B'nai B'rith International President Charles Kaufman Gives Keynote Address
AUCKLAND, New Zealand — B’nai B’rith New Zealand leaders from across the country took a trip down memory lane Nov. 7 to celebrate the global organization’s 60th anniversary in the land of the long white cloud.
New Zealanders representing each decade from those 60 years shared history and memories laced with personal anecdotes and descriptions of special projects in Auckland and Wellington. About 70 people attended the 90-minute program on Zoom.
As with many countries throughout the Jewish Diaspora, the story of New Zealand Jewry mirrors Jewish history globally. The community grew through waves of immigration from, among other places, Germany, Poland and the former Soviet Union.
Bob Narev, one of only two surviving founding members of B’nai B’rith New Zealand, spoke of those heady days when B’nai B’rith was needed and established to help with the immigration of Jews from Europe and to fight anti-Semitism.
Boris Lubetzky spoke of his emigration from Russia to Israel in the 1970s as part of the initial wave of Refuseniks to Israel, where he met his wife Judith, a New Zealander, who encouraged the move to her home country. Lubetzky also explained his many years of B’nai B’rith fundraising to support Magen David Odom. It remains an important effort.
Geoff Levy, Mike Gervai and Vernon Levy were among others who shared B’nai B’rith New Zealand’s productive and impressive history.
Deb Filler led the celebrants through a humorous 60-year review of advances, changing trends and personalities of the times. The entire evening was coordinated, guided and produced by Mike Silverman and Corinne and Jules Gaddie, president of B’nai B’rith New Zealand.
Morris Tobias, B’nai B’rith International Senior Vice President, and David Samuels--both officers from Australia—offered greetings.
Charles Kaufman, president of B’nai B’rith International, commended B’nai B’rith New Zealand for its work in service and advocacy and spoke of the importance of preparing the next generation of Jews to “stand strong for themselves” in the face of anti-Semitism.
“For them, we must be examples of strength and knowledge regarding our identity, our history and with Israel, our eternal homeland,” Kaufman said.
Part of the surge in anti-Semitism, he said, is attributed to new support for Israel with the Abraham Accords. He said countries such as the UAE and Bahrain jumpstarted a process that signals to the world that Arab countries and others are discovering the benefits of normalizing relations with Israel as the Palestinians consider national aspirations.
“When El Al begins flying to Saudi Arabia, you know the world is changing,” he said. “When air forces from Europe and select Middle East countries fly jointly with the Israel Air Force, you know the world is changing. When Greece, Cyprus and Israel partner in a natural gas pipeline that will improve the economies of so many countries, you know the world is changing.”
Just the mere intentions of a dozen countries to move their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem proves that ‘the winds of change are blowing with greater speed,’” he added. “In time, more countries in the world will reject seeing Israel as an occupier.
Kaufman attributed the significant increase in anti-Semitic activity to anti-Zionism, emphasizing that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.
“Media prefer to demonize Israel by sharing images of rock-throwing protesters in Hebron or in enclaves in the West Bank, or rocket-launching terrorists from Gaza,” he said. “In truth, Israel is rightly defending its sovereignty and protecting the country’s diverse and free society.
“And to Israel’s adversaries who fear that the light on a two-state solution is dimming, we have one, clear message: For the sake of the Palestinian people, come to the negotiating table and focus on what is possible, what is realistic, not in what is impossible. And if your dreams involve the destruction of Israel and a division of Jerusalem, your opportunities will continue to narrow, if not disappear. Choose a sustainable future. Choose life. Choose peace.”