(Washington, D.C., May 6, 2019)-- The B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem honored the legacy of Jewish Holocaust-era rescuers in Belgium at two major events held on May 2nd - Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah). The events were dedicated to rescue efforts undertaken by members of the Jewish Defense Committee in Belgium (CDJ, for its initials in French).
The phenomenon of Jewish rescue and the instructive stories of thousands of Jews who labored to save their endangered brethren throughout Europe have yet to receive appropriate public recognition. Many who could have tried to flee preferred to stay and rescue others; some paid for it with their lives. With great heroism, Jews in every country in occupied Europe employed subterfuge, forgery, smuggling, concealment and other methods to ensure that Jews survived the Holocaust, or assisted other Jews in escaping to safe havens, and in doing so foiled the Nazi goal of total genocide against the Jews. The organizers of the ceremony view it as especially important to expose Jewish youth to these narratives as a model for Jewish solidarity and courage.
The first event was a unique joint Holocaust commemoration ceremony held for the 17th consecutive year together with Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael/Jewish National Fund - the only event dedicated annually to commemorating the heroism of Jews who rescued fellow Jews during the Holocaust. Held at B’nai B’rith Martyr’s Forest “Scroll of Fire” Plaza”, over 1,000 Jerusalem-area school pupils and pre-army preparatory academy students attended the ceremony together with Jewish rescuers, survivors and Border Patrol cadets.
Speakers at the ceremony were Mr. Danny Atar, world chairman, Jewish National Fund; Dr. Haim V. Katz, chairman of the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem; Brigadier General Yehuda Yehoshua, commander of the Border Guard Combat Training Center; H.E. Olivier Belle, ambassador of Belgium to Israel; and Michel Werber, son of CDJ founding members Abusz and Shifra Werber.
During the ceremony, a “Jewish Rescuers Citation” was conferred on 11 leading members of the CDJ - David Ferdman, Hertz Jospa, Hava Jospa, Abraham Manaster, Chaim Pinkus Perelman, Fela Perelman, David Trocki-Muscnicki, Paulina Avstritski, Josef Sterngold, Abusz Werber and Shifra Werber - and four other rescuers who were active in Poland - Shraga Dgani, Miriam-Mania Zeidman, Yaacov Segalchik and Bela Yaari-Hazan. A joint project of the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers during the Holocaust, nearly 270 heroes have been honored with the citation since its establishment in 2011 for rescue activities in Germany, France, Hungary, Greece, Slovakia, Yugoslavia, Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Italy, Holland and Belgium.
The second event was an international conference entitled “Historical Perspectives on Jewish Rescue in Belgium During the Holocaust”. Held before an overflow crowd at the official residence of Ambassador Belle, speakers included B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider; Paul Jospa, son of CDJ leaders Hertz and Hava Jospa; B’nai B’rith Antwerp President Willy Kahan (who is married to the daughter of CDJ rescuer Josef Sterngold, Rachel); Olivia Mattis, granddaughter of CDJ founders Prof. Haim and Fela Perelman; and Alain Blitz, the son of a Belgian deportee to Auschwitz and an educator and author of the first Hebrew-language book on the Holocaust in Belgium. Lectures were presented by Dorien Styven, researcher and archivist at the Kazerne Dossin Museum of Deportation and Resistance in Mechelen, Belgium, on "Unlikely Allies - Diversity in the Ranks of the Jewish Defense Committee," and by Joel Kotek, professor at the Free University in Brussels and at Sciences Po University in Paris entitled, “Reception of the Holocaust and Jewish Resistance in Belgian Historiography”. Closing remarks were offered by David Inowlocki, honorary vice president, Belgian Association for Hidden Children. The conference was co-sponsored by the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jews who Rescued Fellow Jews during the Holocaust (JRJ); B’nai B’rith Joseph Wybran Lodge; OBI – Organization of Belgians in Israel (l'Asiociation des Originaries de la Belgique en Israel) and Amilies Israel Belgique Luxemburg – Tel Aviv.
Two Jewish Rescuers Citations – in memory of CDJ activists Leopold Flam and Israel Tabakman - were presented at the close of the conference.
Reports on the events were carried in the Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Swiss National Radio, Belgian National Radio, I24 news, Jwire, Israel Radio, JTA, KAN 11 Television – Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation and Maariv, among others.
The Jewish Defense Committee in Belgium was founded in September 1942 in reaction to the start of the deportation of Jews by the Gestapo in August 1942 in Brussels and Antwerp. The goal of the CDJ was to operate clandestinely to save as many Jews as possible. The CDJ united Jews from a broad ideological spectrum (including communists, revisionists, General Zionists and members of "Left Zion Workers” and "Zionist Youth") and from different swathes of society (among them Belgian citizens and foreigners, secular and religious Jews and even some non-Jews, such as the teacher Andree Geulen) to engage in joint rescue operations. The CDJ urged Jews to disregard the orders of the local Judenrat – the AJB - and go underground instead, and also endeavored to win the support of the general public for persecuted Jews. Some of the CDJ members held positions in the AJB and secretly passed on vital information to foil the German's nefarious plans.
The committee managed to rescue 3,000-4,000 Jewish children – half of all the Jewish children who survived the Holocaust in Belgium – and provided life-saving assistance to 10,000 adults, including hiding places and forged documents. This activity endangered the lives of the CDJ members; some of them were captured, tortured and deported to concentration camps. Some did not survive. The CDJ operated as an adjunct of the "Independence Front" – the most significant resistance organization, founded in Belgium in March 1941, that united 17 different ideological and religious groups lead by the Communist Party in response to the German invasion of the USSR. At the time of the German invasion of Belgium – May 10, 1940 – 66,000 Jews lived in the country, of whom only 10 percent were Belgian citizens; 34,801 were arrested during the Holocaust (among them 5,092 children under the age of 16); 28,902 were murdered – 44 percent of the entire Jewish population in Belgium; 24,906 were imprisoned - usually for several days – at the transfer camp Mechelen-Malines and deported from there on 28 transports to Auschwitz beginning in summer 1942. Only 1,337 survived the camps.
The number of CDJ members reached 300. It operated an impressive administrative network to handle finance, forged papers and food coupons, clandestine press and concealment of children and adults. The department for forged papers was so successful that it also provided papers for non-Jews trying to avoid forced labor. The principal feature of CDJ – cooperation between groups across the ideological and political spectrum - was the basis of an organization unique in Western Europe. The main chapter of the committee was in Brussels. Other chapters were in Charleroi and Liege. In Antwerp, the committee was founded in 1943, when three independent groups started to collaborate. 55 percent of Belgian Jews survived thanks to the swift response of individuals who went underground independently, to the heroic operation of members of the CDJ and to the support of the local Belgian society at large, including many clergy. It should be noted that Jews also operated outside the CDJ in various resistance organizations in smuggling, intelligence, sabotage and clandestine press. The unequivocal conclusion resulting from the events in Belgium during the war is that passivity of the Jews facing the horrors of the Holocaust is a myth.
The B'nai B'rith Martyr’s Forest is the largest joint B’nai B’rith and KKL-JNF project, which memorializes the victims of the Holocaust with 6 million trees planted in the picturesque Jerusalem mountains near Moshav Kesalon. At the pinnacle of the forest stands the “Scroll of Fire,” created by renowned sculptor Nathan Rapoport, which invokes the destruction.
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
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith is outraged by the torching of Joseph’s Tomb, a holy site in the ancient city of Shechem in the West Bank, by Palestinian rioters. As of yet, no injuries or deaths have been reported.
While Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces managed to disperse the crowds and douse the fire, significant damage has been reported in the women’s section of the site. The arson came shortly after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the Palestinian leadership to stop a wave of attacks on Jews. After a week of silence, PA President Mahmoud Abbas finally issued a statement condemning the group’s actions and announcing plans to create an investigatory committee.
While vicious attacks have left seven dead and more than 30 wounded—Abbas issued no condemnation while other PA officials have been busy inciting this kind of violence. B’nai B’rith is appalled that the PA ignored multiple violent deaths before finally denouncing this act of wanton arson.
Nadav Eyal (Channel 10), Sam Sokol (Jerusalem Post) Are Award Winners; Lifetime Achievement Award to Kol Israel
The B’nai B’rith World Center recognized the winners of the Award for Journalism Recognizing Excellence in Diaspora Reportage at Jerusalem’s Van Leer Jerusalem Institute on June 8 with Harvard University professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz serving as the ceremony’s keynote speaker.
Dershowitz is a world-renowned jurist and is universally recognized as one of Israel’s most ardent advocates in the court of world opinion. He addressed the award winners and those in attendance by answering tough questions on Israel, American Jewry, the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and U.S.-Israel relations in a conversation with Liat Collins, editor of the International Jerusalem Post and weekly columnist.
“Whenever I debate BDS, I always throw out the following challenge to my students all over the world,” Dershowitz said. “Name a single country in the history of the world faced with internal and external threats comparable to those faced by Israel that has ever had a better record in human rights; a better record with compliance of the rule of law; a better record of concern for civilians? I have been asking that question now for 20 years, probably to a million people around the world, and I’ve never gotten a single person even to stand up and name a country, because you can’t do it.”
B’nai B’rith World Center Chairman Haim V. Katz started off the evening with opening remarks that touched on the big issues facing Israel and the Diaspora.
“There has not been a time when someone somewhere has not been planning to do substantial harm to the Jewish people. We now face the iniquitous, disgraceful big lie of the BDS movement and those who will tarnish Israel with the slur of blood libel,” Katz said. “As the Passover Haggadah says ‘Every generation the Jewish People are threatened with annihilation and God provide salvation.’ In every generation God has emissaries who assist the Jewish people in its distress. One of them is professor Alan Dershowitz who is like a pillar going before the camp, defending Israel and the Jewish people.”
Winners of the award, named for Wolf and Hilda Matsdorf, were Nadav Eyal, Channel 10's chief international correspondent and Sam Sokol, Jewish World correspondent for the Jerusalem Post.
A Lifetime Achievement Award in memory of Luis and Trudi Schydlowsky was also presented to Kol Yisrael—The Voice of Israel Radio—for its long-running program “Searching for Missing Relatives” now edited and presented by Izi Mann. A special citation for contribution to Israel-Diaspora Relations through the arts was presented to acclaimed singer David D’Or, who performed for the audience.
Eyal received the award in the broadcast media category for his hour-long program “Hate,” broadcast on Channel 10 on Oct. 7, 2014. The program deals with rising anti-Semitism in Europe and was filmed on location in Germany, England and Greece. The broadcast also aired earlier in the year as a four-part mini-series during the station’s primetime news program.
“The connection between the Diaspora and Israel is to be found at the mystery and at the source of the relationship between Israel and the Jewish world. I am very grateful that you found my work worthy of this award. ‘Hate’ tried to ask the question: What stands behind the hate? What motivates the hate? Why is the virus of anti-Semitism so immune and what [are] its sources? To understand anti-Semitism you have to go to the instigators of the virus. So we went to the instigators of the virus. We went to the anti-Semites themselves. And the answer that we brought to our viewers are the lies. The lies in the words of the anti-Semites themselves. The small lie and the big lie that they apply [to] groups. The lie is the source of the racism… And we see how the racism is always paranoid; it is paranoid about everyone, not only toward Jews. This virus assumes mysterious assumptions about minorities and knows no bounds.”
The award in the print media category was presented Sokol for a series of nearly 30 articles published in the Jerusalem Post from May to December 2014 focusing on the fast-changing situation of Jews in war-ravaged eastern Ukraine.
“I’m very, very honored,” said Sokol after receiving the award recognizing his reporting in Ukraine. “It’s very humbling and really feels like a vindication that people have appreciated what I’ve done, and that’s really gratifying.”
The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Kol Yisrael for its “Searching for Missing Relatives” program, inaugurated in 1945 to help Holocaust survivors track down missing relatives. The program was broadcast continuously until 1969 and was re-launched in 2000 by Yaron Enosh in a new format that included interviews and investigative reporting. Over the years the program, and its English print iteration “Seeking Kin” by Hillel Kuttler, have brought together hundreds of Jews across the globe, locating and reuniting with long-lost relatives, friends and neighbors. The show is now edited and presented by Mann, who accepted the award on behalf of the show.
“I feel it is a big honor, but primarily a great calling, to hold in my hand this watch of ‘Search for Missing Relatives’ because every day I have the sense that behind the microphone I am touching the fragments of history that were created as a result of the circumstances of the Holocaust,” Mann said. “But it is not only the Holocaust, because with all modesty I feel that in many cases I am able to bind these fragments that connect families and friendships that were shredded. The wounds of the Holocaust are still felt everywhere and especially now, when families are growing, the need to complete the missing past suddenly arises. Now, when the Jewish people have ceased to wander and are building its homeland we suddenly realize to what degree the roots are missing and now we are trying to complete them.”
Since its establishment in 1992, the B’nai B’rith World Center Award for Journalism has recognized excellence in reportage on contemporary Diaspora-Jewish communities and on the state of Israel-Diaspora relations today in the Israeli print and electronic media. The award is widely acknowledged in the media industry as the most prestigious prize in its field in Israel. Its goal is to help shore up the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora by recognizing excellence in Diaspora-related reportage appearing in the Israeli print, broadcast and web-based media. It was established in recognition of the important contribution the media can make toward strengthening the relationship between Israel and world Jewry--so essential for the resilience of both--by encouraging quality reportage on Diaspora communities and Israel-Diaspora relations.
The distinguished members of the award jury are: Chairman Asher Weill, publisher and editor of “ARIEL”– The Israel Review of Arts and Letters from 1981 to 2003; Yehudith Auerbach, professor in the School of Communication at Bar Ilan University; Eytan Bentsur, former Ministry of Foreign Affairs director general; Sara Frenkel, former Diaspora correspondent for Israel Radio and Lifetime Achievement Award winner in 2002; Shalom Kital, former director general of News Company and Channel 2; Gabriela Shalev, professor and chair of the Higher Academic Council at Ono Academic College, as well as a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations; and Bambi Sheleg, founder and editor-in-chief of Eretz Acheret, and a 2011 award winner.
The B’nai B’rith World Center Award for Journalism is named for the late Wolf Matsdorf and his wife Hilda. Wolf was an editor of the B’nai B’rith World Center Journal “Leadership Briefing” and a journalist in Israel and Australia. Hilda was a pioneer in social work in both Australia and Israel. The Lifetime Achievement Award is named for Luis and Trudi Schydlowsky. The Award is made possible through donations from Daniel Schydlowsky, a professor and a member of the B’nai B’rith World Center International Board of Governors (Lima, Peru and Washington D.C.), and the Matsdorf family.
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 World Center And KKL-JNF to Recognize Greek Rabbi who Saved Hundreds of Jews During Holocaust
The B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-JNF) will hold for the 13th consecutive year a unique, joint Holocaust commemoration ceremony on Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah) on April 16—the only event dedicated annually to commemorating the heroism of Jews who rescued fellow Jews during the years of torment in Europe. Some 200 border patrol cadets—who will provide an honor guard—and some 200 high school students will participate in the ceremony together with Jewish rescuers and survivors. The ceremony will take place at the Martyrs' Forest “Scroll of Fire” Plaza at 10:00 a.m. local time.
This year’s event will memorialize 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, the scion of a long line of towering Sephardic rabbinic figures in Greece, shepherded the Volos Jewish community of approximately 1,000 people through tumultuous times. Fiercely loyal to his country and to his community, 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.
On Sept. 30, 1943—Rosh Hashanah—Pessach was summoned to the headquarters of the German military governor who demanded that he submit within 24 hours a list of all the Jews in the city and their assets, purportedly for determining the amount of food rations needed to sustain them. The astute rabbi had no intention of playing into the hands of the Germans and instead embarked on a series of actions to rescue his community, at great risk to himself and his family. Pessach was able to extract a three-day extension for submitting the list and immediately found his friend Archbishop Joachim Alexopoulos, the metropolitan of Demetrias and the bishop of Volos, to ask for his help in discovering the Germans’ intentions. Alexopoulos contacted a man with whom he was friendly at the German consul in Volos and was told in no uncertain terms that the Jews must leave Volos before the stated deadline.
Alexopoulos informed Pessach of the warning and handed him a letter of introduction addressed to the clergymen in villages surrounding Volos, urging them to protect the Jews in every way possible. Through the rabbi’s intervention, and with the help of the mayor, municipal officials and the chief of police, the Greek underground spirited all but 130 Jews (who were later arrested, deported and murdered) into hiding in the surrounding remote mountain villages over a three day period.
Alexopoulos died in 1959 and was recognized in 1977 by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Among the Gentiles at the initiative of the Volos Jewish community.
The rabbi's escape gave the signal for the rest of the community to go into hiding and they were all accommodated in the villages. The Germans put a bounty on Pessach’s head, and two of his sons who taught Jewish studies in nearby towns were captured by the Germans and murdered. His wife died while they were in hiding. Pessach eventually established a unit of partisans that rescued allied soldiers and fought the Germans. For these actions, he was decorated both by King Paul of Greece and by the commander of the Allied forces in the Mediterranean.
After the war, Pessach returned with 700 members of the community to Volos and engaged in efforts to rebuild the devastated city. In 1946 he was elected chief rabbinic count judge and chief rabbi of Greece, titles he held until his death.
In April 1955, Volos was hit by a devastating earthquake. The aged rabbi was forced to live in a tent, later forfeiting his house in order to build a new synagogue in the same spot, and he died on Nov. 13. In recognition of his contribution to Greek Jewry, Pessach and his wife Sara were reinterred in 1957 in Jerusalem beside Chief Rabbi Ben-Zion Meir Hai Uziel, and his extensive library was brought to Israel and is archived at the Ben-Zvi Institute.
Pessach will be represented at the ceremony by his grandson Moris Eskenazi and great-grandson Dr. Ilias Pessach. Guests of honor will be Greece Ambassador to Israel Spyridon Lampridis, Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III and President of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece Moses Constantinis. Also speaking: KKL-JNF Chairman Effi Stenzler and B’nai B’rith World Center Chairman Dr. Haim V. Katz.
During the ceremony a “Jewish Rescuers Citation” will be posthumously conferred by the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust (JRJ) and the B’nai B’rith World Center on Rafi and Tamar Benshalom, Yitzhak and Judith Herbst, Moshe Weisz, Moshe Weiszkopf, Shmuel Arie Schwartz, all of whom were members of the underground Zionist youth movement in Hungary during World War II, and Yaacov (Jacko) Razon, a Greek-Jewish boxer who helped other Jews survive at the Auschwitz, Buna and Buchenwald concentration camps.
Since the establishment of the Jewish Rescuers Citation in 2011, some 100 awards have been presented to rescuers who operated in France, Germany, Holland, Hungary and Slovakia.
The event will be held at the Martyrs' Forest—a joint KKL-JNF and B’nai B’rith project which memorializes the victims of the Holocaust in six million trees planted in the picturesque Jerusalem Mountains near Moshav Kesalon. At the pinnacle of the forest stands the “Scroll of Fire” by the renowned sculptor Nathan Rappaport, which invokes the destruction of the Jewish people in the Holocaust and their redemption in the State of Israel in a moving base relief. The event will commence with personal testimonies by Holocaust survivors to classes of soldiers.
The phenomena of Jewish rescue and the instructive stories of thousands of Jews who labored to save their endangered brethren throughout Europe are yet to receive appropriate public recognition and resonance. Many who could have fled chose to stay and rescue others; some paid for it with their lives. With great heroism Jews in every country in occupied Europe employed subterfuge, forgery, smuggling, concealment and other methods to ensure that some Jews survived the Holocaust in Europe or assisted them in escaping to a safe heaven and by doing resisted the Nazis’ death camps. The few rescuers who are still alive are sometimes reluctant to recount their stories, satisfied in the knowledge that they were able to overcome the German tormentors and their collaborators.
Considering that many of the rescuers were young at the time of their activity, the organizers of the ceremony view it as especially important to expose Jewish youth to the stories of the f Jewish rescuers during the Holocaust as a model for Jewish solidarity and courage.
The program schedule is as follows. All times are Israel Standard Time:
09:00-09:30 Personal testimonies by Holocaust survivors to soldiers in the Martyrs' Forest
09:45 Coalesce in “Scroll of Fire” Plaza
10:00 Siren peal and ceremony commencement
11:00 Ceremony conclusion
11:00-11:30 Personal testimonies by Holocaust survivors to students in the Martyrs' Forest
The press is invited. For further information please contact Alan Schneider, director, B'nai B'rith World Center +972525536441; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join a leading Israeli tour guide as he escorts you to Mount Zion and its famous sites without leaving your home.
During the previous two weeks B’nai B’rith International and its World Center in Jerusalem have enabled members, supporters and B’nai B’rith senior housing communities to experience the wonders of Israel live thanks to a new virtual touring program. B’nai B’rith invites you to join us for the third and final installment of this program.
The virtual tour will take place Wednesday, March 25, at 10 a.m. ET and will put you on the ground as you explore all the historic landmark Mount Zion has to offer, including King David's tomb, the grave of Oskar Schindler, a panoramic view of Hinnom Valley, the Chamber of the Holocaust and the Zion Gate.
The B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem has been broadcasting tours for two weeks from Israel’s capital using breakthrough live streaming technology, allowing viewers thousands of miles away to experience the epic story and inspiring sites of Jerusalem.
In the first tour residents at B’nai B’rith senior housing facilities, along with B’nai B’rith members and supporters around the world enjoyed an up-close and personal glimpse of the Old City of Jerusalem. History could be found at every turn, whether it was the Western Wall, the various markets around the city or even quiet alleyways.
Last week’s installment took viewers to Mount Herzl to visit its memorials, cemeteries, the National Garden and museums, as well as a trip to the Bible Lands Museum to explore the ancient cultures of the region.
The program will give viewers an unedited, live view of sites that people from all over the world flock to see. This provides a unique opportunity for those who have not yet visited Israel.
The streaming technology will also allow viewers to text questions to the hosts while the show is in progress for more in-depth explanations and a better understanding of the country.
This is a unique experience that is open to anyone who would like to participate.
To join the tour, click here.
Check out part one of the first tour through the Old City of Jerusalem below and click here to view parts two and three.
The second installment will be available for on demand viewing soon.
B’nai B’rith LiveTourism is a project of the B’nai B’rith World Center and is produced by LiveGiving—a company that specializes in live streaming over the internet and provides an interactive platform allowing viewers to text questions during the tour.
B’nai B’rith International is the largest national Jewish sponsor of federally subsidized housing for the elderly in the United States with 42 buildings in 27 communities. B'nai B'rith has made rental apartments available for senior citizens with limited incomes since 1971.
Image via Flickr
Residents at B’nai B’rith senior housing facilities, along with B’nai B’rith members and supporters around the world will experience the wonders of Israel live without leaving their homes thanks to a new virtual touring program launching March 11.
The B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem will broadcast tours from Israel’s capital using breakthrough live streaming technology, allowing viewers thousands of miles away to experience the epic story and inspiring sites of Jerusalem.
The program launches March 11 at 10 a.m. ET with a three hour tour, hosted by a leading Israeli tour guide who will take viewers on an excursion to some of Jerusalem’s most historically and religiously significant sites.
The program will give viewers an unedited, live view of life in Israel's capital and the sense that they are right there with the guide. This provides a unique opportunity for those who have not yet visited Israel.
The streaming technology will also allow viewers to text questions to the hosts while the show is in progress for more in-depth explanations and a better understanding of the country.
This is a unique experience, offered only to members and affiliate-institutions of B'nai B'rith.
This broadcast will serve as a pilot for future broadcasts featuring other parts of Israel.
To join the tour, visit: http://bnaibrith.livetourism.tv/live_events.php
B’nai B’rith International is the largest national Jewish sponsor of federally subsidized housing for the elderly in the United States with 42 buildings in 27 communities. B'nai B'rith has made rental apartments available for senior citizens with limited incomes since 1971.
Trip Marking 50 Years of Israeli-German Relations Initiated by World Center
One of the world's leading women's soccer teams, FFC Turbine Potsdam, will visit Israel on January 18-23 to mark 50 years since the establishment of German-Israeli diplomatic relations. B’nai B’rith World Center Trustee and B’nai B’rith Frankfurt Lodge President Ralph Hofmann initiated the visit.
The team’s trip will be a milestone for women's soccer in Israel. It will provide an opportunity to improve the sporting level, while also increasing interest in women's soccer and improving sporting ties between the two countries. The Israel Ministry of Culture and Sport, the German and Israeli Ministries of Foreign Affairs, the Israel Ministry of Tourism, the Embassy of Germany in Israel, the Netanya municipality, the Israeli Embassy in Germany and the Israel Football Association have partnered with B'nai B'rith to realize this ambitious project.
Turbine Potsdam is a top team in the women’s Bundesliga, the professional soccer league in Germany, and is one of the leading teams in Europe. Founded in 1971 in what was then East Germany (GDR), Turbine Potsdam won the GDR league six times in the 1980s. Since reunification, the Turbine Potsdam has claimed the league title in 2004, 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2012. They won the German Football Federation (DFB) Cup in 2004, 2005 and 2006, and won the UEFA Women's Cup in 2005 and UEFA Women's Champions League in 2010. Turbine Potsdam also took home the DFB Hall Cup in 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2013 and 2014. A number of team players served on Germany's under-20 national team that won the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup this year in Canada. Several are also members of the German national team. At home the team enjoys a large devoted fan base. Bernd Schroder, who serves as a volunteer, has coached the team for the entirety of its 43 years of existence.
The team's visit will include an official friendly match with the Israeli national under-19 team, training clinics and visits to significant national and historical sites including Jerusalem's Old City, Masada and Yad Vashem. The visit was coordinated by the B'nai B'rith World Center in Jerusalem—the official presence of B'nai B'rith International in Jerusalem and its public affairs arm in Israel.
Nearly thirty players and professional staff will participate in the visit, in addition to two representatives of the German television station RBB.
The press is invited to cover the training clinic on January 19 at 15:30 at the Israel Football Association's National Team Training Center in Shefayim and the friendly game on January 20 at 18:00 at the Herzliya Municipal Stadium in Herzliya, in the presence of Israel's Minister of Culture and Sport Limor Livnat, German ambassador to Israel Andreas Michaelis and other dignitaries.
For further details please contact Alan Schneider, director of the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem, at 02-6251743, 052-5536441 or by email at email@example.com.
B'nai B'rith World Center and JRJ Committee Conferred Jewish Rescuers Citation on Holocaust Rescuer at Bronx YM-YWHA
B’nai B’rith International, the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem and Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jews who Rescued Fellow Jews During the Holocaust (JRJ) was honored to confer the joint Jewish Rescuers Citation on Berta Davidovitz Rubinsztejn, a rescuer who operated in German-occupied Hungary.
The citation was presented to Rubinsztejn on Nov. 6 at the Riverdale YM-YWHA in the Bronx, N.Y., with her family, friends and community present. But there was a special guest in attendance as well: Meir Brand, traveling from Jerusalem to attend, was rescued by Rubinsztejn when he was 7 years old, scrounging for food on the streets of Budapest in the spring of 1944.
“This is a great moment for me as this citation is awarded to Berta who of all people most deserves it,” Brand told the audience before Rubinsztejn was presented with the citation. “I am standing here only because of what Berta has done for me which allowed me to raise a wonderful and prosperous family.”
The citation ceremony opened with Riverdale YM-YWHA President Bradd Gold and CEO Deann Forman addressing attendees, followed by Rabbi Avi Weiss from the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale and Rabbi Steven Exler, who led the memorial prayer in memory of the victims of the Shoah.
A representative of New York State Assemblyman Jeffery Dinowitz and New York State Sen. Jeffrey Klein issued a proclamation from New York State, and delivered thoughtful words and congratulations to Rubinsztejn. Documentary filmmaker Gaylen Ross spoke too. Ross was responsible for bringing Rubinsztejn’s story to life in her documentary “Killing Kasztner” and ultimately nominated her for the citation.
The citation was presented to Rubinsztejn by B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin, who recounted her harrowing story and the work of other Jewish rescuers who have received the citation.
“We know that Berta is here today to represent an important part of the Shoah—those who are here to tell the story and be the eye witness to this horrible event in Jewish history—to make sure we never forget those who were lost and those who have lived to keep this memory alive,” Mariaschin said. “I am honored to be here to be part of this tribute to Berta and make this presentation in person on behalf of B’nai B’rith International.”
Rubinsztejn, 92, was born in Poland and fled with her family into still unoccupied Hungary where Jews were not yet being rounded up. She made her way to Budapest where she joined the Zionist youth movement Habonim Dror. Rubinsztejn assumed a Gentile identity and would covertly plan and carry out various operations, including weapons smuggling. As Rudolf Kastner—a leader of the Jewish Aid and Rescue Committee—negotiated with the Nazis in the summer of 1944 the departure of a trainload of Jews from German-occupied Hungary to neutral Switzerland. The goal of Habonim Dror was to put as many orphaned children onto the train as possible. One of these children was Brand.
Brand was smuggled with two young cousins into Hungary in August 1943 after his parents sensed that the liquidation of the ghetto they had lived in for two years was near. After a three-week hike to the Slovakian border, Brand arrived in Budapest and was abandoned. Posing as a Gentile, he lived on the streets for nine months, scrounging for food and sleeping in bombed-out buildings. When Rubinsztejn found him in his battered state in April 1944, she instinctively knew he was Jewish and took him home, nursing him back to health. In June 1944 Rubinsztejn put herself and about 20 Jewish children—including Brand—on the Kastner train.
Rubinsztejn dedicated herself to Brand’s recovery throughout the trip—including a terrifying and life-threatening incarceration in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp—until they arrived in Switzerland. The two made Aliyah in 1946.
Rubinsztejn emigrated from Israel to the United States in 1960, where she currently resides with her family. She was very involved with many organizations including the Bronx Democratic Party, and counts former New York City mayors Abraham Beame, Ed Koch and David Dinkins along with former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo among her acquaintances. She was active in the Hebrew Home for the Aged at Riverdale, in Riverdale, N.Y., and still visits the Riverdale YM-YWHA every day where she organizes the monthly "Café Europa" gathering of Holocaust survivors.
“The most important outcome of all your efforts Berta, and of which I'm forever in your debt, is that I was able to arrive safely in Israel, the only one of my whole family,” Brand said. “Together with my wife Hana I have raise a wonderful family of three children and nine grandchildren.”
The Jewish Rescuers Citation was established in 2011 by the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jews who Rescued Fellow Jews During the Holocaust (JRJ) and B’nai B’rith World Center to set right the historic record—that thousands of Jews were active in rescue efforts throughout Europe, putting their own lives at risk in order to save other Jews from deportation, hunger and death at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators. To date nearly 100 citations have been presented to rescuers who operated in France, Germany, Holland, Greece and Hungary.
“We are proud to honor these two Jewish heroes and gratified that through our decade-long efforts there is growing acknowledgement that their recognition as models for Jewish and human solidarity is long overdue,” Director of the B'nai B'rith World Center and a founding member of the JRJ Committee Alan Schneider said in advance of the ceremony.
B’nai B’rith Hosts New Chair of European Parliament Delegation for Relations with Israel on First Visit to Jewish State
Member of the European Parliament and newly appointed Chair of the European Parliament Delegation for relations with Israel Fulvio Martusciello, a Christian Democrat from Italy, visited Israel this week for the first time at the invitation of B’nai B’rith International. Joining Martusciello on the trip was MEP and previous delegation chair Bas Belder, a European Conservative from the Netherlands.
The two day visit was prepared in tandem by the B’nai B’rith International EU Affairs Office in Brussels and the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem. The delegation met with the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi; MK and Chair of the Economic Affairs Committee Avishay Braverman; MK and Chair of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Zeev Elkin; and MK and Chair of Knesset Lobby for the Struggle Against Anti-Semitism Shimon Ohayon. The delegation also met with the Head of the Bureau of the European Division of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs Shmuel Revel. Major issues raised during the meetings included EU-Israel relations, the Iranian threat and the latest on anti-Semitism throughout Europe.
The delegation also visited Yad Vashem and the Old City of Jerusalem.
“Unfortunately people don’t know what they are talking when they talk about Israel,” Martusciello said. “This visit was an eye opener for a country that I always have the will to visit.” During the meetings Martusciello mentioned the importance of Holocaust education in Europe and, in particular, the need for accurate information about the real situation in Israel.
World Center Director Alan Schneider and Director for EU Affairs Nuno Wahnon, who accompanied the MEPs on the visit, noted the importance of having leading EU political figures dealing with EU-Israel relations visit Israel early in their tenure. The visit laid the foundation for a future cooperation between B’nai B’rith and the European Parliament Delegation for relations with Israel.
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