Most of us know the alter egos of such iconic comic book heroes as Superman, Spider-Man and Batman. But what about the men behind the men behind the masks—who were these creative artists and writers? Well, many of them were Jewish. In the winter edition of B’nai B’rith Magazine, read about the Jewish pioneers in comic books and how their Judaism may have influenced key characteristics of these American heroes.
Author Jeannie Counce writes about the numerous Jewish individuals who created superheroes like Superman (Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster) and Spider-Man (Stan Lee). Counce explores how it came to be that so many Jews found a creative outlet—and a job in Depression-era America—in the budding comic book industry. With rampant anti-Semitism blocking their entryway into other media, many Jews stumbled into comics because it was one of a few creative media available to them. Nevertheless, many of these Jewish comic book pioneers felt the need to change their names to mask their Jewish identities.
Despite their attempts to downplay their Judaism, many of the creators’ Jewish backgrounds can be discerned through the storylines of their superhero creations. From allusions to the Bible to utilizing the Hebrew language, these comic book creators demonstrated that much of their inspiration and gift for storytelling likely can be traced back to their Jewish roots. Many Jewish writers and artists continue to make a name for themselves in the comic book industry today.
Also read about a childhood fan of the comic genre: Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin reminisces about his childhood fascination with comics, expressing his preference for Classics Illustrated over traditional action comic books. Classics Illustrated, created by Jewish entrepreneur Albert Lewis Kanter, printed famous novels in comic-book form.
Mariaschin’s personal collection, still well preserved, features such titles as Charles Dickens’ “David Copperfield,” Jack London’s “The Sea-Wolf” and Alexandre Dumas’ “The Count of Monte Cristo.”
Elsewhere in B’nai B’rith Magazine, Uriel Heilman explores Israel’s growing prestige as a first-responder to natural disasters across the globe. In a world where Israel is often portrayed negatively in the media, Israel’s dedication to providing prompt and pivotal assistance to those in need is doing much to enhance the country’s image. Israel also provides lasting support beyond first-responder assistance, maintaining Israeli-run establishments long after the initial disaster has struck and many other countries and support networks have left.
Writer David Elfin sits down with Jewish National Hockey League player Jeff Halpern of the Washington Capitals to discuss how Halpern balances his religious convictions with his duties to his NHL team.
In this issue, we also explore the Jewish community of the U.S. Virgin Islands. With a history steeped in tradition dating back to the 17th century, the Jewish community on the islands remains vibrant today.
To read the magazine, visit: www.bnaibrith.org/magazines.
U.N.-Sponsored Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People Promotes Anti-Israel Agenda, Not Progress Toward Peace
At its annual International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the United Nations once again perpetuated an anti-Israel agenda. A world body fixture since 1977, it is the only U.N. celebration of solidarity with one specific group of people.
Perhaps most disappointing was the statement U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released which references “the occupation that began in 1967”—a nod to the radical view that posits the illegitimacy of Israel within any borders. Ban also mentioned nothing about Palestinian incitement.
“The secretary-general’s statement not only omits any mention of the continual Palestinian incitement against Israel but, while he criticizes the rocket attacks from Gaza, he calls for ‘maximum restraint’ from Israel—in effect negating the criticism of the attacks,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs. “With U.N. complicity, the Palestinians continue to reject Israel’s identity as a Jewish state.”
U.N. leaders must be held accountable for countering the misinformation and outright lies about Israel that are present each year at this event instead of perpetuating them by allowing these unsubstantiated views to be presented on the international stage.
The showing of the anti-Zionist film “The Land Speaks Arabic” shares a revisionist history that the establishment of the State of Israel occurred only through an “ethnic cleansing” of Palestine by the Zionists. This gross abuse of the historical record shows a blatant disregard for reality.
“Unfortunately these anti-Israel festivities do nothing to advance a peaceful transition in the Middle East and Ban’s statement crosses the line,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin. “The fact that the United Nations continues to spearhead this event each year unfortunately demonstrates how far the gap has widened between reality and the world body’s goals and principles.”
B’nai B’rith has had a continued presence at the United Nations since its establishment, and continues to work to ensure the achievement of the protection of human rights and promotion of tolerance and peace.
B'nai B'rith International deplores a decision of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to allow the Arab bloc candidate, Syria, to serve on the body's Committee on Conventions and Recommendations, which "examines communications relating to cases and questions concerning the exercise of human rights."
This election, by consensus, should never have happened while Syria further intensifies its violation of human rights. In yet another sign of moral obtuseness and incoherence in policy at the U.N., the business-as-usual approach to Syria at UNESCO soon preceded a General Assembly committee's condemnation of the Damascus regime's continuing domestic brutality. Indeed, the Arab League itself has decided to suspend and possibly sanction Syria.
B'nai B'rith calls on UNESCO's Executive Board to immediately revoke Syrian membership in all committees at the U.N. agency.
B'nai B'rith International Disappointed that Congressional Committee could not Reach Deal to Avoid Devasting Cuts to Programs for Neediest
On Nov. 21, the deficit super committee tasked with cutting the deficit by more than $1 trillion abandoned its goals. B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith International is disappointed that the congressional deficit super committee failed to reach a balanced deficit agreement. Two days in advance of its deadline, the committee officially disbanded.
The potential impact of automatic cuts that will now go forward—cuts that were designed to be a painful incentive for the super committee to propose an alternative—is concerning.
The super committee had the potential to create balanced deficit reduction, rather than the automatic deficit package (“sequester”) that does not include any new revenue. However, B’nai B’rith agrees that no deal is better than reaching a bad deal which cuts benefits earned by older adults over a lifetime and subjects the next generation to the prospect of poverty as they age. There were certainly proposals considered by the super committee that would have been disastrous for the nation’s most vulnerable—particularly senior citizens on fixed incomes.
By design, there is still time for Congress to come up with a plan to reduce the deficit before draconian cuts are enacted, starting in January of 2013. B’nai B’rith certainly hopes that there is time for a balanced approach to offset the need for those automatic cuts. We are also concerned about the impact on health care access for seniors because cuts to Medicare providers will be instituted before other cuts.
B’nai B’rith urges Congress to pursue balanced agreements that can avoid the drastic, automatic cuts-only approach to Americans in need.
B’nai B’rith International urges the 12 members of the congressional super committee to bridge a partisan divide before deep, automatic spending cuts kick in that could put our nation’s most vulnerable at greater risk. The super committee, created months ago during the debt ceiling debates, has until Nov. 23 to propose a package to cut $1.2 trillion from the deficit.
With the deadline about to expire, many in Washington are expecting the super committee to fail. B’nai B’rith urges committee members and the entire Congress to work aggressively in the coming days to find solutions that are good for the country’s long-term economic outlook, and good for all Americans.
Modest tax increases on wealthier individuals may be necessary to arrive at the committee’s goals. Choosing instead to cut benefits for the elderly and programs for the poor simply shifts costs to states, individuals and families. Asking elderly and low-income Americans to bear the brunt of deficit reduction is simply unfair. Cuts to programs for middle- and lower-income families hurt those families and also reduce their consumer purchasing power, further depressing our economic growth.
The solutions are out there. With at least half a dozen deficit commissions, panels, think tanks and stakeholders working throughout the last 18 months, we have seen myriad proposals that would address the projected growth of the debt over the next 10 years.
“Within these proposals are sufficient options to meet the super committee’s goals in ways that are fair, and that neither stifle economic growth nor place the fiscal burden on the backs of those who can least afford it,” Allan J. Jacobs, B’nai B’rith International president, said.
Deficit reduction can and should be done without breaking the promises of Medicare and Social Security, or shaving more from already thin budgets for programs like low-income housing and other services for the elderly.
Most bipartisan and non-partisan commissions and reports have recommended spending reductions combined with revenue increases to address the deficit problem. So far Congress and the administration have been able to agree only on the spending cuts—the most painful part of the equation—but have yet to adopt any of the proposals for revenue enhancement. The most recent polls show the public understands the choice between further cuts to programs for the elderly, the poor and the nation’s critical infrastructure, and revenue increases on wealthier individuals whose taxes were lowered over a decade through tax cuts.
“We understand that raising taxes is always a politically risky thing to do, and that no one wants to walk that plank alone. That is why the super committee process was established—to provide a politically viable mechanism for making hard but necessary choices. Some have argued that this process should require everyone to give up what they least want to. Tax increases and cuts to Social Security, Medicare and other programs are not equivalent in terms of their necessity or in terms of their impact if enacted,” B’nai B’rith Director of Aging Policy Rachel Goldberg, Ph.D., said.
It is possible to reduce the deficit over the next 10 years without returning to an era in which the elderly routinely live in poverty. We call on Congress to redouble its efforts to pursue that goal through the super committee process.
B’nai B’rith welcomes the recent bipartisan Congressional letters sent to President Obama calling for swift enactment of tougher sanctions on Iran.
In their letter Nov. 17, six leaders of the House of Representatives urged President Obama to enact tougher economic sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran (CBI). This letter references last week’s review by the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which proves Iran is actively pursuing nuclear weapons capabilities including an explosive device.
The letter stated: “Clearly, the time available for the United States and responsible nations to prevent Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear capability is running short…We urge you to quickly designate CBI as a facilitator of Iran’s weapons of mass destruction proliferation and terrorist activities for the purpose of imposing sanctions on persons that do business with CBI. We also urge you to make the Central Bank of Iran’s involvement in proliferation and terrorist activities the target of coordinated multilateral sanctions.”
Signatories of the letter included House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio); the majority leader, Eric Cantor (R-Va.); the minority leader, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.); the minority whip, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.); Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; and foreign affairs committee ranking member Howard Berman (D-Calif.).
B’nai B’rith also welcomes the Nov. 16 letter from a bipartisan group of seven U.S. senators to the president leading up to the IAEA board of governors meeting today. At that meeting this afternoon in Vienna, the U.N. watchdog agency adopted a resolution rebuking Iran’s nuclear program, which passed with 32 votes of the 35 participating nations.
The senators wrote that the Iranian government’s “deceptive and illicit conduct…provides a critical but fleeting basis for the United States to rally the international community to impose new and crippling forms of pressure on Iran.”
It continued: “We write today, therefore, to express our strong conviction that the United States, together with our European allies, should work to ensure that the Board of Governors adopts a strong and principled resolution that both recognizes and amplifies the IAEA report. We also firmly believe that a weakened resolution, as some governments will undoubtedly press for, would be profoundly counterproductive to our broader effort to stop Iran's dangerous and destabilizing nuclear drive.”
The letter’s signatories included Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), John McCain (R-AZ), Joseph I. Lieberman (I-CT), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Bob Casey, Jr. (D-PA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL).
“We welcome the bipartisan action on this urgent matter and hope the administration will swiftly move to pass such sanctions,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs. “If Iran has nuclear weapons, it would undoubtedly pass them along to terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, presenting an immediate security threat to Israel and the entire Middle East.”
The White House has enacted sanctions on smaller banks, but doing so to the central bank would virtually cut Iran off from much of the global economy.
“As the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, Iran defies international norms as it continues to pursue its attainment of nuclear weapons, as proven in the latest IAEA report. Hopefully this domestic bipartisan action will lead the way for the international community to act soon. The more time passes, options to curb these alarming developments narrow,” said Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin.
During this joyous season of giving and gathering together, children may be exposed to unsafe situations as some people take advantage of the rush of excitement. It is therefore as important as ever that children are educated about potential dangers such as stranger danger and sexual assault.
With that in mind, the Smarter Kids - Safer Kids booklet is now available on the B’nai B’rith International website in an easy-to-read format.
The booklet, revised in 2006 to include information about online security, contains role-playing exercises and guided discussions that parents can use as a starting point to teach their children about how to stay safe. The guide includes practical information about how to stay safe when alone at home, what to do if a child is lost or when he or she is faced with a situation that involves improper actions by someone they know. As the brochure says, “If one abduction is prevented, one life saved, this program will be a success.”
The guide has been used in communities across the United States at school assemblies as well as by parent groups. It is a tool that every parent should have about a subject that can be difficult and uncomfortable to discuss. Sometimes parents, who have been sure their children would never do something unsafe, are often surprised to learn that their children can be easily manipulated by offenders or misplace their trust.
The booklet was first introduced to communities in New Jersey in the late 1980s with material prepared by Ralph Froehlich, Sheriff of Union County, N.J. The first version with a B’nai B’rith copyright was distributed in 1998.
You can find this crucial resource here. The booklet is also available in Spanish by request. Simply contact the B’nai B’rith Center for Community Action at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-490-3290.
The world seems to shrink after a disaster strikes, when nations and non-governmental organizations mobilize to help victims of man-made and natural catastrophes.
After the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March, B’nai B’rith opened its disaster relief fund and teamed up with IsraAID: The Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid to assess immediate and long-term needs. B’nai B’rith is a founding member and active supporter of IsraAID.
Eight months later, parts of Japan are still struggling. But IsraAID, and B’nai B’rith donations, continue to help.
B’nai B’rith International hosts IsraAID founder and Executive Director Shachar Zahavi to discuss the positive impact IsraAID has made for the victims and families in Japan. Raiko Watanabe, director of the Watari-cho Choujido Center in Japan will also speak at the Nov. 16 event at UJA Federation of N.Y., 130 East 59th Street , 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
In advance of the event, Watanabe said: “A lot of relief and equipment came from all around the world and people also sent beautiful letters of hope and support, but IsraAID is the only organization that supported our heart.”
B’nai B’rith has been engaged in international disaster relief since 1865. Since that time, the B’nai B’rith International Disaster Relief Fund has provided aid to populations affected by natural and man-made catastrophes around the world, including in Japan, to aid victims of the devastating flooding in the U.S. South and Midwest earlier this year, as well as the Haitian and Chilean earthquakes of 2010.
This event is in conjunction with the American Zionist Movement.
B'nai B'rith Saddened by Resignation of U.S. Ecumenical Leader Who Set Important Course in Christian-Jewish Ties
B'nai B'rith International is saddened by the resignation of the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon as general secretary of the National Council of Churches (NCC), an ecumenical body encompassing Christian denominations with a combined membership of 45 million Americans. Since his election in 2007, Kinnamon has been distinguished by his consistent efforts to overcome challenges in relations between faith communities, particularly Christians and Jews.
Kinnamon, a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) minister, cited health reasons for his decision to step down. On Nov. 9, the NCC governing board accepted his decision.
"Reverend Kinnamon has set a bold example of sincerity and thoughtfulness in his engagement with the Jewish community," said B'nai B'rith Director of United Nations and Intercommunal Affairs David Michaels. "Without minimizing any differences between our communities, he sought to reach out, in word and deed alike, finding significant avenues for cooperation and commonality. He has our appreciation, and, at this time, our prayerful thoughts."
As part of B'nai B'rith's commemoration at the United Nations of International Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2010, Kinnamon participated in a panel discussion on interreligious reactions to the Holocaust.
Speaking at that event of his journey through Israel with a fellow student whose mother survived the Holocaust, Kinnamon said that "Christians, including leaders of the Church, have often been timid, fearfully refusing to name evil for what it is. Surely, we who live in a post-Holocaust universe must resist this tendency. But it is the intersection of these things that defines what may be our greatest challenge in this era: to be both open to legitimate diversity and firmly opposed to diversities that are demonic."
Kinnamon added: "Anti-Semitism has been on the increase in Europe over the past decade. It won't do simply to chalk this up to frustrations over the continuing conflict in the Middle East, because whatever Christian concerns may be concerning particular Israeli policies, Christians must speak out loudly and stand firmly against anti-Semitism whenever and wherever it is experienced."
Less than two years earlier, in September 2008, as some religious groups featured Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at an event in New York, Kinnamon offered a statement at a rally protesting the policies of the Iranian leader.
"President Ahmadinejad's hateful language, denying the Holocaust and apparently calling for Israel to be 'wiped off the map,' must be persistently and forcefully denounced by all who value peace," Kinnamon said. "Anti-Semitic efforts to rewrite evil events-not new in history or unknown even in the United States-endanger the Jewish people, disgrace faith communities who perpetuate them or choose to remain silent in their presence, and degrade the value of human life everywhere...If President Ahmadinejad has so little regard for the verifiable facts of history and the legitimacy of a state created by U.N. decision, it is
hard to believe he means it when he insists that Iran's nuclear program is only intended for peaceful purposes. And as he continues that program in defiance of Security Council resolutions, he also shows his contempt for the community of nations."
At the NCC's national meeting this week, Kathryn Mary Lohre, director of ecumenical and interreligious relations in the Office of the Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, was installed as the council's new president, while A. Roy Medley, general secretary of American Baptist Churches in the United States, was named president-elect. B'nai B'rith extends to them its best wishes on their new appointments and looks forward to working with them in an effort to deepen interreligious engagement.
B’nai B’rith Urges International Unity in Response to Report
A new report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Iran is actively pursuing—and is frighteningly close to creating—nuclear weapons.
The report from the U.N. agency that monitors nuclear capabilities finds that “Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device.”
“This report confirms what the world has long-known—Iran is well on its way to making nuclear weapons,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “Iran has made no secret of its desire to destroy Israel, and it continues unabated to destabilize the Middle East and Persian Gulf regions. The confirmation of its active nuclear weapons program is a grave development and cause for great concern around the world.”
“Iran, the world’s most active state-sponsor of global terrorism, has defied international monitors and sanctions for years. These IAEA findings provide unimpeachable evidence that Iran has evaded international monitors for too long,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said.
B’nai B’rith urges the global community to take the findings seriously.