B’nai B’rith International was honored to receive a grant from Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) for $100,000, to be used for disaster relief efforts.
The first installment of the grant, which will be paid out over five years, was bestowed at a special luncheon during the fraternity’s 102nd annual conference, held this year in Cleveland, with some 500 AEPi brothers and alumni in attendance.
“We extend our deep appreciation to our partner AEPi for this generous grant, which will allow us to continue to support communities reeling from disasters around the world. This is a very generous award toward our humanitarian aid efforts around the globe,” B’nai B’rith International President—and honorary AEPi brother—Allan J. Jacobs said.
B’nai B’rith was one of 10 organizations selected during the Jewish fraternity's annual international convention in 2014 to receive part of its new $1 million philanthropy initiative.
“Alpha Epsilon Pi is so proud of the brothers and chapter's fundraising efforts that helped us exceed the fraternity's goal of $200,000 a year over five years for 10 beneficiaries. This is the first year of a $ 1,000,000 pledge dedicated to give back to Jewish organizations around the world," AEPi Executive Director Andy S. Borans said.
“We are thrilled to be included in the philanthropy group receiving funds from AEPi for the B’nai B’rith Disaster Relief Fund,” B’nai B’rith Chairman of the Executive Board of Directors Gary Saltzman, an honorary AEPi brother, said. “These funds allow us to continue the important work we do in our disaster relief efforts. As partners with AEPi, the members help provide necessary local volunteer support to assist communities in need.”
“Our partnership with AEPi continues to be strong and reliable,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin, also an AEPi brother, said. “AEPi brothers have put in countless, back-breaking hours, volunteering their time and muscle to clean up and rebuild communities that B’nai B’rith has worked in for disaster relief. It is always impressive to see the enthusiasm these young men exhibit in all the projects they tackle.”
The B’nai B’rith-AEPi partnership also extends to Holocaust awareness, where the two groups unite for Unto Every Person There is a Name and We Walk to Remember. With the help of these programs, victims of the Holocaust will never be forgotten.
B'nai B'rith Interntional and Alpha Epsilon Pi participate in "Unto Every Person There is a Name" and "We Walk to Remember" Yom Hashoah programming at Georgetown University on April 15. In the center photo, attendees pose around the statue of Polish Underground member and Georgetown history professor Jan Karski.
B’nai B’rith International has proudly been the official North American sponsor of the Yom Hashoah program “Unto Every Person There is a Name” for 26 years. In 2015, we once again carried that mantle, along with a combination of other programming to make for an inspiring Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Communities across the continent came together on or before Yom Hashoah, the 27th day of the month of Nissan on the Jewish calendar. Programs started on April 12 and will run through April 28, reading the names of the victims of the Shoah and where and when they were born and died. These observances honor more victims each year, as the Shoah Victim’s Names Recovery Project seeks and uncovers additional information.
The program is a worldwide memorial project that began in 1989 and is coordinated by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, in consultation with the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and enjoys the official auspices of the President of the State of Israel, the Hon. Reuven Rivlin. This year’s theme was “Seventy Years Since the End of WWII: The Anguish of Liberation and the Return to Life.” The program, including thematic materials is developed by an international committee and B’nai B’rith International is represented by the B’nai B’rith World Center Director Alan Schneider, giving B’nai B’rith not only the honor of implementing the program, but having a hand in the planning stages as well.
The program has become an integral part of community observances across the country. These observances are generally held in public spaces such as shopping malls or downtown office plazas during the lunch hour, to be especially visible for the entire community. Often, people will stop to see what is happening and ask if they can read names too. Teachers bring students as part of their learning experience about the Holocaust.
“B’nai B’rith International is proud to have such strong Yom Hashoah programming. It’s important work to ensure we always remember, and for 26 years now, we’ve done an excellent job with ‘Unto Every Person There is a Name,’” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said.
In addition to community observances, for the seventh consecutive year, B’nai B’rith partnered with the Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) fraternity for its “We Walk to Remember” campaign held on more than 130 campuses throughout the United States, Canada, Israel and the United Kingdom. AEPi members walk silently across campus wearing a “Never Forget” sticker and also participate in “Unto Every Person There is a Name” programming. At many campuses, the ceremonies extended beyond B’nai B’rith and AEPi with numerous Jewish student groups participating.
A particularly poignant iteration of “We Walk to Remember” was held on Vanderbilt University’s campus in Nashville, Tenn., where AEPi’s fraternity house was vandalized with swastikas spray-painted in the basement and elevator in March. Hundreds gathered not only to remember those lost in the Holocaust, but also to directly respond to the face of bigotry on campus.
“We came here together to prevent anything similar to this from happening again. And to educate everyone in Vanderbilt, the Nashville neighboring community, and the people that this reaches across the country and internationally that us as AEPi members, [we] as Vanderbilt students and Jews will not stand for things like this,” AEPi Chapter President Joshua Hyman said before the program commenced.
The combination of the two powerful programs has created a lasting impact on campuses across the globe. It demonstrates that young people on campus understand the importance of remembering and have taken on the responsibility to tell the story of the victims of the Holocaust.
Another example of the two programs coming together to create an atmosphere of solidarity and remembrance occurred on Georgetown University’s campus in Washington, D.C. Participants walked silently around campus, ending at the statue of Jan Karski. Karski was a Georgetown history professor and member of the Polish Underground during World War II who was among the first people to alert the Western world of Nazi atrocities against Jews.
“It was a really powerful moment with the walk ending in front of the Karski statue,” B’nai B’rith Assistant Director of the International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy Sienna Girgenti said. “To have everyone joining in reciting names, poems and prayers—it was a true embodiment of what ‘Unto Every Person There is a Name’ and ‘We Walk to Remember’ strive to create on campuses and communities around the country.”
B’nai B’rith provides programming materials and support with the generous sponsorship of Kurt and Tessye Simon, of blessed memory.
“It’s a big responsibility sponsoring such a meaningful program as ‘Unto Every Person There is a Name’ for an entire continent,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “It’s serious responsibility to remember those who were lost in the Holocaust. Between ‘Unto Every Person There is a Name’ and our yearly efforts honoring Jews who rescued fellow Jews during the Shoah, B’nai B’rith diligently works to ensure those lost are not forgotten.”
On the morning of April 16, the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem and the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-JNF) held a unique joint Holocaust commemoration ceremony dedicated to the heroism of Jews who rescued fellow Jews during the Holocaust. Taking place at the Martyrs' Forest “Scroll of Fire” Plaza with about one thousand people in attendance, the program memorialized Rabbi Moshe Shimon Pessach (1869-1955), an outstanding rabbinic and communal figure who served for 63 years as rabbi, including later in life as chief rabbi of Greece. Pessach initiated and orchestrated the rescue of his community during the German occupation, efforts that led to the survival of 74 percent of the Volos Jews—an extraordinary achievement in a country where 85 percent of Jews were murdered in the Holocaust—and led a partisan unit against the Germans. The program saw its highest attendance in its 13-year history and was reported on in dozens of print, broadcast and digital media outlets in Hebrew, English, Greek and Spanish.
B’nai B’rith International sent its annual leadership delegation to Geneva to advocate on urgent issues facing the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), including the body’s just deferred “Commission of Inquiry” report on the Israel’s conflict with Hamas during the summer of 2014, the continuing abuse of the Jewish state more generally at the council, Iran's destructive domestic and regional policies, and the widespread unrest in the Middle East.
Some two-dozen B’nai B’rith International leaders and supporters, including with three representatives from the national Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi), met with senior representatives from more than 40 countries. B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin led the delegation.
The B’nai B’rith delegation expressed deep concern over the council’s “independent, international commission of inquiry” into Israel’s defensive operations in Gaza during the summer of 2014. Under the chairmanship of Canadian academic William Schabas there was a sense this report would highly biased against Israel. Schabas had previously suggested that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former President Shimon Peres (a Nobel peace prize laureate) should be brought before the International Criminal Court. Eight months into the commission’s “inquiry” it was revealed Schabas had served as a consultant to the Palestine Liberation Organization. Schabas resigned last month in the wake of that revelation and has since been replaced by former-U.S. judge Mary McGowan Davis.
This week the council announced the report’s delay until the June session, but most of the “evidence” had already been compiled under Schabas’ chairmanship. We urged diplomats in Geneva to carefully scrutinize the report that is issued in June for any one-sidedness against Israel.
“Every year B’nai B’rith leaders from around the world come to the Human Rights Council, and every year, sadly, it’s the same: an obsessive and outrageous focus on Israel that even the most deplorable regimes on Earth don’t receive,” Jacobs said. “It is our job to hold the U.N. accountable for this discrimination and hypocrisy.”
More broadly, the delegation focused on “Item 7,” the standing agenda item scrutinizing Israel apart from all other countries, and how the actions of the United Nations and its agencies dampen prospects for peace by encouraging Palestinian unilateralism. The international community’s too-frequent disregard for terrorism against Israel —whether it be car attacks on light rail stations or rockets raining down from Gaza—was also emphasized in the meetings.
“B’nai B’rith has been extremely vocal about the Human Rights Council’s “Commission of Inquiry” and especially about the chairmanship of William Schabas because of his record and that of the Human Rights Council on Israel,” Mariaschin said. “The deferral of the report until June bears watching, but we still remain wary of the outcome. In Geneva B’nai B’rith made sure to inform the international community that anything released that unfairly attacks the Jewish state is an unambiguous politicization of the council by Israel's non-democratic adversaries and should be rejected.”
U.S. Ambassador, Officials Address B’nai B’rith Diplomatic Reception
On March 11, B’nai B’rith leadership held its annual reception at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, hosting numerous ambassadors and other diplomatic officials. Highlights of the evening included remarks from U.S. Ambassador to the Human Rights Council Keith Harper, Israeli Deputy Permanent Representative Omer Caspi and Chief of Cabinet of the Director-General of the U.N. Offices in Geneva David Chikvaidze.
On March 10, Jacobs and Mariaschin attended at dinner hosted by Harper in honor of Israeli Ambassador Eviatar Manor.
In addition to Jacobs and Mariaschin, B’nai B’rith was represented by: Chair of the Executive Board of Directors Gary Saltzman of Denver, Colo.; Senior Vice President Ira Bartfield of Arlington, Va.; Senior Vice President Daniel Citone of Rome; B’nai B’rith Europe President Erika van Gelder of Amsterdam; Helene Briskman of London; Menahem Briskman of London; Eric Engelmayer of Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; Mike Gellman of Washington, D.C.; Jacques Jacubert of Paris; David Matas of Winnipeg, Canada; Irving Silver of Mobile, Ala.; Dan Tartakovski of Mexico City; and Stéphane Teicher of Paris.
B’nai B’rith International’s Director of United Nations and Intercommunal Affairs David Michaels coordinated the visit in Geneva together with U.N. Affairs Program Officer Oren Drori, from New York.
Supporting B’nai B’rith on the ground before and after the arrival of the delegation in Geneva were local B’nai B’rith representatives to the U.N. Klaus Netter, Armand Azoulai, Richard Sadoune, Zary Acher, and Anita Winter from Zurich.
AEPi Executive Director and B’nai B’rith Board of Governors Member Andy Borans of Indianapolis, Ind., represented the fraternity, along with Civic Engagement Coordinator David Marias of Indianapolis and UC-Santa Cruz student Anthony Milgram.