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

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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.

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

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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

Le B'nai B'rith salue la visite du Pape François à la Grande Synagogue de Rome

Pope synagogue 2

Le président du BBE Daniel Citone a assisté à la cérémonie organisée à l'occasion de la visite du Pape François à la Grande Synagogue de Rome le 17 janvier 2016. Lors de cette cérémonie, se sont exprimés notamment, Ruth Dureghello, présidente de la communauté juive de Rome, et le Grand Rabbin Riccardo Di Segni.

Le pontif s'est exprimé sur l'Holocauste et a invité "à dire non à toutes les formes d'antisémitisme, à toute insulte, à toute discrimination et à toute persécution qui pourraient en découler". En octobre 1943, les nazis ont déporté plus de 2000 juifs de Rome. Le Pape a également rencontré plusieurs Déportés survivants italiens, et il a mentonné que ses relations avec le peuple juif "étaient dans son coeur" et que les anciens "ennemis et étrangers" étaient maintenant des "amis et des frères".

Le B'nai B'rith se félicite que les relations judéo-catholiques continuent de croître et de se renforcer.  Nous sommes heureux que le Pape partage l'engagement de créer une "relation authentique d'amitié". Cette visite envoie un message clair au monde que le combat contre l'antisémitisme ne peut s'arrêter là.

Source: Communiqué de presse du B'nai B'rith International

Visite du Vice-Président du BBI à la loge Elie Bloch de Metz

Le 10 janvier 2016, une cinquantaine de S&F de la Loge Elie Bloch de Metz auxquels s'étaient joint également des membres de la Loge Sœur messine, Armand Kraemer, se sont réunis à 10h30 au centre communautaire de Metz. Deux membres de la Loge Emmanuel Levinas de Strasbourg et notre Frère Eric Engelmeyer, VP du BBI , ainsi que notre frère Eric Fiszon, VP du BBF délégué régional de l'est de la France, représentant le président du BBF, Serge Dahan, nous honoraient également de leurs présence.

Le Frère Président remercia chaleureusement Frère Bertin Ditesheim, ancien Président de la Cour d'Appel du BBE qui présidait la tenue solennelle d'installation de quatre S&F dans notre Loge., un Frère absent sera installé ultérieurement. De même il remercia Frère Bernard Israël, président de la commission d'enquête ainsi que les membres de ladite commission pour leur travail remarquable.

Un grand moment d'émotion fut partagé par les présents lorsque Patrick Hirsch, le Président en exercice, après avoir évoqué sa mémoire demanda à l'assistance de respecter une minute de silence en mémoire de notre regrettée sœur Erika Van Gelder, ancienne Présidente du BBE récemment disparue et qui avait procédé à l'installation du nouveau bureau de la loge Elie Bloch le 15 février 2015.

Après l'initiation des nouveaux S&F, notre Frère Eric Engelmeyer nous expliqua avec beaucoup de détails le travail du BBI, ce qui intéressa l'ensemble des participants et nous fit découvrir une part de l'organisation des BB que nous ignorions. Il fut invité à venir désormais nous informer régulièrement sur les travaux du BBI.

loge Metz 2

Notre Frère Michel Gerstenhaber de la Loge Elie Bloch nous fit part du travail de la commission anti BDS qu'il préside et des actions positives consécutives à leur travail.

La Tenue solennelle fut suivie d'un repas convivial de très bonne qualité réunissant 70 personnes auxquelles s'étaient joints entre autre des veuves d'anciens Frères de notre Loge disparus, invitées pour cette occasion.

A l'issue de ce repas, une conférence ouverte à tous les membres de la Communauté de Metz fut présentée par Madame Corinne Cahen, ministre de la famille, de l'intégration et à la Grande Région du Grand Duché du Luxembourg dont le titre était « La crise des réfugiés, un défi européen », exposé très vivant et très bien documenté.

loge Metz 1
De gauche à droite Patrick Hirsch, Président de la loge Elie Bloch, la Ministre Corinne Cahen, et Gerald Rosenfeld, Vice-Président de la loge Elie Bloch Lodge.

En conclusion, ce fut une très belle journée qui nous a permis de renforcer les effectifs de notre Loge à un moment crucial où nous avons besoin de réunir toutes les forces vives pour lutter contre l'antisémitisme, un défi majeur auquel nous devons faire face en France aujourd'hui.


Patrick HIRSCH

Président de la Loge Elie Bloch


Chanuka wishes from B'nai B'rith Antwerp

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Hanouka sameah bb antwerp

Barouch Dayan Haemet: Our dear President Erika van Gelder has left us

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We are deeply saddened to announce the parting of President of BBE Erika Van Gelder. All our thoughts and our prayers go to David, her husband, her daughters, Natalie and Sara, and her grand children.
She was a strong and determined woman, yet kind and very concerned for other people's well being.
She spent her life fighting against anti-Semitism and building bridges
She had a life live to the fullest.
She is, and will be sorely missed.
The funeral will take place on Sunday.

THE SILENCE
It started with some small incidents
"It's nothing, it's just a rogue",
They thought
Broken windows in Synagogues,
"Kids playing ball"
They thought...
Swastikas on Jewish tombs,
"They'll get those hooligans",
They thought...
Old men were beaten, young girls were raped
"It can't get any worst",
They prayed
Then, in the night the sirens blared
their names...
By dawn they were in Dante's flames.
Yet come the morrow,
Nothing was said and nothing was done...
Only the wind and smoke
Broke the silence
of their sorrow.

Erika van Gelder
Amsterdam, 22/5/2015

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