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Welcome to the B'nai B'rith Europe website

A delegation of B'nai B'rith leads MEPS on a mission to Israël

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B’nai B’rith International led several members of the European Parliament on a five-day visit to Israel. This trip promoted the Jewish state as an influential leader in education, technology, agriculture and medicine. The delegation included the following members of the European Parliament Lars Adaktusson (Sweden), Ramona Manescu (Romania) and Davor Stier (Croatia).
 
“It is necessary for diplomatic leaders to receive accurate information regarding Israel and what it deals with on a near daily basis—such as violent terrorist attacks,” B’nai B’rith International President Gary P. Saltzman said. “This mission provided an informative and vital experience that permitted members of the European Parliament to recognize that Israel is a dynamic and diverse country with a thriving economy.”
 
The trip, staffed by B’nai B’rith World Center – Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider and Eric Fusfield, deputy director of the B’nai B’rith International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy, allowed participants to immerse themselves in Israel’s culture by touring the Old City of Jerusalem, hearing from Israeli military officers at the Gaza border about the country's unique security challenges and visiting Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial. The delegation also visited wounded victims of the Syrian war at Ziv Hospital and met with Knesset members Yaakov Peri (Yesh Atid), Anat Berko (Likud) and Nachman Shai (Zionist Union).

The delegation also toured the Israel Museum, visited Kibbutz Magen (located in the northwestern Negev desert), met with Mayor Eliyahu Shaviro of Ariel and visited a plastics factory in the West Bank, where they learned about Israeli-Palestinian cooperation and job creation. Participants discussed religious pluralism in Israel with Christian and Baha'i faith leaders. The mission also included a meeting with key officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where the diplomats discussed European Union-Israel relations and the labeling of products made in the West Bank and Golan Heights.
 
“B’nai B’rith is responsible for providing influential international leaders with information that demonstrates Israel’s vibrant democratic character,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “There is no better way to accomplish this than by bringing European officials to Israel, so they can experience the Jewish state’s culture and political environment firsthand, as well as its story of success as the ‘start-up nation.’ We will continue to do these missions in the future.”
 
This diplomatic delegation to Israel was made possible by the generous support of the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.


B’nai B’rith Meets with European Commission Coordinator to Combat Anti-Semitism

Daniel Valerie Benjamin Katarina

B'nai B'rith Europe President Daniel Citone, B'nai B'rith Europe Vice-President Valerie Achache and B'nai B'rith International Director of EU Affairs Benjamin Naegele met with European Commission's Coordinator on combating anti-Semitism Katharina von Schnurbein. Among the issues discussed were the challenges Jewish communities in Europe face as well as ways to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. The recent labelling of Israeli settlement products, the lack of an official definition of anti-Semitism and hate speech online were also discussed.

French potential recognition of "Palestinian State" likely to set back peace talks


France's announcement that it will recognize a "Palestinian State" if there is no progress soon in peace talks for a two-state solution prejudges the issue and will more than likely inhibit the pace of talks, rather than facilitate peace negotiations. This will serve as a disincentive to negotiations.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has dragged its feet for years on returning to the negotiating table. Learning that France will recognize a state if talks don't move forward is hardly incentive for PA leaders to sit down with Israel to engage in direct talks. Why would the PA talk, when it knows already that it has French recognition? It suggests a baffling example of "backwards diplomacy."

Such a unilateral recognition ignores Israel's vital, rightful and what should be mandatory role in peace negotiations aimed at a two-state solution. B'nai B'rith has long advocated bilateral peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

France's suggestion that it will recognize a "State of Palestine" is more than unhelpful. Instead France should urge the PA to return to the table without preconditions.

The Palestinians have repeatedly rejected talks. The PA has instead chosen to circumvent Israel, going to the United Nations and various world leaders rather than make hard decisions in bi-lateral talks. Such internationalization of the conflict with the Jewish Sate allows the PA to avoid talks aimed at compromise.

As a staunch advocate for Israel, B'nai B'rith will work to ensure that Israel's security is fairly considered.

Source: B'nai B'rith International Press release. Washington, D.C., Jan. 31, 2016

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.

Italian Newspaper Distributes Kippot on Holocaust Remembrance Day in Show of Solidarity With European Jews

An Italian newspaper distributed white yarmulkes with its daily edition on Wednesday as a show of solidarity with Jewish communities in Europe on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

"We intended it as a gesture of closeness and solidarity with the Jewish people, now that antisemitism is getting stronger in Europe and that many Jews are abandoning our cities," said Giulio Meotti, a writer for Il Foglio, according to The Jewish Voice.

Meotti noted that many Jews in Europe have stopped donning the traditional Jewish skullcap out of fear of antisemitism. In Marseilles earlier this month, following an attack against a Jewish schoolteacher outside his Hebrew school, the local community head called on locals to refrain from putting on the kippah, a suggestion that drew condemnations from others in the French and international Jewish communities.

"Hatred of Israel has returned to dominate the media and politics," said Meotti, according to the Voice. "Anti-Semitism does not shock anymore. But we must pay attention. Because they start by hitting the Jews but they do not stop there: we are all in danger."

The initiative by Il Foglio Editor-in-Chief Claudio Cerasa, followed French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia's call on Jews to wear kippot in order to show a "united front" against antisemitism, especially in the wake of recent attacks. Simultaneously, an online campaign was launched under the hashtag #TousAvecUneKippa, also calling for individuals to wear kippot as a sign of solidarity. In addition, Strasbourg Chabad Rabbi Mendel Samama handed out 100 kippot to passersby in the city's center around the same time.

"Solidarity is the only weapon we have. That little kippah is the symbol of our greatest and most precious freedoms. And of Israel, the outpost that Europe should defend and love," said Meotti.

Source: the Algemeiner 

BBE secretary general Ernest Simon shares his story as a refugee child with the Guardian

Ernest Simon shares his story as a refugee child on the Kindertransport. (Full article published on The Guardian website here)

Ernest Simon, from Austria

Ernest Simon now

Ernest Simon: 'I didn't know the implications.' Photograph: Felix Clay for the Guardian

Ernest Simon was eight years old when he boarded a Kindertransport train at Wien Westbahnhof station in Vienna. It was midnight on 11 January 1939, and he recalls just two things: a number around his neck, and saying goodbye to his parents and younger brother. "I didn't know the implications," he says. "I didn't think I might never see them again. You don't think like that when you are eight years old. For me, it was something of an adventure. All I knew was that I would be living with a nice Jewish family in England."
The Kindertransport had begun a month earlier, propelled by the brutality of Kristallnacht. By 14 May 1940, when the last transport left the embattled Netherlands for Britain, 10,000 unaccompanied children aged from three to 17 had made the two-day journey from Austria, Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia to a country that, for the vast majority, would become their home. Many of the parents and extended families they left behind were murdered by the Nazis. Few of the refugees went back after the war.
"I remember so little of the journey," says Simon. "I must have slept a lot. I remember being sea sick. At Liverpool Street station I was taken to a hostel overnight – something I did not discover until years later – and the next day to Leeds." Simon's aunt was already there. She had managed to get a domestic service visa and secure Simon's sponsors: a Jewish family in Chapeltown, Leeds. She also found a couple who were willing to employ his parents as domestic servants. So just six weeks after Simon arrived in Leeds, his parents and younger brother followed.

Ernest Simon as a child

Ernest Simon as a child. Photograph: Felix Clay for the Guardian

Why was he, and not his brother, chosen for the Kindertransport? "The truth is, I don't know," Simon says. "My brother jokes that they kept him back because they loved him more." He laughs, then becomes serious again. "The thing is, you don't ask these questions of your parents. It's very strange. I only know that it must have been very difficult for them."

When war broke out, Simon and his brother were evacuated to a village in Lincolnshire. "I lived with a farming family who didn't speak a word of German." How did he manage? "My English improved dramatically," he laughs, "and my German deteriorated to the extent that when my parents came to visit, my mother spoke to me in German and I replied in English. She burst into tears."
Simon is 85 now and lives in north-west London with his wife, whom he met at a dance in Leeds while on leave from the RAF. They have one son, who lives in Brussels. Simon studied economics at Leeds University and went on to work in business all over Europe. It is the UK, though, that remains home. "I feel entirely British," he says. "When I visit Austria, I'm a bit of a stranger. I've been back to Eisenstadt, where I was born, many times and often thought what might have happened if there had been no Kindertransport. It's a very difficult question to answer." Chitra Ramaswamy


Henry Wuga, from Germany

"White bread and red apples," recalls Henry Wuga, 91 and as sharp as a tack. "That's what I remember when the train crossed the Dutch frontier and we were received by ladies handing out chocolate and sandwiches. Being children, this was what you remembered. The minute someone was kind to you, you felt better."

Wuga was 15 on 4 May 1939 when he left Nuremberg on the Kindertransport, the name given to the evacuation of an unspecified number of unaccompanied children from Nazi Germany and the European countries it then occupied to Britain. He remembers howling on the platform, and carriages full of screaming children. "It was all right for me," he adds. "I had been away from home, but these kids were six and seven; they had never left their mums and dads."

By the age of 11 Wuga, the only child of Jewish parents who ran a small stationery business, was forced to leave his school. "No one would speak to us, neither the teachers nor the pupils," he tells me from the home in Giffnock, Glasgow, he shares with his wife Ingrid, who also left Germany on the Kindertransport. "We were completely sidelined. Songs were sung in the classroom while we were sitting there in tears. I don't forget this easily."

It was Wuga's mother, who survived the war hidden in a village and died in Glasgow at the age of 89, who got him a place on the Kindertransport. She had a cousin who had reached Glasgow and found him a sponsor: a Latvian widow with five older children. "I knew what was going on," Wuga explains. "It didn't come as a surprise to me to be at that train station, but I do remember saying to my parents: 'Why must I go on that train? Why can't I go via Paris and spend a week with my cousin?' I didn't quite realise that was not possible."

He arrived at Liverpool Street station in London, which "was a black hole in those days," he says. "We were sent to a cellar to wait to be collected. There were 200 of us, many had sponsors, others had no one. Some people had volunteered to take a child and came to the station to pick one. It was a bit of a cattle market ... quite traumatic." Wuga was taken to a hostel overnight and the following morning boarded another train, this time the Royal Scotsman from Euston. "We were taken to the dining car and I remember the waiters with white gloves serving hot chocolate in silver teapots. It was unbelievable to me. I will never forget it."

In Glasgow, Wuga's sponsor enrolled him in a local school and took him to concerts and the theatre. "I was nurtured," he says. "I was fortunate. I never had any problems being foreign, German or Jewish." However, his letters to his family were intercepted during the war and Wuga was accused of corresponding with the enemy. At the age of 16, he was sent to the high court in Edinburgh and convicted without a lawyer. "Within half an hour, I went from being a refugee due to religious persecution to a dangerous enemy alien," he says with a wry laugh. "It was quite a shock, but there was nothing I could do." Wuga ended up being interned on the Isle of Man for 10 months. "I was the youngest prisoner there," he says. Many of the interned Jews were academics and he went to lectures on medicine and philosophy and watched men playing chess with their backs to the board, calling out moves without looking. "We were self governing. There was a lot of music."

He returned to run a Jewish catering business in Glasgow with his wife. They have two daughters and four grandsons and Ingrid likes to joke that the one thing Hitler did was introduce her to Henry. How did they meet? "At a Jewish club I formed with other refugees on Sauchiehall Street," Wuga says. "We were highly leftwing, we wrote communist pamphlets and wanted to fight Hitler by any means." Neither of them ever wanted to return to Germany though. "A tiny percent went back to rebuild the country but it was never for me," Wuga says. "I always wanted to stay in Britain. I belong here. This is our country." CR

B’nai B’rith Commends Pope Francis Visit To Great Synagogue Of Rome


Pope synagogue 2

B'nai B'rith Europe President Daniel Citone was in attendance when Pope Francis spoke at the Great Synagogue of Rome on Jan. 17. Franics is now the third pope to visit the synagogue. The event included speeches by Ruth Dureghello, the president of the Jewish community of Rome, and Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni.

The Pontiff spoke about the Holocaust and strongly urged to "say no to all forms of anti-Semitism, all insults, discrimination and persecution arising therefrom." In October of 1943 the Nazis deported more than 2,000 Jews from Rome. Francis also met with several Italian-Jewish Holocaust survivors and mentioned that his relationships with the Jewish people "are in his heart," and that previous "enemies and strangers" have now become "friends and brothers."

B'nai B'rith is gratified that the Catholic-Jewish friendship continues to grow and hold strong. We are pleased that the pope shares a commitment to create "an authentic relationship of friendship." This visit sends a clear and concise message to the world that the fight to end anti-Semitism cannot stop.

Source: B'nai B'rith International press relase

BBI Vice-President Eric Engelmayer's visit to the Elie Bloch Lodge in Metz

On January 10, BBI Vice-President Engelmayer, joined members of Elie Bloch Lodge and Armand Kraemer Sister Lodge from Metz (Alsace, France) for a full day.

On that day some Brothers and Sisters have been thanked and honoured. Patrick Hirsch, President of the Elie Bloch Lodge, remembered with emotion our regretted BBE President Erika van Gelder, who had inaugurated the new offices of the Elie Bloch's lodge on 15 February 2015. A minute of silence was then observed.

After new Brothers and Sisters were initiated, Eric Engelmayer described with great detail BBI's work. This presentation was of the utmost interest for the assembly who discovered a part of B'nai B'rith they did not know about. As a result Eric has been invited to regularly go and inform the lodge on BBI's work.

loge Metz 2

Once all the lodge related activities had been wrapped up, a meal was organised and widows of former brothers had been invited.

A conference opened to all members of the Jewish community ensued and was presided by Ms Corinne Cahen, minister of Family affairs in Luxembourg. The conference touched upon the topic of the Refugees crisis in Europe.

loge Metz 1
From left to right: Patrick Hirsch, President of the B'nai B'rith Elie Bloch Lodge, Minister Corinne Cahen, Gerald Rosenfeld, Vice-President of the B'nai B'rith Elie Bloch Lodge

Patrick Hirsch, President of Elie Bloch's lodge concluded it was a great day since the number of Brothers was increased at a time Jewish unity is crucial.

Informations taken from Brother President Patrick Hirsch's report, Elie Bloch's lodge, Metz.

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