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NEWS - News of B'nai B'rith

Bucharest, Romania - 20-22 October 2013 By Erika Van Gelder

The project Bridges of Tolerance was extremely well received by the Romanian public (Jews and most importantly by non-Jews), by the government, by the Romanian Parliament, by the Press and by National Television. None of this would have been possible without our brother, colleague and friend Jose Iacobescu, President of the Forumul Dr. Moses Rosen, Bucharest. His extensive network helped to open the doors of the Parliament, of the Ministry of Culture, of the Institute of Romanian Culture, of the Mayor of the city of Bucharest, of the General Director of the Romanian Athenaeum and of many others, too numerous to mention. These were the co-sponsors of the project. I must also mention the two Jewish organizations, the Federation of the Jewish Communities, Romania and the Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania "Elie Wiesel" who assumed the responsibility of organizing and sponsoring one workshop each.

The opening ceremony

The opening at the Romanian Athenaeum was amazing. If you are interested in a virtual tour you could go to: http:// tour.fge.org/ro. It seats 800 people and it was completely full. After opening speeches by Jose Iacobescu, by myself and by the President of the Chamber of Deputies of the Romanian Parliament, Valeriu Zgonea, the Romanian Doctors Symphony Orchestra and the Choir of the Romanian Symphony performed for more than one hour. After the concert, champagne and hors d 'oeuvres were served for 800 people. The TV was also present and took interviews. The realization of such a grandiose event was made possible through the sponsorship of the Romanian Parliament, the Philharmonic Orchestra George Enescu, the Institute of Romanian Culture (among others). 

Valeriu Zgonea
There is a DVD about the whole event you can watch hereunder.

21st October, 1st workshop: Discrimination and anti-Semitism, Stereotypes and Prejudices.

The workshops started next day in the beautiful hall "Nicolae Balcescu" at the Romanian Parliament. It was organized by the Institute for the Study of Holocaust in Romania, "Elie Wiesel". Representatives of the Roma minority group also participated since they are the most marginalized ethnic group across Europe. Issues such as : anti-Semitic discourse in the Romanian extreme-right, cyber anti-Semitism, migration and discrimination in the context of the European Union, where does free speech end and where does hate speech begin, just to mention a few of the topics. Some 60 persons participated. In the evening there was a Jazz and Blues concert at the Arcub theatre where all performers were Jewish and Roma. Again the theatre was at full capacity, 250 persons. This event was realized with the support of the General Council of the Municipality of Bucharest and the City Hall of Bucharest.

22nd October: 2nd workshop: the Jewish Contribution to the development of Romania

Again it was held at the Romanian Parliament, Nicolae Balcescu Hall. This was under the auspices of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Romania. The program lasted the whole day, from 09:30 until 18:30, with 28 speakers. The hall was absolutely full even with standing places, about 75 persons. It took so long because the Jewish Federation tried to include speakers from the Academy, Industry, Defense Ministry, Physics & Cybernetics, Literature, Theatre, Journalism, Economics, Genetics, Electro-Engineers, Rabbi and representatives of the orthodox Romanian Church, etc. (too many to name). It does show the tremendous input of the Jewish people in all facets of development of Romanian society throughout hundreds of years of cohabitation.

From there everybody came to the Revue Theatre, Constantin Tanase, for the last event, a Revue show. About 400 people were present. It ended again with champagne and petits fours for all.

For all the major sponsors Jose had prepared an Honorary Plaque for Excellence and a small gift from Israel of Blessing of the House, both in the name of B'nai Brith Europe and B'nai B'rith Bucharest.

The fact that it was possible to organize such a grand event (about 1600 persons participating plus many others involved in the organization), at such a level and that it was so well received by officials and the general public, shows that Romanian society recognizes the centuries long contributions of its Jewish citizens and attests to the fact that the organizational skills of Jose Iacobescu are formidable.

I just had a dream, José made it happen.

The next event will be in Sofia, Bulgaria on 10th November 2013, followed by the one in Bratislava, Slovakia on 2nd December 2013.