B’nai B’rith International is pleased that William Schabas has quit his position as head of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) inquiry into Israel’s defensive operations in Gaza during the summer of 2014. The probe itself—tarnished from the start by the Council’s record of singular discrimination against Israel and its advance excoriation of the Jewish state—must be discontinued.
Schabas has been under fire since his appointment to head the “independent, international commission of inquiry” due to his prior, outspoken anti-Israel views. It also came to light recently that Schabas, a Canadian academic, was paid to provide legal advice to the Palestine Liberation Organization. Although Schabas says he is excusing himself to avoid overshadowing the results of the commission’s report expected in March, the probe’s “research” has reportedly already been completed.
“This latest U.N. kangaroo court targeting the world’s only Jewish democracy was illegitimate from the beginning. It was cobbled together following a Human Rights Council resolution that blasted Israel before the commission even launched and didn’t so much as mention Hamas,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “This inquiry has always been stacked against Israel and Schabas’ resignation only reaffirms how corrupt it is.”
Schabas’ bias against Israel has never been a secret. In 2013 he was quoted as saying, “my favorite would be [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu within the dock of the International Criminal Court.”
“While we welcome the departure of William Schabas from the ‘commission of inquiry,’ his biased, anti-Israel attitude will undoubtedly be present throughout its findings,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “The inquiry was specifically designed not to focus on years of cross-border terrorist attacks against Israelis, but rather Israel’s defensive response to them. Whatever the Human Rights Council releases in March is likely to attempt to draw equivalence between terrorism and a state defending its civilians from that threat—an outrageous and unacceptable conclusion.”
The International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that it will open a preliminary investigation into war crimes committed during the summer conflict in the Gaza Strip, hostilities that included, and were precipitated by, massive violence targeting civilians across Israel.
Though it is unclear whether prosecutors at The Hague will formally issue charges, B’nai B’rith condemns this unjustified probe prompted by the Palestinians as the latest page in their playbook that will undoubtedly continue to single handedly undercuts prospects for peace.
“We’ve seen in recent weeks that the Palestinian Authority seems incapable of making necessarily hard decisions to negotiate an agreement and would much prefer to have the United Nations Security Council and the ICC do its bidding,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said.
“It also speaks volumes that Mahmoud Abbas would to go to the ICC and spur this investigation while his regime is tied to Hamas terrorists who started the summer conflict by kidnapping and murdering three innocent Israeli teenagers and firing rockets indiscriminately at Israeli communities.”
The ICC announcement comes on the heels of the U.N. Security Council's decision to reject a Palestinian ultimatum that would have attempted to force the unconditional fulfillment of the Palestinians' political demands on Israel.
What the Palestinians are attempting to do now perverts the original objective of a permanent international tribunal that would bring to justice the perpetrators of crimes against humanity.
At the time of its creation many were concerned that, given the United Nation’s failed record in these matters, it would one day be used by the Palestinians to unilaterally advance its agenda against Israel.
“The methods that the Palestinian Authority has chosen in an attempt to create a state outside of direct negotiations with Israel by resorting to international pressure can only exacerbate the conflict, not resolve it,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said.
“If the PA is really serious about this process, it should focus its efforts on ending incitement against Israel and making the compromises necessary to finally move toward an agreement.”
B’nai B’rith International is proud to announce Irene M. Thompson, president and CEO of the University HealthSystem Consortium (UHC) as recipient of the National Healthcare Award, which has recognized outstanding leaders in the health care field for more than 30 years. A gala award dinner will be held in her honor on June 22 at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Chicago.
For three decades, B’nai B’rith has underscored the outstanding work of health care leaders and corporations that set the standards for health and education initiatives. The standards set by these distinguished professionals ultimately betters the lives of people throughout their communities and around the world.
“Irene Thompson’s resume in the health care field is one of the most extensive I’ve encountered while bestowing this honor. Her career and community involvement are nearly unmatched by her peers. It gives me great joy to confer the National Healthcare Award on Irene,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said.
As president and chief executive officer, Thompson is responsible for the overall operation of UHC. Under her leadership UHC’s membership has grown significantly to 117 academic medical centers and nearly 330 of their affiliated hospitals. UHC represents the majority of the nation’s nonprofit academic medical centers to help them improve clinical, operational and financial performance.
Thompson is a member and the immediate past chair of the American Heart Association Midwest Affiliate Board of Directors and a member of the American Heart Association National Corporate Operations Committee. She also serves on the boards of directors for America’s Essential Hospitals and the National Center for Healthcare Leadership. Previously, Thompson served as board chair for UHC and for the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Council of Teaching Hospitals and Health Systems. She was president of the Kansas City, Kan., Chamber of Commerce and has served on numerous other community not-for-profit boards. In 2013 and 2007, Thompson was named one of Modern Healthcare Magazine’s Top 25 Women in Healthcare.
“With her current position overseeing UHC and all of its affiliates, combined with her work at the American Heart Association and a number of other non-profits, it’s clear that Irene Thompson is truly a leader in the field of health care. Not only is her track record impressive, but the number of leaders in her field endorsing her with the announcement of this award speaks to how deserving a recipient she is,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said.
The recipients of the B’nai B’rith National Healthcare Award have shown a history of dedicated leadership and outstanding civic involvement in the health care field and in the broader community. Award winners support philanthropic causes benefiting health, youth, seniors and education programs.
Photos are available upon request.
To learn more about University HealthSystem Consortium, visit https://www.uhc.edu/.
Click here to learn more about Irene Thompson’s distinguished career.
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith strongly condemns the terror attack that left at least 12 dead and 10 wounded in the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Three masked gunmen stormed the building seeking out those who worked at the paper. They escaped after hijacking a car. A city-wide manhunt is underway.
In the letter to French Ambassador Gérard Araud, B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin extend their thoughts and prayers to all those affected: “During this difficult time, we would also like to convey our deepest condolences to the families of all the innocent victims of these despicable attacks and express our sympathy and support to the city of Paris.
“For over 170 years, B’nai B’rith International has condemned all senseless acts of violence. Today we recognize global terror as one of the world’s greatest challenges, and we have remained steadfast in our efforts to combat it.”
It is being reported that the paper has been the recipient of threats following the publication of a Muslim-related cartoon.
Read the full letter here.
On Dec. 22, B’nai B’rith International sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to request a clear, public pledge of American opposition to Palestinian and other efforts to impose political demands on Israel through the United Nations. The Palestinian Authority has launched a new effort to deliver an ultimatum for Israeli compliance with its political objectives, this time at the U.N. Security Council. As B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin write to Kerry in the letter, this latest circumvention of negotiations with Israel is unacceptable and the United States must consistently push back against these efforts, employing its veto power in the Security Council when necessary, if peace is to be achieved.
Jacobs and Mariaschin write: “As you know, the Palestinian Authority has openly spoken of its strategy to ‘internationalize’ the conflict with Israel, and this further politicization of global institutions in the context of an already difficult regional reality is the last thing needed in the pursuit of calm, reconciliation and peace in the Middle East. Sadly, [last] week, a draft Security Council resolution was circulated that would unacceptably dictate demands of Israel outside the framework of direct negotiations and mutual compromise with the Palestinians. In the event that its inherent ultimatum is not met, the Palestinian Authority has even threatened to import tensions with Israel to the International Criminal Court, dangerously risking impediment to essential counterterrorism efforts. Reportedly, other actors in the international community have also considered advancing their own related proposals at the Security Council.
The UN – along, of course, with the U.S., the European Union and Russia – is a member of the Quartet on Middle East peace, which long ago established that Palestinian-Israeli disputes can be resolved only through serious, meaningful bilateral talks. As a critical element of foreign policy, and a reflection of broad-based bipartisan commitment, the U.S. has consistently stood against the exploitation of the UN as a political tool against our key ally, Israel. It is vitally in the American national interest, and in the interest of a genuine and lasting peace, that the U.S. make known publicly and unambiguously that it will oppose a Palestinian posture of unilateralism and confrontation in global bodies, let alone motions that fail to uphold Israel’s security needs and identity as a Jewish state.”
To read the full letter, click here.
B’nai B’rith International has been a leader in advocating for the United Nations to place Yom Kippur, the most sacred day of the Jewish year, on the list of Christian, Muslim and other holidays officially recognized by the world body. In recent months B’nai B’rith has challenged members of the United Nations to quickly embrace a new initiative to add Yom Kippur, pushing the issue in a New York Times op-ed and bringing the conversation to the international forefront.
With the United Nations set to make a decision on Yom Kippur, B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs, Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin and Director of U.N. and Intercommunal Affairs David J. Michaels wrote to U.N. missions urging them to support the Yom Kippur initiative.
In the letter, Jacobs, Mariaschin and Michaels write:
“The Jewish people have observed Yom Kippur, the most sacred day of the Jewish calendar, for thousands of years. It is a day when millions of Jews seek forgiveness and self-improvement in the hope of creating a better life and, ultimately, a better world.
We believe that the time has come for the United Nations to add Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, to its calendar. The initiative to add Yom Kippur to the UN calendar would represent a modest but meaningful step in helping the UN to better live up to its Charter's embrace of diversity and respect for peoples large and small.
The UN is headquartered in New York City, the city with the largest Jewish population in the Diaspora. There is an active Jewish presence at UN Headquarters, among secretariat staff, diplomats, and NGO representatives alike. These contributors to the work of the UN, hailing from some of the roughly 120 UN member states where organized Jewish communities can be found, should not be forced to choose between violating their religious beliefs and neglecting professional demands.
We strongly urge you to support adding Yom Kippur to the UN calendar, alongside other religious and civil holidays.”
Click here to read the full letter.
B’nai B’rith International sent a letter to Swiss Ambassador to the U.S. Martin Dahinden expressing serious concern over the upcoming meeting of the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Switzerland summoned the parties last week in response to a Palestinian Authority request, and the meeting is expected to attack Israel for its actions in Gaza and the West Bank.
In the letter, B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said, “As depositor of the Conventions, Switzerland is obliged to execute this function responsibly and impartially. However, over the course of over half a century, the state parties to the Conventions have exclusively been convened to focus on Israel, a small democracy struggling against violent extremists sworn to its very destruction and to the indiscriminate targeting of its citizens.”
Click here to read the full letter.
Winter 2014 Issue Also Highlights the Jews of Spain and the Kosher Food Boom
In the face of seemingly endless conflict, Israeli hospitals continue to provide Syrian and Palestinian patients with high-quality, low-cost medical care. Writer Michele Chabin speaks with many of the medical professionals and patients. She reports that the patients, many of them children, receive high-quality, affordable care.
The Israeli institutions do this as an expression of “tikkun olam”—the Jewish commitment to repair the world. Medical personnel treat many patients with life-threatening conditions, transcending politics and national boundaries.
Elsewhere in the issue, writer Miranda Spivack explores why Spain has been largely immune to the anti-Semitic incidents and anti-Israel protests that spread across Europe this year. There is even talk of granting citizenship to Sephardic Jews who can prove ancestral links to Spain, thereby recognizing and making amends for its historic persecution dating back to the Inquisition and expulsion order of 1492.
The kosher food business in the United States—valued at more than $12.5 billion annually—is booming, according to writer Uriel Heilman, who reports that most of the customers for kosher food today are non-Jews looking for healthier, higher quality products.
B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs devotes his column to Chanukah’s rich history and reviews the many accomplishments of B’nai B’rith this calendar year.
In his regular column, B’nai B’rith Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin discusses B’nai B’rith’s recent Policy Forum in Panama and the organization’s fight against anti-Semitism in Latin America.
Rachel Goldberg, B’nai B’rith’s director of aging policy, in her “About Seniors” section advises readers on how to prepare financially for retirement and discusses the growing issue of a retirement deficit.
All this and more can be found in the current issue of B’nai B’rith Magazine.
And for exclusive digital content, visit the magazine website: www.bnaibrith.org/magazines
B’nai B’rith remembers Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, which took place in Germany and Austria on Nov. 9 and 10, 1938. At least 96 Jews were killed, more than 1,000 synagogues were set on fire, nearly 7,500 Jewish-owned businesses were destroyed, and countless community centers, libraries and homes were attacked, looted and destroyed during the explosion of terror. About 30,000 Jews were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. Throughout November, B’nai B’rith Argentina, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Uruguay, Cuba, Chile and Paraguay held remembrance programs marking the anniversary.
For 20 years B’nai B’rith Argentina has organized Kristallnacht commemoration ceremonies in cooperation with the Ecumenical Commission of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires and, this year, the Lamroth Hakol community. The B’nai B’rith-sponsored, interreligious ceremony was held at the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral with Buenos Aires Archbishop Mario Poli and Rabbi Fabián Skornik presiding over the program. Skornik discussed his participation in the Holocaust event “March for Life” around Europe, visiting many death and concentration camps. The most poignant and saddening sight for him, he told the audience, were the thousands of shoes without children. Poli stated the need to learn to accept pluralism and diversity in society for the sake of truth and justice.
> Check out our Facebook album with pictures from Argentina, Costa Rica and Uruguay
The moving program was organized by former B’nai B’rith Argentina President and current Director of the Interfaith Dialogue Commission Boris Kalnicki. The Argentina Hebrew Society chorus performed for attendees and candles of the menorah were lit by survivors, as well as Jewish and Catholic children. The event was strongly attended with ambassadors of Israel, Germany, Italy, France, Greece, Austria and the Vatican participating in the ceremony, while Jewish community leaders, Argentine politicians, and members of various congregation and churches filled the crowd.
B’nai B’rith Costa Rica held a Kristallnacht commemoration ceremony at the synagogue of Centro Israelita Sionista, the largest Jewish communal institution in Costa Rica. More than 600 people attended, including members of the legislature, judges, ambassadors from different countries and the Archbishop of San José, José Rafael Quirós. The theme of the program was “The control of the media by dictatorships” with keynote speaker Eduardo Ulibarri, the 20-year director of the Costa Rican newspaper La Nación and the country’s current permanent representative to the United Nations.
In Venezuela, B’nai B’rith held three important events from October into November. The first was an Oct. 30 ceremony honoring the work of Jan Karski, a Polish underground fighter in World War II who reported valuable information to the Allies on the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto and the Nazi death camps. The ceremony was held jointly with the Polish embassy in Caracas. On Nov. 10 a Kristallnacht commemoration was held at the B’nai B’rith building in Caracas with more than 300 people in attendance. The following evening B’nai B’rith hosted a forum on human rights issues both past and present with Argentine judge Daniel Rafecas—an expert on the Shoah and international law—and Universidad Metropolitana (UNIMET) professor Maria Teresa Belandria sitting on the panel.
B’nai B’rith Uruguay hosted Vice President Danilo Astori, former presidents, political leaders, congressmen and diplomats at a Kristallnacht ceremony on Nov. 13 that was broadcast live by seven television stations. The keynote speaker at the ceremony was Archbishop of Montevideo Daniel Sturla.
In Cuba, the Maimonides Lodge held a remembrance ceremony with more than 150 people in attendance. The president of the Hebrew community in Cuba Adela Dworin came to the ceremony, as did many leadership and staff members of other Jewish organizations in Havana. Those present were serenaded by the Shofar Jewish Community Choir and the keynote speaker was B’nai B’rith Cuba President Samuel Zagovalov.
B’nai B’rith Chile organized a ceremony on Nov. 9 at a Lutheran church in Santiago. The event was co-sponsored by the International Council of Christians and Jews.
B’nai B’rith Paraguay hosted a ceremony Nov. 18 with former Uruguayan foreign minister and former United Nations General Assembly President Didier Opertti serving as the keynote speaker.
“Every year our brothers and sisters in Latin America show a strong commitment to remembering Kristallnacht, which marks the descent into genocide against the Jewish people,” B’nai B’rith President Allan J. Jacobs and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said in a statement. “Continuing this tradition of commemorating the Night of Broken Glass and including more and more members of the community at-large is the only way to ensure the events of those brutal days are not forgotten.”
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.
See where B'nai B'rith International stands on the issues.