(Washington, D.C., Dec. 4, 2018)--When a small group of immigrants founded B’nai B’rith in mid-19th century New York, they could not have known that their organization would one day have thousands of members around the world. B’nai B’rith was created in a saloon by German-speaking Jews, just three years after the arrival of the first ordained rabbi in New York. Despite the divided nature of the New York Jewish community, marked by rivalries between different immigrant groups, B’nai B’rith always aimed to be inclusive. Kenneth Ackerman explores the organization’s origins in his feature, “How an Immigrant Saloon of 1840s New York Gave Birth to B’nai B’rith.”
Although Jews are not commonly associated with the Wild West, many Jewish pioneers thrived in mining boomtowns. There were Jewish politicians, merchants, landowners and lawmen. Cheryl Kempler explores this unique time in Jewish history, where there was so little overt anti-Semitism that some Jews joined gentile organizations, while others founded B’nai B’rith lodges.
In “A Fresh Look at Tu B’Shevat,” Paula Shoyer delves into the changing significance of the holiday, which has historically been linked to Zionism. Now, Tu B’Shevat is taking on added significance as a day to promote environmentalism and connection to the Earth. Tu B’Shevat Seders, long held only by Sephardic Jews, have exploded in popularity amongst Jews of all types. There are even multiple Tu B’Shevat Haggadahs available online.
B’nai B’rith International President Charles O. Kaufman details his priorities for the coming year, including the creation of a Mental Health Action group to bolster our support for seniors and continuing to advocate for Israel at the United Nations. The organization will also launch the B’nai B’rith Barristers program that will provide opportunities for lawyers to network.
B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin’s column focuses on the connection throughout history between the Greek and Jewish communities, starting with the possibility that ancient Sparta had contact with the people of Israel in the third century B.C.E. As Israel’s relationship with the country has improved, B’nai B’rith organized two high-level leadership missions to Greece, Cyprus and Israel in conjunction with two Greek-American organizations. B’nai B’rith Greece also hosted a conference exploring the link between Sparta and Israel.
Did you know Iceland has a tiny Jewish community? In “A Mostly Warm Reception for Jews in Sub-Arctic Iceland,” Jennifer Lovy explores Jewish life in the island nation. Many Jews there are transplants from the United States or Europe, but the country now has a permanent rabbi and Chabad center.
Maayan Hoffman writes about the gourmet food scene in the Galilee, a major agricultural hub in the State of Israel. Israel Initiative 2020, a non-governmental organization working to burnish Israel’s reputation as an economically vibrant “Start-Up Nation,” is attempting to revitalize the region by making it a center of food- and agri-tech. The Galilee’s unique climate makes it possible for 70 percent of all types of crops to grow there.
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B’nai B’rith International has advocated for global Jewry and championed the cause of human rights since 1843. B’nai B’rith is recognized as a vital voice in promoting Jewish unity and continuity, a staunch defender of the State of Israel, a tireless advocate on behalf of senior citizens and a leader in disaster relief. With a presence around the world, we are the Global Voice of the Jewish Community. Visit www.bnaibrith.org