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Home arrow Lodges' Activities arrow Bulgaria - Carmel Lodge of Sofia celebrates Its 110 anniversary
Friday, 29 May 2015
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Bulgaria - Carmel Lodge of Sofia celebrates Its 110 anniversary Print E-mail

The Carmel Lodge 3355 was founded in Sofia in 1899. Before WWII lodges had been established in all big cities in the country, forming together B’nai B’rith District Bulgaria. The Carmel Lodge was designated as the District’s Great Lodge. During the War the lodge was dismantled. It was re-inaugurated at the end of 1944, only to be again closed down by the communist government in 1948. In 1992 the Lodge was reestablished. In May of this year the Carmel Lodge celebrated its 110th anniversary. The celebration was held from 14th to the 16th May and was marked by three events attended by eminent guests both from the country and abroad.


Distinguished guests at the celebration were:
  • The President of BBE, Brother Graham Weinberg
  • The Executive Vice-President of BBI, brother Daniel Mariaschin
  • The President of the Filon Lodge, Athens, Brother Matos Borbolis, accompanied by Brothers Victor Batis, Albert Ferera, Mimis Varouch and Jacques Taraboulous

On 14th May the festivities commenced with a conference entitled “Anti-Semitism in Bulgaria Today”, held at the City Hotel, Sofia with the participation of The Helsinki Committee, The Open Society Institute, Sofia University, New Bulgarian University, The Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Lion’s Club, and other NGOs. The conference was moderated by Brother Robert Djerasi an eminent member of the Lodge and of the Jewish community as a whole.

The first speaker was Brother Dan Mariaschin who, in his address, outlined the differences between traditional anti-Semitism and present day anti-Semitism, the latter having extrapolated its ideology to Zionism and the State of Israel. Dan Mariaschin stressed the important role that Holocaust Education could have in the effort to combat xenophobia and anti-Semitism. He emphasised the importance of having the Legislative and the Executive Authorities applying the existing laws for penalising anti-Semitic manifestations and hostile xenophobic actions.

The second speaker was Brother Graham Weinberg who focused on the work which BBE conducts in the three priority spheres e.g. Culture, Education, and the Protection of the legitimacy of the State of Israel. He also spoke of BBE's determination to fight attempts to delegitimise Israel, reminding everyone that our claim to the land dates back over 3000 years and that we should not hesitate to confront those who choose to believe history began in 1948.

Both speakers acknowledged the importance of achievements of the activities which the Carmel Lodge has so far carried out, and appreciated the positive contribution of our Lodge to the BB family.

The main report ‘Anti-Semitism in Bulgaria Today’ was presented by brother David BenJoseph, based on the exhaustive research conducted by brother Solomon Bali, Head of the Commission for Monitoring and Combating anti-Semitism, and further expanded by David BenJoseph, president of the Lodge, and Rafael Chichek, a member of the board. The report gave a summary of the history of anti-Semitism in the last 130 years; the persecution of the Jews during the Holocaust and the salvation of the Bulgarian Jews. The presentation then went on to cover the period following 1989 with the growth of nationalistic parties and movements and the widespread publication of anti-Semitic and fascist literature, which has flooded the book markets of today. Anti-Semitic slogans written on buildings and attacks on Jewish houses and monuments have all become common sights in this country. Anti-Israeli slogans are the new addition to the urban environment. The reactions of the authorities are not efficient. The existing laws of the country are not enforced. Politicians even in Parliament can hear Anti-Semitic and xenophobic speeches.

The Commission for Combating Anti-Semitism with the Lodge Carmel has undertaken both legal and public actions against the above mentioned hate acts. Nevertheless, the overall conclusion is that among the urgent steps towards curbing xenophobia and anti-Semitism is not only to compel the authorities to apply the existing laws but also to implement efficient educational strategies for making young people aware of the threats which dormant hatred and prejudice hold. The Holocaust can serve as the basis for such an education.

Sister Lea Cohen spoke about state anti-Semitism during the communist regime and of the practices before 1989 when even some of the leaders of the Jewish community were involved in the assent of the policy of the State against Zionism and the State of Israel. The National Radio, the Bulgarian News Agency, and bTV - all leading media representatives, covered the conference.

On 15th May the official celebration was opened at the Jewish Community Center with the anthems of Europe, Bulgaria and the State of Israel, performed by the Agada Choir.  Official greetings were extended once again by the distinguished guests and by the president of the Jewish community in Bulgaria, Maxim Benvenisti. Musicians from the Philharmonic Orchestra gave an exquisite performance of pieces by famous Jewish composers. The official celebration was honored by the presence of diplomatic guests who attended the reception given after the concert.

On 16th May, the last day of the celebration, members of the lodges gathered at the Jewish Community center to exchange experience and ideas for future projects and to say goodbye. A touch of joy and warmth was added to the friendly atmosphere by the lovely Ladino songs performed by the singer Lika Eshkenazy who is also a member of the Carmel Lodge.  The guests departed with brotherly wishes and positive hopes for future meetings and success in our joint efforts to preserve the Jewish community and stop the onslaught of bigotry, anti-Semitism and xenophobia.
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