s books to help elementary school children celebrate tolerance and diversity. Keszler was announced the winner at an award ceremony at the Delmarva Power Conference Center on May 27.
This education and awareness initiative was created as part of B’nai B’rith programming that promotes tolerance and communicates a message of equality among all citizens. Funded by Pepco Holdings Inc. (PHI), the contest aims to enlighten, inspire and educate America's young people and their families in an effort to eradicate prejudices and strengthen ties among today’s youth.
In Kezler’s story “Kira the Kiwi, How Will School Be?,” Kira the kiwi moves to the United States and finds she is a very different species of bird than the rest of her new classmates. Though she’s accepted by the other birds, Kira eventually visits the principal to ask that the school change its brochure to reflect the diversity of the school.
At the ceremony, the finalists and winners were congratulated by Gary Stockbridge, president of Delmarva Power, a subsidiary of Pepco Holdings, Inc., John Allen, Jr., vice president of Delmarva Power and Mark D. Olshan, associate executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International.
“Our customers and the communities we serve are important to us,” Stockbridge said. “We constantly strive to empower individuals through creativity and diversity in addition to providing safe and reliable service to our customers, help to protect the environment and support various initiatives within our region. We value opportunities like the one presented by B’nai B’rith and look forward to continuing to build positive relationships and energize those we proudly serve.”
By placing first, Keszler secures a $5,000 scholarship and her book has been professionally published. It will be distributed to local schools, libraries and community organizations, as well as to the annual TODAY Show Holiday Toy and Gift Drive. She will also have her book published in an e-book format, available for free download in the iBooks Store.
Second place winner Ashley Williams from Padua Academy in Wilmington, Del., wrote and illustrated “Amber the Lonely Witch” and will receive share a $2,000 scholarship. Third place winner Zachary Edward Varrato, from Sussex Technical High School in Georgetown, Del., wrote and illustrated “The Mellow Fellow Who Played the Cello” and will receive a $1,000 scholarship. In addition, Keszler’s teacher who oversaw the creation of their winning book will receive a $500 stipend to use for classroom or organizational materials. Charter School of Wilmington will also receive a $500 grant.
Over the last seven years, B’nai B’rith has published 20 original children’s books and awarded more than $165,000 in college scholarships and grants. Thousands of these published books have also been donated to public schools, libraries and Boys & Girls Clubs around the country.
A diverse panel of judges from the worlds of education, the arts, business and government, along with B’nai B’rith International leaders, reviewed the submissions and selected the winners. Judges this year include: Jim Mathias, Maryland state senator; Jim Ireton, mayor of Salisbury, Md.; Susan S. Bunting, superintendent of Indian River School District; Anthony S. Goode, fire chief of the Wilmington Fire Department; Penrose Hollins, New Castle County councilman; and Heather Morrissey, executive director of the Cecil County Art Council.
B’nai B’rith has enjoyed working in conjunction with Delmarva Power as a part of our expanded partnership with Pepco Holdings Inc. Because of this expanded partnership, B’nai B’rith also held the Challenge in Washington, D.C., and in southern New Jersey, thanks to generous support from Pepco and Atlantic City Electric.
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith International is deeply dismayed by extremist gains in the weekend’s European parliamentary elections, as far-right, nationalist parties claimed new seats. The disturbing results reflect the trending growth of political extremism across Europe and the increased specter of racism and anti-Semitism corrupting public discourse.
The biggest waves were made in France, where the National Front party secured 24.5 percent of the vote—France has 74 seats in the European Parliament. The notoriously anti-Semitic Jobbik party of Hungary and Greece’s Golden Dawn also picked up seats in the parliament. Right-wing parties also drew significant support in the United Kingdom and Denmark, while Austria’s Freedom Party claimed more than 20 percent of the vote in that country.
The impact of these shifts is uncertain, but it is clear that extremist parties—some for the first time—will have a European-wide platform from which to spread their racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic polemics. B’nai B’rith calls on mainstream political groups to confront these proponents of hatred both in the European Parliament and in their respective national capitals. Parties that foment hatred and incite violence should be vigorously opposed and their bigoted views stigmatized.
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following Statement:
B’nai B’rith strongly condemns the shootings at the Jewish Museum of Belgium. At this time, three people are confirmed dead and others are injured, at least one seriously.
The shootings took place amidst a growing atmosphere of hate and intolerance in Europe for Israel and Jews.
Belgian Interior Minister Joelle Milquet was quoted in local media saying "It's a shooting ... at the Jewish Museum. All of this can lead to suspicions of an act of anti-Semitism."
The situation is still unfolding as law enforcement teams seem to be moving swiftly. B’nai B’rith continues to monitor the situation.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
A costume choice by singer Macklemore, in which he wore a hook nose while singing a song about frugality called “Thrift Shop,” is deeply offensive and propagates Jewish stereotypes.
In response to complaints about the costume, Macklemore tweeted: “A fake witches nose, wig, and beard = random costume. Not my idea of a stereotype of anybody.”
His costume choice and subsequent response demonstrate an utter lack of sensitivity. Stereotypes are dangerous and offensive. Stereotypes dehumanize—removing individuality and promoting intolerance.
The B'nai B'rith Europe Lifetime Award of Merit is conferred upon outstanding individuals who have dedicated at least 40 years of service to the wellbeing of the Jewish people and the State of Israel and who have accomplished the following:
Peres received a gold medal and a certificate that read, in part, "You are the face of Israel and of the Jewish people and you bring together the highest Jewish values of ethics, morality, tolerance, culture and the national unity of the Jewish people. The B’nai B'rith fraternity is also committed to these principles."
”In my view every Jew deserves a medal of merit because to be a Jew is to be committed to the spirit of humanity,” Peres responded. “It is not simple and it never was simple to be a Jew. For me being a Jew means keeping the moral foundations of the Ten Commandments, continuous learning and pursuing peace. A Jew today is a person who ensures that his grandchildren are Jewish. That is what B'nai B'rith does, and it does it very well."
B’nai B’rith Europe is represented in 29 countries throughout Europe, with more than 5,000 members. With an office based in Brussels it is represented at the European Parliament, the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, the United Nations in Geneva and UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in Paris.
Also participating in the award ceremony were Simone Hofmann (Germany); Erika van Gelder (Holland), B'nai B'rith Europe senior vice president; Jolle Perelberg (France), former B’nai B’rith International senior vice president; Michael Nathan, president, B'nai B'rith Israel; Robert Levy, B'nai B'rith Europe Committee for Central and Eastern Europe (France/Israel); and Alan Schneider, B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem director.
B’nai B’rith Welcomes Argentine Court’s Striking Down of Iran-Argentina “Truth Commission” on AMIA Bombing
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith International welcomes an Argentine federal court’s decision to strike down the agreement between Argentina and Iran to create the “Commission of Truth,” an “independent” group that would investigate the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) Jewish center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and wounded 300. The court ruled the agreement unconstitutional, while the government vows to appeal the decision to Argentina’s Supreme Court.
B’nai B’rith opposed the agreement the moment it was signed in January of 2013. As recently as this week, International President Allan J. Jacobs and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin met with the Argentine foreign minister to express their concerns over the agreement.
Iran, the world’s largest state-sponsor of terror, is widely acknowledged to be behind the AMIA attack. Top-Iranian officials were named in a report by Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman as being responsible for the bombing. Interpol even issued arrest warrants for those responsible for the attack, but to date, none have been made.
Therefore, it is difficult to see how anything truthful could come out of an agreement that, among other things, gives Iran complete access to the investigation and stipulates that suspects may only be interrogated in Tehran.
The agreement was an extension of Iran’s 35-year record of deception and obfuscation. Because of that, we welcome the court’s decision and hope the Argentine Supreme Court will ratify the ruling.
B’nai B’rith International expressed its deepest condolences in a letter to Turkish Ambassador Serdar Kılıç in the wake of the ongoing mining disaster in Soma, Turkey that has left at least 245 dead and more than 200 still trapped underground. An explosion and subsequent fire broke out in a coal mine in western Turkey on May 13, about 155 miles south of Istanbul. Nearly 800 people were working in the mine and more than 350 have been rescued.
In the letter to Ambassador Kılıç, B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin extend their thoughts and prayers to all those affected: “On behalf of B’nai B’rith International, we offer our deepest condolences to the families of the victims and express our solidarity with the rescue operation underway.”
Jacobs and Mariaschin continued: “During this difficult time we mourn the terrible loss of life and pray for the successful rescue and recovery of those workers who remained trapped. Please know that we are thinking of you, the people of Turkey, and the city of Soma in the days and weeks to come.”
Click here to read the full letter.
Despite the departure of United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories Richard Falk following the end of his six-year term, B’nai B’rith International remains deeply concerned with the position itself and by the choice of Falk’s successor, former Indonesian U.N. Ambassador Makarim Wibisono.
Throughout Falk’s tumultuous time in Geneva, he was not only unwavering in his repeated, vile attacks on Israel, but also trafficked in 9/11 conspiracy theories, posted an anti-Semitic cartoon to his blog and blamed the Boston Marathon bombings on the United States’ “compliant ear” in regard to Israel.
B’nai B’rith is pleased he is finally leaving, although the council should have removed Falk from his position long ago. Unfortunately, Falk’s absence from the UNHRC will not be complete as his wife and collaborator, professor Hilal Elver, was appointed to be the special rapporteur on the right to food. Jean Ziegler, a previous rapporteur in that position, used the right to food mandate in the past to attack Israel and the United States. B’nai B’rith is concerned that Elver will also attempt to politicize the right to food mandate.
“During Falk’s six years at the Human Rights Council, it seemed that his only job was to fuel the flames of the council’s one-sided and willfully ignorant actions against Israel,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “The position he occupied is inherently discriminatory, and with the appointment of Wibisono, based on his previous comments, it doesn’t look like the situation will improve significantly.”
The president of the UNHRC selected Wibisono—after receiving intense pressure from Arab and Muslim states—over Georgetown University Law Center lecturer Christina Cerna, who received unanimous approval from the council’s own vetting-panel.
Apart from Wibisono’s home country’s refusal to recognize the State of Israel or allow Israelis to visit, the former chairman of the now defunct-U.N. Human Rights Commission is known to have made biased remarks against Israel. Wibisono has accused Israel of “callous attacks against terrorized and defenseless civilians” and of having a “policy of retribution against the entire Palestinian nation.”
“Wibisono’s appointment only further undermines what little credibility the Human Rights Council has left following Falk’s destructive tenure,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “The selection process for this rapporteur makes it clear that certain member states of the council were looking only for candidates with experience attacking Israel and advancing the Palestinian narrative at the U.N., which aligns perfectly with the mandate of this biased post.”
B’nai B’rith will continue to fight against the council’s seemingly never-ending obsession with Israel.
B’nai B’rith Deeply Disappointed with Supreme Court Decision to Uphold Sectarian Prayer During Legislative Meetings
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith is deeply disappointed by a U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing legislative bodies to open public meetings with sectarian prayers. In permitting elected officials to favor one religion above others, the ruling in Town of Greece v. Galloway violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and harms the rights of religious minorities.
The lawsuit challenged the town council of Greece, N.Y., which regularly opens its meetings with prayers, often led by Christian clergy. The court ruled 5-4 that such explicitly sectarian prayers before official meetings do not infringe on constitutional religious freedoms.
The high court’s decision ignores America’s precious religious diversity and fails to uphold the constitutional guarantee that the government shall not express a preference for a specific religion.
In his majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote: “Should nonbelievers choose to exit the room during a prayer they find distasteful, their absence will not stand out as disrespectful or even noteworthy.” Kennedy’s argument ignores the discrimination and even intimidation that religious minorities often face.
It is impossible to say how a citizen might be viewed in a town council setting should they refuse to participate in religious proceedings while still wishing their interests to be heard by their representative officials. B’nai B’rith agrees with the observation made by Justice Elena Kagan in her dissent that the clergy in question “put some residents to the unenviable choice of either pretending to pray like the majority or declining to join its communal activity, at the very moment of petitioning their elected leaders.”