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WHO WE ARE - Meet the Executive

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Dear Sisters, Dear Brothers,

Firstly, I would like to thank you all for the confidence which you have shown me in electing me as your new President.

We are living in troubled times, when the politicians of the ultra-right again have opened Pandora's Box... when conspiracy theories, stereo- typed, imaginary enemies, are being blamed for "le mal du siècle", when militant Islam declared Jihad against all infidels, and we, the Diaspora Jews and the State of Israel are the protagonists in their scenario...

We are living in troubled times when in the EU Parliament the right wing politicians gained seats... when on the streets of Europe there are neo-Nazi parades, when Jews going to a museum are killed and Jewish children in nursery schools get a bullet instead of milk...

We are living in troubled times when the economic situation that touches all is not changing fast enough for the better and populist demagogues can use this against us...

We cannot afford apathy; we cannot afford discord among us! We need to act together before it is too late! We will not be victims again!
Our organization has the luxury of having lodges all over Europe. We must make good use of this and plan our strategy together if we want to be effective.

I see the role of B'nai B'rith at European level as the body that coordinates transnational projects. Organizing a pan-European politically active B'nai B'rith is my first priority. It also means working together with BBI, with other Jewish organizations and friendly non-Jewish organizations... It means involving the Press and maintaining a continuous contact with them.

Many other pan-European projects can be done and were done for years such as humanitarian aid programmes for the needy in the Ukraine and Romania, cultural programmes, leadership programmes for the future management. I am also dreaming of a pan–European business club through which brothers and sisters make contact and can help each other, especially in economic harsh times.

To achieve all of the above I need your help and support. All news will be posted on our site and in the Newsletter. Since news means communication I also expect material from you. What you do and what you achieve is important and interesting for all of us.

At the next executive meeting we will establish the various commissions and each member of the executive will take the chair of a commission.
With the reorganization of the office and reduced salaries we hope to be able to reduce capitation fees. We can only calculate the future budget when we know all the factors. It is important for us to be registered as an NGO in an EU member country as an International Non-Profit Organization (Association International Sans but Lucrative).
When we are registered as an NGO and have created concrete projects with budgets, we will start fund raising at EU and will be able to approach European donors.

I will keep you up-dated. Until next time, I wish you all a great and healthy vacation.

Erika van Gelder
Interview by Ernest Simon

First impressions on meeting Eve are that this is a cheerful, friendly person who smiles a lot; and this impression does not change with time. Until recently she was President of Yad b’Yad Lodge, probably the fastest growing lodge in England during the last two or three years. This growth was undoubtedly due in no small measure to her very positive, cheerful leadership style which welcomed newcomers.
Eve’s background is very typical of many Jewish families in London. Her ancestors were immigrants in the late 19th century, the paternal side from Poland and her mother’s family from Amsterdam – she has been able to trace her Dutch roots back to the late 18th century. Following her secretarial training she worked briefly in this field before marriage but then chose to stay at home while the children were young. Later she moved into the field of Adult Education which was to be her professional life for about 20 years.


In a continuation of our series "Meet the Executive", the Alex Faiman story is exciting and unusual. "I want to help disadvantaged people, I want to be involved in humanitarian work" he replies when asked to explain what his main objectives are within B'nai B'rith.
alex fainmanSuitably dressed during his visit to Ukraine in February this year
Alex was born in Shanghai in 1933. When he was just 2 years old his parents moved to Harbin in NE China where there was a sizeable Russian Jewish community. He went to a Russian high school and grew up during his formative years with Russian as his language. "It is still my first language" he says, "the language in which I do any calculation work".


The first member of the Melchior family came to Denmark in 1720. He had 8 children, so the family soon had many branches. I am from a line with many rabbis, but it was never a dynasty. Usually there was a rabbi in at least every second generation. My father was the Chief Rabbi of Denmark from 1947 to 1969.
My mother's family came from Austria and Czechoslovakia. Her father, Dr. Max Schornstein, was also a rabbi. He came to Copenhagen in 1905 and served as Chief Rabbi from 1910 to 1919. He left the rabbinate and went into business in Germany, until he as a widower went on aliyah in 1935. His hobby was birds, and he brought a number of birds to Tel Aviv and opened an exhibition. When all had seen his birds, he bought some monkeys and later a tiger. The municipality negotiated with him and took over all the animals. So my grandfather is remembered as the founder of Tel Aviv Zoo, and my material inheritance from him is free entrance to the area!


When and where were you born?

I was born on 16th September 1947 in a DP camp (displaced person's camp) in Linz, Austria. My parents came from Auschwitz concentration camp, and were waiting to get a visa for anywhere. Unfortunately my mother died five days after giving birth to me. My father went to Israel in 1948 and left me in a children's home in Linz.

erikavangelderCan you tell us something about your early life?

My very early life was spent being taken from Linz by the Red Cross and brought to Budapest to friends of my future parents, and later being smuggled in a suitcase across the border into Romania. I must have been about one year old when I arrived in Arad, a city in Romania near the Hungarian border, in the region of Transylvania.

I remember a very happy childhood. My (new) parents, my mother's sister and her husband adopted me. They had no other children and they were the most fantastic parents one could wish for. I grew up with lots of love, warmth, understanding, a safe environment, with parents that stimulated me in my endeavours and, above all, believed in me.

Tell us something of the history of your family before 1939 and since then.

My adoptive father was born in 1906, the only son of a well to do Jewish family in Arad. His father had a textile factory. After studies in Brno and Vienna, he became a textile engineer. While studying in Vienna, he got involved in the socialist movement. On returning to Arad, he became a member of the communist party, then still illegal.

He fought for equal rights for the minorities living in Romania and hoped that the "New Order", in accordance with its doctrine, would not tolerate the discrimination against Jews. My mother was born in 1908. She was one of six girls. They were quite poor, making a living from a kosher restaurant somewhere close to Cluj (Klausenburg) where all the girls worked from an early age, six days a week, before and after school.