Calls on International Community to Stand in Solidarity with Israel
B’nai B’rith International is outraged at the horrific murder of four Israelis on Aug. 31 near Kiryat Arba in the West Bank. Hamas proudly took credit for the shooting of the two men and two women, called it “heroic,” and reportedly threatened more violence.
Coming on the eve of the first direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in nearly two years, Hamas has once again demonstrated the grave security threat Israel faces, and how integral the security issue is to any peace talks. Even under these conditions, Israel has committed to continuing the peace talks—further evidence of its commitment to peace.
“Hamas must not be successful in its efforts to derail the peace talks,” B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick said. “But the Palestinian Authority must dig deep to demonstrate its commitment to peace. Condemning the attacks was a start. But the P.A. must redouble its efforts to prove it will compromise with Israel, and punish Hamas.”
B’nai B’rith hopes the international community will stand in solidarity with Israel and unequivocally condemn Hamas and its terror campaign. For too long, too much of the world has turned a blind eye to the actions of Hamas, which publicly seeks the destruction of Israel.
“These brutal attacks are chilling,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “It seems there is no line Hamas won’t cross in its murderous effort to destroy Jews and eliminate Israel. Hamas’ barbarism stretches the limits of comprehension within civil society. Our thoughts and prayers go to the victims’ families, and to all Israelis.”
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:The unrelenting national debate that is taking place about the proposed mosque and cultural center near Ground Zero is bringing renewed attention to the cherished ideal of religious freedom.
B’nai B’rith International’s thoughts and prayers, as always, are with the victims and families of the World Trade Center terror attacks. Everything related to the proposed Park51 must proceed with utmost sensitivity and support to everyone most directly impacted by the attacks.
The freedom to worship is at the very foundation of our nation’s strengths, and that is why B’nai B’rith supports the right to build the Muslim cultural center. We must cherish and nurture our nation’s unique commitment to religious freedom. However, that does not mean there aren’t key issues that need to be addressed regarding the center. It is incumbent on the mosque’s backers to detail the project’s funders. This project must be above board in every way if it is to accomplish its goals of truly being a neighborhood center open to all. Only then can it truly fulfill its mission of interfaith comity. In conjunction with that, it is our sincere hope that the leadership of the Park51 will seek every opportunity to repudiate terror.
One place to start: Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf should publicly condemn the terrorist group Hamas, which commits acts of terror against Israel and Jews, calls for Israel’s destruction, and consistently refers to Jews as “pigs and monkeys.” Terrorism is not a “complex question” as Rauf has said. Interfaith unity depends on such a public statement.
We should work across religious lines to ensure that an Islamic center near Ground Zero can stand as its own monument and testament to tolerance and diversity—two defining characteristics of this nation.
B’nai B’rith Decries Head of Finnish Branch of Amnesty International Statement That Israel is a ‘Scum State’
B’nai B’rith International condemns recent statement by the head of Amnesty International’s Finnish branch, Frank Johansson that Israel is a ‘scum state,’ and calls for his dismissal.B’nai B’rith International strongly condemns the statement made by the head of the Finnish branch of Amnesty International, Frank Johansson, within his blog posted on the website of Finland’s third most popular newspaper, Iltalehti, where Johansson agrees with a comment made by a personal friend and resident of Israel that the Jewish state is a “scum state.”
B’nai B’rith calls on the international community to denounce the statement as inciting anti-Semitic portrayals of the Jewish state, and urges Amnesty International to dismiss Johansson for his vicious statement demonizing Israel.
There is no place at an international organization that supposedly acts as a human rights watchdog for such incendiary and ignorant views.
In response to recent vandalism at a California mosque, B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:B’nai B’rith International strongly condemns the attack on a mosque in Madera, California, where a brick was thrown through a window, and later three signs were found: "No Temple for the God of terrorism at Ground Zero. ANB," "Wake up America, the Enemy is here. ANB," and "American Nationalist Brotherhood."
The Madera County Sheriff's Department is rightly investigating the incidents against the Masjid Madera mosque as hate crimes.
There is simply no place and no excuse for vandalism aimed at a place of worship in our society. No matter an individual’s views on the proposed Islamic center near the site of the Sept.11 terror attacks, attacks against a religious house of worship must not be tolerated.
Freedom of worship also means freedom to worship without fear of violence and intimidation. B’nai B’rith International cherishes tolerance and religious freedom and we stand in solidarity with members of the attacked mosque as they continue their worship during their most holy days of Ramadan.
B’nai B’rith International is deeply concerned about the decision on August 23 by U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth that would block federal funding for promising stem cell research. The federal court decision may cause confusion and troubling delays in research that could potentially change the lives of adults with degenerative illnesses and conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and spinal cord injuries.Additionally, this decision will prevent new funding awards for research and creates an untenable position for the research grants made under the new rules based on President Obama’s executive order.
B’nai B’rith is committed to supporting all ethical stem cell research leading to the understanding and cures of illnesses affecting millions of people worldwide. The current National Institutes of Health (NIH) guidelines were laboriously and careful designed, are consistent with federal law, and do not fund prohibited activities.
B’nai B’rith is hopeful that the suggestion of conflict involving the executive order and NIH guidelines versus the existing statute will be resolved as soon as possible.
Anti-Semitism and Political Trends in Latin America on the Agenda as B'nai B'rith Leaders Meet in Brazil
B’nai B’rith leaders from throughout Latin America gathered in Porto Alegre, Brazil, August 19-21, to discuss several issues affecting the Jewish communities in Latin America. One of the top issues on the agenda was the increasing number of anti-Semitic incidents across the region.“This growing anti-Semitism is a troubling trend that we have to do all we can to end,” said B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick, who addressed the conference. “The increase in anti-Semitic attacks is not a surprise in a nation such as Venezuela, where anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiments are fueled by the government. But in Brazil, in Argentina, in Chile, and beyond, there is a strong and growing anti-Israel sentiment that permeates academia, media, and politics. We need to concentrate on education to change attitudes.”
At the opening session, Porto Alegre Mayor Jose Fortunati welcomed B’nai B’rith leaders and confirmed that a new law for the state of Rio Grande do Sul will soon pass mandating Holocaust education in every school as part of the regular curriculum.
Too often, anti-Semitism is disguised as criticism of Israel. It’s a disturbing phenomenon that serves to delegitimize the Jewish state.
“In recent years, we detected in Latin America a strong wave of new anti-Semitism,” Pablo Grinstein, president of B’nai B’rith Latin America, said. “This is the old prejudice against Jews, but under the cover of so-called anti-Zionism, or anti-Israelism. Lies, ignorance, and the demonization that in the past were applied to Jews as individuals, now is directed at the State of Israel. It is very important that we combat this anti-Semitism by consistent and persistent actions—forums, presentations, and lectures to non-Jewish organizations are powerful tools.”
In Chile, a recent wave of anti-Semitic acts has surprised the Jewish community, said Julio Froimovich, a long-time B’nai B’rith Latin America leader who is from Chile. In recent months, the walls of several Jewish buildings in Temuco and Concepcion were vandalized, as was the Hebrew Institute of Santiago.
Perhaps the most serious case of anti-Semitism occurred when Gabriel Zaliaznik, president of the Jewish Community of Chile, received a death threat against his 9-year-old son. Shots were also fired at the car of the Israeli ambassador in Chile.
Froimovich notes that in response to these incidents, lawmakers from both parties backed a bill to criminalize the promotion of hatred.
A panel discussion on anti-Semitism in Latin America was led by Professor Gustavo Perednik, a lecturer and writer from Argentina who now lives in Israel, and B’nai B’rith Director of Latin America Affairs Eduardo Kohn. The panel looked at how poverty, insecurity, and lack of freedom of expression could be fueling increasing anti-Semitic events in the region.
It is understood that only a small portion of Latin Americans are truly anti-Semitic. But unfortunately, some of the most vocal have prominent positions that help amplify their destructive views. “We are working within our countries in awareness programs that stress the fact that these hate campaigns undermine the democracies and civil rights of all Latin Americans.” Denis Herrnstadt, vice president, B’nai B’rith Latin America, said.
Other issues discussed in the conference included the political situation in Latin America and what it means for the Jewish communities, Jewish continuity, the situation in the Middle East, and priorities of the Jewish world today.
B’nai B’rith International Strongly Objects to National Bank of Romania Honoring Vicious Anti-Semite: B’nai B’rith Leader Signs Letter of Protest
B’nai B’rith International condemns the National Bank of Romania’s plans to distribute a commemorative coin in honor of Prime Minister and Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church Miron Cristea. B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin co-signed a letter with Rabbi Andrew Baker, American Jewish Committee’s director of International Jewish Affairs, to the leaders of the National Bank of Romania in which they note: “You are honoring the prime minister of a totalitarian regime who persecuted the Jews through denaturalization and anti-Semitic incitements.”
Both Mariaschin and Baker were members of the International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania.
As World War II loomed, Cristea called for the expulsion of Jews from Romania and stripped some 225,000 Romanian Jews of their citizenship.
The letter also points out that this coin will fuel the efforts of Holocaust deniers in Romania and elsewhere.
“Your actions are in clear contradiction not only with the Final Report of the International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania which was endorsed by two Romanian heads of state but also with the progress that Romania made in acknowledging its tragic past."
B’nai B’rith International welcomes the resumption of direct peace negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Israel should be commended for its long-standing commitment to enter into direct talks.
B’nai B’rith hopes the Palestinians will participate in these talks in good faith, and cautions that the Palestinians should not have unrealistic or unattainable expectations. The failure of previous negotiations can readily be traced to Palestinian reluctance to compromise on difficult issues.
The announcement by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that “[t]hese negotiations should take place without preconditions,” is encouraging in a process that has long been stalled.
B’nai B’rith will carefully monitor events surrounding the Sept. 2 meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas hosted by the United States at the State Department.
B’nai B’rith International has sent a letter to United Nations officials urging discontinuation of a prejudicial Human Rights Council investigation into the Gaza flotilla incident of May 31.In the letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Human Rights Council President Sihasak Phuangketkeow, B’nai B’rith endorsed a statement by U.S. Ambassador Susan E. Rice that the agreement by Israel and Turkey to cooperate with a “panel of inquiry” initiated by Ban would “obviat[e] the need for any overlapping international inquiries.”
The letter from B’nai B’rith President Dennis W. Glick and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin notes that a Council probe “is inappropriate and highly unhelpful especially as its prospective activity would coincide with the aforementioned panel. Moreover, it would lack fundamental credibility in light of a biased mandate and predetermined conclusions set by the Human Rights Council and reflected in the very framing of the mission. This approach does little to promote human rights or genuine peace and security in the Middle East, let alone the standing of the United Nations and its key bodies.”
Glick and Mariaschin stressed that the U.N. investigation must “demonstrate respect for: the equal treatment of U.N. member states; the essential imperatives of self-defense and counterterrorism; as well as Israel’s sovereign capacity for intensive internal examination that has met the highest international standards.”
To read the letter click here.
Fraternity Also Honors Glick and Mariaschin
Nearly 500 students and alumni from the Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) painted and spruced up the grounds of New Orleans City Park on August 5 during a hugely successful service project in conjunction with the fraternity’s 97th Anniversary Convention. B’nai B’rith International sponsored the project at the city’s premiere recreation destination.
AEPi and B’nai B’rith teamed up in 2007 to provide community service, educational, and advocacy programming to encourage fraternity brothers to stay active in the Jewish community after graduating college.
“It was great to be out at the park with these young guys, trying to make a difference in a city that defines resilience,” B’nai B’rith President Dennis W. Glick said. “Giving back: it’s our mission and our mantra at B’nai B’rith. As the afternoon ended, we could see a difference in the park, which will hopefully translate to a difference in the lives of local residents.”
"I feel truly grateful to have been given the opportunity through B'nai B'rith and AEPi to help even a small portion of the New Orleans community after the affects of Katrina five years ago," said Matthew Whitman, an AEPi brother at the University of South Florida.
Since Hurricane Katrina severely damaged the park in 2005, volunteer projects, including AEPi’s effort, are helping to bring it back to life. As a happy gathering place for residents, this project will have a lasting impact on the entire New Orleans metropolitan community.
"After the Hurricane, being from Las Vegas, we couldn't help much. But being here shows that we are still able to do something to help," said Mitchell Levinson, an AEPi brother from University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
The volunteer project fit in perfectly with the goals of the fraternity.
“Tikkun Olam means repairing the world,” AEPi Executive Director Andy Borans said before the event. “As AEPi is the International Jewish Fraternity, it is our responsibility to give back to the community. We are very happy to go to New Orleans with over 500 AEPi brothers from across the world and to team up with one of our partner organizations, B'nai B'rith International. During our convention we are taking time out of our fraternal business to not only fulfill the duty of our fraternity, but of our faith as well.”
B’nai B’rith’s active history of sponsoring disaster relief programs in New Orleans began shortly after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city—raising more than $1 million for the Gulf region. B’nai B’rith also demonstrated its support for the Gulf Coast by holding its annual policy conference in New Orleans in 2006.
The New Orleans City Park project marks the end of a five-year effort to assist in rebuilding homes, houses of worship, and other projects in states devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
“This project is the culmination of a long-term commitment to helping the Gulf Coast rebuild,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “We hope the citizens of New Orleans enjoy the park’s upgrades and that it becomes a great symbol of the rebuilding efforts in the region.”
Glick and Mariaschin also received honors during the convention activities.
Glick was initiated as an honorary member of the fraternity and Mariaschin received the Gitelson Silver Medallion, an award which honors AEPi alumni who have committed to practice Jewish community service.
“I am honored to become an honorary member of a fraternity with such high ideals in brotherhood, leadership, and service,” Glick said. “I value B’nai B’rith’s relationship with AEPi and believe that our joint service projects, like the volunteer effort in New Orleans City Park, change lives for the better in the communities we serve.”
A brother in the Delta Beta chapter at the University of New Hampshire, Mariaschin’s Gitelson Silver Medallion capped his long history with the fraternity.
“I am extremely proud to receive such a prestigious award that represents something I have been passionate about throughout my professional career—service to others,” Mariaschin said. “It is fitting to have this award presented in New Orleans, a place where helping others has become paramount as the city has faced natural and man made disasters.”
B’nai B’rith also was one of the sponsors (along with Aish International and AEPi Foundation) of a pre-convention Jewish Identity Enrichment Conference called Hineni.
This conference brought together 52 students to learn more about their fraternity’s Jewish connection to ideals, values, and ethics. Facilitators included the AEPi staff and rabbis connected to Israel and campus programming.
As part of Hineni, the students also took part in a service project sponsored by B’nai B’rith and its Center for Senior Services. They went to Annunciation Inn, a senior residence sponsored by Christopher Homes, the housing unit of the Archdiocese. The participants spent the morning visiting with the residents, who talked about their experiences during and after Katrina. The program included ice breaker board games and a lively game of Bingo.
The project was a model of community service visits that the students can do for the elderly in communities near their schools. Matches are being made with B’nai B’rith senior housing facilities across the United States.
The Hineni program exemplifies how Judaism places a premium on helping those less fortunate in the community and our commitment to the elderly of our society.