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International Board of Governors Elects New President, Top Leaders

(Washington, D.C., Dec. 20, 2021)—B’nai B’rith International concluded its annual Leadership Forum, held virtually on Dec. 19 and 20. The two-day event featured discussions on anti-Semitism threats today, barriers to Middle East peace, polarization in the media, the Covid-19 pandemic and more.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog praised B’nai B’rith in a video address and described the organization’s mission as “the purest antidote to the rising tide of apathy, indifference and tribalism engulfing the world.”

Outgoing President Charles O. Kaufman opened the forum with a welcome address. He discussed the honor of being B’nai B’rith’s president “Doing the work that must be done to advance the organization’s mission … standing up with laser focus for Jews and Israel.”

B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin spoke on anti-Semitism threats we see today, saying “Hatred of Jews is unique in its longevity” and emphasizing the urgent need for governments, international organizations and leaders of society to confront the phenomenon of anti-Semitism.

In “Covering the World Through a Jewish Lens,” a conversation with Ron Kampeas, Washington bureau chief of JTA, and Jonathan Tobin, editor in chief of JNS, the two journalists spoke with Mariaschin on being Jewish journalists and the polarization we see in media today, among other topics.

Tobin said we are divided by the outlets we choose to listen to, read and watch, and that divide is growing because of social media and users’ ability to filter out points of view that don’t align with their own. “That is a formula not merely for polarization but for a tribal culture war, which is exactly what we’re living through right now,” Tobin said.

Kampeas said polarization is a challenge and that, even though he tries to direct readers to be more objective and seek out multiple news sources, he’s found that people are “mostly unpersuadable these days.”

In a video greeting, Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) spoke on the rise in anti-Semitism and extremism and highlighted B’nai B’rith’s work in calling attention to it and combating it.

Mariaschin also spoke with Einat Wilf, a former Knesset member and co-author of “The War of Return.” The conversation centered around the idea of the “right of return” and how the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (known as UNRWA) perpetuates the narrative that Palestinians are refugees, making peace impossible.

“To be a Palestinian is to be a refugee and to believe in return. What needs to change is the very conception of what it means to be a Palestinian, away from this perpetual refugeehood,” Wilf said.

She said that the very essence of UNWRA is to keep the war of 1948 going and that “for peace to take place, the war must be over.”

In a recorded video address, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, ambassador of the United States to the United Nations, noted B’nai B’rith’s presence at the founding of the U.N. She also spoke about her trip to Israel last month—her first time there—for a week of security briefings and discussions with senior Israeli officials about anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias at the United Nations. She said during her time in Israel she saw first-hand the “serious security risks faced by Israel. It is subjected to regular attacks by terrorist organizations including Hamas and Hezbollah, both of whom are funded by Iran. The impact of Iran’s nuclear aspirations and hatred for Israel must not be ignored.”

The first day of the forum concluded with a conversation with Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, on the current state of the Covid-19 pandemic and what we can expect moving forward.

Referencing Omicron, he said that variants arise out of unvaccinated communities. “We do not have to live this way. If we can vaccinate the entire world, we can vaccinate our way out,” Hotez said.

He also emphasized the speed and collaboration of the scientific community and how it has responded to the pandemic in a very meaningful way and collaborated in a way it never has before.

On day two of the global Leadership Forum, Rep. Tom Suozzi joined Mariaschin for a conversation on issues of concern to B’nai B’rith, including funding for affordable senior housing in the Build Back Better bill, the Iran nuclear deal, anti-Israel bias at the U.N. and rising anti-Semitism in the U.S. and globally.

“I am 100% pro-Israel and will be there every single time on every single issue,” Suozzi said. He said the U.S. needs to build trust with allies and form a strong coalition against unfair treatment of Israel at the world body.

On the Iran nuclear program and the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), he was adamant that Iran “cannot be trusted” and stressed that Iran will not do something unless it is in Iran’s existential self-interest.

In a pre-recorded interview, Mariaschin spoke with Israel’s recently appointed ambassador to the U.S., Michael Herzog, in one of his first addresses in his new post.

Herzog warned that we are at a “critical junction” on Iran and because Tehran faces no consequences for its malign activities, it means Iran will continue to push the envelope.

On anti-Semitism, Herzog said, “We have to address the threat of anti-Semitism in a broad context,” which includes education, state measures, legal action and security.

B’nai B’rith’s newly elected president Seth J. Riklin closed out the two-day forum, speaking on his long personal history with B’nai B’rith and his goals for the organization moving forward.

Riklin, who has been part of the B’nai B’rith Senior Housing Network for more than 30 years, said he has seen first-hand the number of lives our B’nai B’rith senior housing buildings benefit.

He said B’nai B’rith will increase its communication with its leaders around the globe to support each other and work toward speaking with one voice as we fight the growing scourge of anti-Semitism. In discussing anti-Semitism, he said that “throughout history, we Jews are caught in the middle. We know first-hand where these scapegoating efforts lead.”

Riklin was elected president by the B’nai B’rith International Board of Governors in a meeting preceding day one of the forum.

Joining Riklin on the newly elected B’nai B’rith leadership team are Vice Chairman Brad Adolph, Hawthorn Woods, Illinois; senior vice presidents James Altman, Sydney, Australia; Eric Book, Woodland Hills, California; David Djemal, Panama City, Panama; Paolo Foa’, Milano, Italy; Sandra Horowitz, Chicago, Illinois; and Gina Strauss, Miami, Florida. In addition, A.Michael Gellman, Potomac, Maryland, was reelected treasurer; and William K. Peirez, Great Neck, New York, was reelected chief justice.

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