As we enter a second Shabbat since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we are focused on the devastating humanitarian crisis unfolding there.
With more than a million refugees so far, the mass exodus is frighteningly reminiscent of the refugee crisis across Europe during World War II. At the same time, the situation for those remaining in Ukraine is dire, with Russia indiscriminately attacking civilian areas.
B’nai B’rith International, B’nai B’rith Europe, B’nai B’rith UK, B’nai B’rith in Italy and in Germany are mobilizing to help with immediate essentials as well as long-term needs for the Ukrainian people.
On March 1, we were briefed about the situation on the ground by two Ukrainians. They both described the conditions in the cities and towns: Dark and cold homes, sheltering in subways, food and fuel scarcities, not enough munitions. These were chilling, real-time accounts.
Ukraine was a center of Jewish life in Europe for centuries, even as the history of the Jewish people in Ukraine is fraught with tragedy and filled with accomplishment. The Babyn Yar memorial—which was damaged on March 2 by Russian strikes on a neighboring TV tower—stands as witness to the 33,000 Jews murdered by the Nazis in Ukraine.
The trans-Atlantic alliance’s unity in condemning Russia is a welcome and important show of solidarity. In addition, major retailers are closing their stores in Russia. Movie studios are holding off releasing films there. The Paralympics have banned Russian athletes and international soccer is banning Russian teams from competition at the highest levels. Even individual bar and liquor store owners around the world are refusing to sell Russian vodka. These global actions from so many disparate industries demonstrate a unified sense of purpose unmatched in recent memory.
Ukraine’s Jewish president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is a true hero—sometimes described as a modern-day Maccabi. His strong defiance against Russia demonstrates a personal bravery that should be a point of pride for all Jews.
Our efforts to help the people of Ukraine will not falter. Help us meet these needs today. Our Ukraine Assistance Fund is open. Please donate here.
With hopes for peace on our minds, Shabbat Shalom.
Seth J. Riklin, B’nai B’rith International President Daniel S. Mariaschin, B’nai B’rith CEO
(Washington, D.C., March 1, 2022)—B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
In his State of the Union address tonight, President Joe Biden spoke about some of our top organizational priorities.
We support Biden’s affirmation of the trans-Atlantic alliance in the face of Russia’s violation of the territorial integrity of Ukraine. We agree that this is a welcome and important show of solidarity. As the Russian invasion is nearly a week old—an invasion we condemned—B’nai B’rith continues to focus on the humanitarian crisis facing the people of Ukraine. B’nai B’rith International, along with B’nai B’rith Europe, B’nai B’rith UK and B’nai B’rith in Italy and Germany, is focusing our aid efforts to help meet the urgent needs of Jewish communities.
This conflict has put into sharp focus the danger of global reliance on Russian gas and oil exports. Energy independence is vital to ensure the United States and its allies do not rely on oil from countries whose interests are not aligned with our own. We must continue to work with our allies to diversify Europe's energy supply and reduce dependence on Russian energy.
Domestically, we thank the president for highlighting tonight the need to reduce prescription drug costs for Medicare recipients. In addition, we urge the White House and Congress to support legislation that provides economic relief to seniors, especially affordable housing for older adults as well as further adjustments to Medicare that would make hearing aids more affordable. B’nai B’rith was encouraged last year that the House of Representatives passed legislation that tackled these issues, however, we are disappointed the legislation has not passed the Senate. As an active advocate for low-income seniors, we believe this relief can positively impact the lives of older Americans.
Sensible gun reform measures are urgently needed to address the disturbing rise in gun violence and crime across our cities. We worry greatly about the rise in hate crimes against Jewish individuals and institutions and call for increased funding of the Nonprofit Security Grant Program to protect Jewish communities and other vulnerable targets.
We commend the president for stressing the need for border security, along with reform of our immigration laws and support for the Dreamers (those who were brought to this country illegally as children). B’nai B’rith has long supported comprehensive immigration reform with a path toward citizenship.
B’nai B’rith will monitor developments in the areas discussed tonight, as well as those we wished had received attention within the speech. We will continue to meet with White House officials and members of Congress on these topics to offer our analysis and guidance.
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 Calls for Investigation into Allegations that Italy Ignored Warnings Ahead of 1982 Terror Attack on Roman Synagogue
(Washington, D.C., Dec. 14, 2021)--B’nai B’rith President Charles O. Kaufman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin have issued the following statement:
In response to reports that the Italian government ignored warnings about a planned 1982 terror attack on the Great Synagogue of Rome, B'nai B'rith calls for the government to conduct a full and unfettered investigation.
During Shemini Atzeret in October 1982, unidentified gunmen fired on worshipers leaving the synagogue. The attack killed 2-year-old Stefano Tache and injured 34 others.
Documents published by the Italian media on Dec. 10 of this year show that Italian government leaders had information on the attack and allege that it had an “agreement” to not intervene or prevent it. According to the documents, Italian intelligence sent the government multiple warnings that a group of Palestinian students may attack Jewish targets in Rome, with the synagogue being at the top of the list of possible targets. The documents show that the Italian government did nothing to increase security in response to these warnings and that the police vehicle that usually sat outside of the synagogue on holidays was absent on the day of the attack.
The documents also suggest that the Italian government signed an agreement with the Palestine Liberation Organization that promised there would be no terror attacks on Italian soil in exchange for political support of Palestinians.
These disturbing allegations must be investigated and the truth about the tragic attack on Jewish citizens must be brought to light.
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 bnaibrith.org.