Israel Reengages With U.N. Human Rights Council; B’nai B’rith Calls On Western Democracies To Help Afford Equality To Jewish State
B’nai B’rith International reaffirms its support for Israel as the country has decided to reengage with the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) following a hiatus that began in March 2012. With Israel taking the risk of engagement with a body that has subjected it to singular mistreatment, B’nai B’rith urges Western democracies to now do their part. First by consistently refusing participation in the council’s inherently discriminatory “Item 7” discussions—the only item on the UNHRC agenda dedicated to scrutinizing a single country—and also by admitting Israel, like other countries, to a regional group.
“After years in which Israel has been continuously abused at the Human Rights Council, returning to direct engagement is a bold step and a demonstration of responsiveness to foreign appeals,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “Now the fellow democracies that urged Israel to return to the council need to finally include Israel in the Western European and Others Group in Geneva, as they do in New York. Adding Israel to this group would be an important first step toward curbing systemic discrimination against Israel at the world body.”
“With Israel reengaging the Human Rights Council, we hope that others in the international community will recognize how unfairly the council has treated the Jewish state, specifically, but not only, through matters involving Item 7,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “Continuing to include Item 7 on the Human Rights Council agenda flies in the face of the U.N.’s basic, stated principles. The international community must understand this and, indeed, should join Israel in its fight, if the U.N. is to have any credibility as an institution protecting human rights and promoting peace.”
B'nai B'rith Uruguay presented its sixth Light and Truth Award to Rodney Colina, an engineer and expert researcher in molecular biology. The award—given by the Victor and Clara Soriano Foundation, B'nai B'rith Uruguay and the B'nai B'rith Oriental Unit—recognizes young Uruguayan professionals excelling in the fields of science and technology.
Victor Soriano was a founding member of B'nai B'rith Uruguay and one of the most prestigious medical doctors in the country. As part of the award, Colina will travel to Israel and will enjoy a program developed by the B'nai B'rith World Center in Jerusalem.
Uruguay Minister of Education Ricardo Ehrlich and B’nai B’rith Uruguay President Morris Segal presented the award at the B’nai B’rith Hall in Montevideo before a crowd of 200 people.
Engineer and professor Liliana Borzacconi was also presented with the Maimonides Award, in recognition of her career as investigator and the chair of the Council of Sciences in Uruguay.
The ceremony was covered by the major Uruguayan daily newspaper EL PAIS. Click here to the read the story (in Spanish).
Amid freezing temperatures, 35 Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) fraternity brothers from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of North Texas descended upon an Oklahoma community still in disrepair from last spring’s tornados, performing one week’s work basically in one day.
Under the sponsorship of B’nai B’rith International’s disaster relief program, the students dismantled a barn under the direction of Adam Maslia, of Indianapolis, director of Jewish and Philanthropy Programming, and UT senior Aaron Liener, of Dallas. The project was identified for B’nai B’rith by a relief organization called Field of TEAMS, which was formed to assist farmers whose property was battered by Mother Nature.
“This is a perfect example of B’nai B’rith’s relationship with AEPi and the performance of tikkun olam,” said Chuck Kaufman, B’nai B’rith senior international vice president, who helped coordinate and promote the activity from Austin. “The group brandished its banner and ours proudly, and built bonds with one another. The brothers epitomized the definition of fraternity.”
The B’nai B’rith Flood, Tornado and Hurricane Disaster Relief Fund provided for the expenses of the program, thanks to the generosity of donors. Currently, the fund is open for victims of the recent Colorado floods.
Members of the community told the volunteers how they rode out the tornados from storm cellars and often felt they were hanging on for dear life. The massive noise and power of the tornados were beyond words, they said.
Field of TEAMS coordinator Levi Clifton said the AEPi/B’nai B’rith group was one of four teams working in the area during the weekend of Oct. 18-20. Other groups were charged with picking up debris and clearing sites, but she reserved the barn project for the AEPi brothers because they were "young, energetic, numerous and passionate" about tackling the enormous task at hand.
Liener said the experience provided numerous lessons for him and his fraternity brothers. “Volunteering and doing tikkun olam-style events gave us an amazing feeling,” he said. “To see the emotions and gratification on people’s faces was simply priceless. It’s far more meaningful than simply writing a check," though, he acknowledged the numerous donations that allowed AEPi to perform the mitzvah.
The project also allowed the large group to foster brotherhood; and it inspired neighbors to chip in with assistance and much-appreciated food.
“This program really showed what it means to be a brother in this fraternity,” Liener added. “I can’t begin to express the pride we felt after doing what we set out to do to pose with our banner and B’nai B’rith International logo, a menorah. It expresses what we’re all about.”
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B’nai B’rith International commends the Catholic Church and the city of Rome for denying recently deceased Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke burial in the Italian capital following his death on Oct. 11, while serving out a life sentence under house arrest.
Priebke, an SS captain, was convicted of overseeing the massacre of 335 Italians in the Ardeatine Caves just outside of Rome, including personally murdering some of the victims. In 1994, after living in Argentina for 50 years, ABC News tracked Priebke down and interviewed him on the TV show “Primetime,” on which he nonchalantly discussed his murderous past. Following the interview, Priebke was extradited to Italy with the help of B’nai B’rith International and its then-President Tommy Baer, who worked directly with the Argentine president. Priebke was tried and convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity in 1997.
“It’s truly repulsive that this criminal was able to live much of his life uninterrupted, after he prematurely ended the lives of so many,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “It’s a source of pride that B’nai B’rith played a major role in bringing Priebke to justice. While it doesn’t undo any of the evil he committed, all those affected by the Nazis can take solace in the fact that he was not able to live out his final years in comfort.”
Both the Vatican and the mayor of Rome declared Priebke would not be buried in the city, but the reactionary Catholic group Society of Saint Pius X offered Priebke a funeral in the Rome suburb of Albano Laziale. The Oct. 16 funeral was halted by police after protestors converged on the hearse carrying Priebke’s remains and clashed with fascist sympathizers. Police also prevented Priebke’s friends and relatives from entering the local church.
The Nazi’s body remains in limbo. The Argentine foreign minister denied a request that Priebke be buried in Argentina, and his hometown of Hennigsdorf, Germany also denied a burial request.
“The Catholic Church and the city of Rome did the right thing in denying Priebke a funeral. He was a vile criminal, and on top of his atrocious involvement in the murder of 335 Italian citizens—including 75 Jews—he was complicit in deportation of Italian Jews to Auschwitz,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “The work that led to his extradition in 1995 and now the denial of multiple burial requests serve as a reminder of how important it is to educate people on the evil acts of Holocaust perpetrators and to always honor the memories of their victims.”
Organization Celebrates 170 Years of Service to the Jewish Community and the World
B’nai B’rith International will celebrate its German Jewish founders at a 170th-anniversary event honoring Dr. Ruth Westheimer on Oct. 22. The event, sponsored by Lufthansa German Airlines, will be held at the German consulate in New York City and will recognize B’nai B’rith’s 17-decades of service to the Jewish community and the world.
The 12 German Jewish immigrants who founded B’nai B’rith on Oct. 13, 1843, at Sinsheimer’s Café on New York City’s Lower East Side were dedicated to positive Jewish contributions in their new home. Now 170 years later, B’nai B’rith International continues this mission as the Global Voice of the Jewish Community. B’nai B’rith is dedicated to fighting for human rights, combating anti-Semitism, providing disaster relief, advocating for Israel and supporting seniors.
Westheimer, best known as “Dr. Ruth,” was sent by her German Orthodox family to safety in Switzerland at the age of 10 to escape the Nazi genocide against the Jews. Her family, left behind in Germany, perished in the Holocaust. After years in an orphanage in Switzerland, Westheimer immigrated to Palestine at the age of 17, where she joined the precursor to the Israel Defense Forces and fought in Israel’s War of Independence in 1948.
B’nai B’rith will present Westheimer with an award entitled: “For a Life’s Career of the Betterment of Humanity Throughout the World.”
B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs noted: “On our 170th anniversary, we pay tribute to our founders’ commitment to the betterment of humanity by recognizing Dr. Ruth and her enduring spirit.”
The event includes both Israel and Germany’s consuls general in New York, Ido Aharoni and Busso von Alvensleben respectively.
“After 17 decades, we are still following the noble vision that the Jewish immigrant founders set out for this organization—working to make the world a better place,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said.
B’nai B’rith Cautiously Optimistic About Debt Ceiling Deal, Urges Congress to Act Quickly to Avoid Default
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith International is cautiously optimistic that a temporary budget and debt ceiling deal, announced by the Senate leadership, will be passed on the House floor and then expeditiously moved through the Senate, avoiding the first ever U.S. debt default and ending the government shutdown.
As the country teeters at the brink of default at the 11th hour, if this deal should fall apart, it could have traumatic impacts on both the domestic and international economies, and severely impact seniors and other vulnerable people.
The immediate impact of a default on the country’s debt would mean the drying up of Social Security payments possibly within the first few weeks. This is an outcome that is entirely possible and also entirely unacceptable.
Of elderly Social Security beneficiaries, 23 percent of married couples and about 46 percent of unmarried recipients rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income. For millions more, Social Security is more than half their income. This would put many seniors in dire straits when it comes to paying their bills, for food and for medical treatment. This is not to mention the multitude of other services that are in serious jeopardy should the government default on its loans, such as meal programs, personal care services and other things on which they rely. These same services have already been threatened and even limited by the government shutdown.
Time has simply run out. We urge Congress to do two things: pass an immediate fix to open the government and raise the debt ceiling, and avoid a similar debacle when these short-term fixes end. Defaulting would be an unprecedented disaster, one that is sure to hurt millions of Americans, especially seniors, and should not be treated as political football.
UNESCO Vote Disregards Killion’s Appeal Against Politicized, “One-Sided” Motions on Middle East
B’nai B’rith International salutes Ambassador David T. Killion, permanent representative of the United States to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), as he delivered his ninth and final address to the body’s Executive Board.
Killion, a recipient of the B’nai B’rith Excellence in Diplomacy award, gave his final statement on Oct. 1, touching on several themes which he championed with the firm backing of B’nai B’rith. Killion noted efforts by the United States to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians, while pointedly warning of the delicacy of the peace process and the need to avoid politicizing UNESCO through one-sided motions on the Middle East.
“Politicizing the agenda of UNESCO, particularly through one-sided, non-consensus-based resolutions, will undermine this process,” Killion said. “At this moment in history, it should be self-evident to the international community, including UNESCO’s Executive Board, that we should strive to create a positive climate conducive to negotiations between the parties.”
Killion also reiterated the United States’ commitment to UNESCO’s Holocaust education and remembrance program. He praised the organization for being a leader at the United Nations in this regard.
“This program consistently produces results that stretch well beyond its budget, working to prevent genocide and mass atrocities around the world by transmitting the hard lessons learned from the Holocaust,” Killion said. “This is an area of UNESCO leadership, and it deserves our strong support.”
Sadly, UNESCO’s Executive Board chose to disregard Killion’s message about politicizing the agenda of the agency by passing six resolutions condemning Israel on Oct. 4. They included five recurring resolutions on topics such as the Cave of the Patriarchs, Rachel’s Tomb and the Mughrabi Bridge abutting the Temple Mount. The sixth resolution condemned Israel for scrapping a UNESCO delegation visit to assess the preservation of the Old City of Jerusalem after Palestinian authorities tried to transform the previously agreed-upon professional visit into a political event. The United States was the only country on the 58-member board to vote against all six resolutions.
In response to Killion’s final address, B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said, “B’nai B’rith is extremely proud to have worked with Ambassador Killion, a consummate professional and a true friend, on issues of vital importance to the United States and B’nai B’rith. We are indebted to him for his service.”
B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin added: “We wish Ambassador Killion the very best as he concludes his service at UNESCO. The ambassador has proven himself to be an extraordinary diplomat and public servant—a man not only of commitment, but of skill and, no less important, of principle. His tenure at UNESCO was marked by a series of very important accomplishments and the United States will be fortunate to again be able to count on Ambassador Killion in vital future roles.”
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith International mourns, along with millions of Jews around the world, the loss of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the preeminent Sephardic spiritual leader, who passed away on Oct. 7 at the age of 93.
Yosef was one of the most brilliant and storied Jewish figures—an unsurpassed spiritual and scholarly leader to the world’s Sephardic Jews and one of very significant influence beyond the Sephardic community. He actively participated in the public life of, and service to, the State of Israel. No less, he contributed immensely to Jewish learning, the preservation of Jewish practice and the rich culture of Sephardim. He was truly an irreplaceable, once-in-a-generation figure.
The rabbi held a series of prominent rabbinical positions, serving as chief rabbi of Egypt from 1947-1950, then as chief rabbi of Tel Aviv in 1968 until he was elected Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel from 1972-1983.
Yosef also repeatedly signaled his support for peace between Arabs and Israelis, Muslims and Jews, and lent religious authority to a flexible, moderate approach in peace negotiations, despite a frequently bitter history.
B’nai B’rith International mourns the rabbi’s passing with Jews all over the world. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Yosef’s family and all those who looked to him as a teacher and guide.
When B’nai B’rith’s founders gathered at Sinsheimer’s Café on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the fall of 1843, their initial mission was simple: To help recently arrived Jewish immigrants adapt to their new community and country. They carried this simple, yet, essential mission and got the ball rolling on what has turned into 170 years of assisting the global community.
This month, B’nai B’rith International is celebrating its 170th birthday, a remarkable milestone when both the longevity and the impact of the organization are considered. B’nai B’rith has evolved to meet the changing needs of the three different centuries we have touched.
Our name is older than many major institutions still around today. The New York Times, Major League Baseball, Coke and the Red Cross are all B’nai B’rith’s junior.
B’nai B’rith has made an indelible impact across the globe. We are a steadfast advocate for Israel, we assist victims of natural and man-made disasters, we support seniors through advocacy on vital health issues, we are the largest national Jewish sponsor of low-income housing for the elderly, we fight for the rights of Jews worldwide. With a presence at the United Nations from the world body’s inception, B’nai B’rith’s enduring commitment to human rights continues. Through our vast scope of issues, our work is rarely matched.
B’nai B’rith International condemns the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for passing a resolution that declares ritual circumcision a “violation of children’s physical integrity.” This resolution, while non-binding, could encourage a frightening infringement upon basic religious freedoms and on the ability of Jewish and other faith communities in Europe to exist.
The resolution calls upon member states to “adopt specific legal provisions to ensure that certain operations and practices will not be carried out before a child is old enough to be consulted.”
“By advancing this resolution, the Council of Europe has not proposed the advancement of human rights, but rather the denial of rights,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “It is an extremely slippery slope—one which inexcusably misreads and oversimplifies scientific understandings, and seeks to impose certain societies’ cultural norms on others. This resolution transparently aims to marginalize and exclude specific minority communities.”
“Circumcision is not discretionary, but rather central, in Jewish life and practice throughout history,” added B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin. “It must be made clear what those who support the criminalizing of circumcision in Europe are proposing: Discrimination against the Jewish community in Europe."
We urge all European leaders, governments and societies to decisively reject a path of government coercion and imposition in religious life.