(Washington, D.C., Nov. 4, 2019)–B’nai B’rith International’s 2019 Leadership Forum, which featured prominent speakers from the diplomacy, public policy and media realms and a special reception for participants at the residence of the Japanese ambassador, concluded today after three days of programming for leadership from around the world.
In his State of the Organization address, President Charles O. Kaufman spoke about the ways B’nai B’rith is active around the world in combating anti-Semitism and fighting for Israel on the world stage, as well as our work with senior housing and aiding communities after natural disasters. Kaufman also presented the President’s Award to 30 individuals who have gone beyond the call of duty to advance B’nai B’rith’s mission.
“B’nai B’rith has a long and distinguished history of leadership in taking strong stands on behalf of our people around the world. And we made our collective, global voice heard once again,” Kaufman said. “However, understanding that the pen can be mightier than the sword, I decided that a direct way to confront emerging hate was through correspondence. I took to the keyboard in protest letters regarding situations at Jewish museums in Berlin, Munich and Warsaw. I continue to follow these issues closely. Our actions were followed in the Jerusalem Post and The Economist, among other places.”
B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin delivered a stirring address on Sunday morning about the global challenges of anti-Semitism. “Whether it occurs in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, or Warsaw, Poland, or Crown Heights, Brooklyn, anti-Semitism must be confronted aggressively,” Mariaschin said. “The responsibility to do so falls squarely on all of us, together with our allies and all people of conscience. Just as the very existence of the Jewish people and the Jewish state is a product of hope and determination, we must continue to apply these qualities to the challenge at hand. The security of our community depends on it.”
Ambassador Gonzalo Koncke, chief of staff for Organization of American States Secretary General Louis Almagro (who delivered a video greeting to the Leadership Forum) and Eduardo Kohn, B’nai B’rith International’s director for Latin American affairs, participated in a discussion about the security outlook of the Western hemisphere.
Koncke emphasized the OAS’s commitment to fighting anti-Semitism through the promotion of human rights and democracy. He acknowledged that the OAS has a lot of work to do, including advocating for all countries in the region to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism.
Three security experts participated in a panel entitled “Global Security Threats at Home and Abroad.” Patrick Daly, principal deputy director/chief operating officer, Secure Community Network; Calvin A. Shivers, deputy assistant director of the Criminal Investigative Division, FBI; and Frances Townsend, executive vice president of worldwide government, legal and business affairs, MacAndrews & Forbes, Inc., president, Counter Extremism Project, and former homeland security advisor to President George W. Bush participated.
The three focused on fighting domestic and international terrorist threats in the age of the Internet and social media, noting that seemingly every week, a new platform is unveiled, and radical groups strike a balance between public posts intended to motivate and inspire and private direct messages between peers. Because terrorist manifestos are proliferated quickly online to the Internet’s echo chamber, the attack cycle is much shorter now and those who commit terrorist acts are able to telegraph their intent within hours of the action. Shivers provided insight into how the FBI investigates anti-Semitic threats in the United States: “We have to ensure that, where we have a single [anti-Semitic] act, we look through all the intelligence we have to make sure it’s not…a larger conspiracy.” On the international front, Townsend said: “The single largest state sponsor of terrorism remains Iran. We have never seen a more aggressive Iran in our lifetime.” Daly explained that there has been a shift to an equal number of domestic and international terrorist investigations, although we had been blessed with geographic boundaries as a security buffer from international terrorist threats for so long.
Director of the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem Alan Schneider broke down the complicated Israeli elections during a luncheon presentation.
Richard Green, executive director of the Clarion Project, screened his film “Kids: Chasing Paradise.” This chilling film examines the recruitment and radicalization of terrorists around the world, many of whom are vulnerable young children. Green answered questions from the audience after the movie.
Day two of the conference concluded with a reception at the residence of the Japanese ambassador, hosted by Ambassador Shinsuke J. Sugiyama and his wife. Kaufman gifted a tzedakah box to Sugiyama, who spoke movingly about the Holocaust: “This is not about your history. This is about human history. We shall never let it happen again.”
The Claims Conference (Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany), which represents Holocaust survivors and their descendants in negotiating for restitution and compensation, received an award for its vital six decades of work from B’nai B’rith on the conference’s final day. With the award, B’nai B’rith extended its great appreciation for the tireless efforts of the Claims Conference on behalf of Holocaust survivors worldwide.
Mariaschin moderated a panel analyzing the 2020 American elections with CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash and NPR Washington Desk Correspondent Mara Liasson. They discussed topics including immigration, voter turnout, the divide between the progressive and moderate wings of the Democratic Party and Israel being used as a wedge partisan issue.
The 2019 Leadership Forum concluded with a diplomatic luncheon featuring Ambassador of Cyprus to the United States Marios Lysiotis, Ambassador of Greece to the United States Haris Lalacos and Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of Israel Benjamin Krasna. The diplomats emphasized the historic and continuing ties between Greece and Cyprus and the Jewish people.
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 www.bnaibrith.org