Sen. Joe Lieberman and Ambassador Michael Oren Highlight 2012 B'nai B'rith Policy Conference; Allan J. Jacobs Re-Elected President
_ B’nai B’rith members and supporters from across the United States and the world gathered in Washington, D.C., Sept. 8 to 11 to discuss what the state of the Jewish world will be in five years and to kick off the 170th anniversary of the organization. B’nai B’rith hosted Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, among other speakers, and Allan J. Jacobs was re-elected president of B’nai B’rith.
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.)
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) talked about the “ideological rigidity that makes it hard to get things done in Washington,” but noted the one issue that seems to transcend party lines is Iran.
Lieberman favors tougher sanctions against Iran. But, he said that if those harsher sanctions do not work, and with all options on the table, a more formal international coalition led by the United States should address the issue.
The Israel-U.S. Relationship Today: Ambassador Michael Oren
Michael Oren, ambassador of Israel to the United States, outlined the “array” and “magnitude” of threats currently facing the State of Israel.
He called Iran’s nuclear ambitions “the greatest threat looming over our horizon…of monumental proportions.”
Oren also said, “Israel is in a better geopolitical strategic situation today than it has been [before].” He noted Israel’s “excellent relations” with countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria. He mentioned Israel’s expanding economic relationships with India, China and the United States.
Oren expressed his gratitude to B’nai B’rith for its devotion to the State of Israel in good times and bad. “You’ve always been there with us,” Oren said, and he has “full confidence that Israel and B’nai B’rith will always be together.”
Allan J. Jacobs Re-Elected President of B’nai B’rith International
Allan J. Jacobs of Lake Forest, Ill., was re-elected president of B’nai B’rith International and immediately begins a three-year term.
During his first term, Jacobs led numerous B’nai B’rith delegations on global missions that included meetings with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Pope Benedict XVI and Jordan’s King Abdullah II, among others.
Jacobs has spoken out against Iran’s relentless quest for nuclear weapons as well as the Iranian infiltration into Latin America. He has called for the fair treatment of Israel at all U.N. venues, spoken out against global human rights abuses and advocated for senior citizens.
Gary P. Saltzman of Centennial, Colo., Reappointed Chairman of the Executive Committee
Gary P. Saltzman was reappointed chairman of the Executive Committee of B’nai B’rith International.
The chairman of the Executive Committee (COE) is the No. 2 volunteer leadership position in the organization. It is the COE’s responsibility to serve as direct liaison between staff and volunteers and carry out other internal and external responsibilities of the organization.
Jonathan Sarna, Author of “When General Grant Expelled the Jews”
Jonathan Sarna signed copies of his book and discussed the idea of Jewish unity. He said all Jews are part of one group; they’re interrelated and part of an extended family. Sarna also spoke of the “mutual sense of responsibility” in the Jewish community. Sarna said his latest book was greatly impacted by the B’nai B’rith archives.
The Jewish Community and the 2012 Presidential Election: Democratic and Republican Perspectives
Michael Levy, board member of the National Jewish Democratic Council, and Mark Isakowitz, board member of the Republican Jewish Coalition, debated the merits of the Democratic and Republican candidates in the upcoming presidential election. B’nai B’rith also hosted former congressman Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), speaking on behalf of Barack Obama’s campaign, and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), speaking on behalf of Mitt Romney’s campaign.
Homeland Security and the Faith-Based Community: John Cohen
John Cohen, the principal deputy assistant secretary for counterterrorism in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, spoke about the evolving threat to the Jewish community in America. Information-sharing partnerships with organizations like B’nai B’rith and local synagogues, Cohen said, enable his department to ensure the safety of Jewish communities across the country.
Righting the Wrongs of the Holocaust: Ambassador Douglas Davidson
Douglas Davidson, State Department special envoy for Holocaust issues, discussed continued efforts to attain a measure of justice by compensating Holocaust victims for the moral and criminal atrocities perpetrated against them. He spoke about his efforts to circumvent costly and time-consuming litigation as a means of compensation for the remaining survivors.
Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights
Michael Posner said he is disturbed by the reports of anti-Semitism around the world and that the State Department is teaching its employees how to monitor and respond to them. Posner said the most effective way to combat anti-Semitism and root it out from future generations is to encourage responsible leadership and change hateful teaching curriculums.
“We must brace ourselves for a long struggle,” Posner said. “The fight against anti-Semitism is a marathon, not a sprint.”
Click here to read the full remarks.
The policy conference was held in conjunction with the B’nai B’rith conference on senior housing. The speakers included: Candi Atkins, housing consultant; Michael Bodaken, president of the National Housing Trust; Marvin Siflinger, chair of the B’nai B’rith Senior Housing Committee; Conrad Egan, senior adviser of the Affordable Housing Institute; Greg Case, director of the Office for Supportive and Caregiving Services, U.S. Administration on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and Nancy Libson, associate director of Housing Strategy and Leading Age.
At the conclusion of the policy conference, those in attendance met with members of Congress and their staffs on Capitol Hill to discuss the issues of the day.