Charles Kaufman, president of B’nai B’rith International, said, “Anti-Semitism cannot be viewed today as left or right. When we do, we only divide ourselves.”
He spoke to about 70 people April 14 at the organization’s 175th anniversary, hosted by the Aaron Grossman Lodge No. 339 at the JCC of Youngstown.
That’s what is happening today in the United States in a politically divisive country, he said.
“What’s important, however, is that the hatred on full public display against Jews work to galvanize our community, not divide us,” Kaufman said. “As we’ve seen with Pittsburgh (Tree of Life Congregation shootings), the political divisions are so deep that the unity tends to be short-lived. That’s where a nonpartisan organization like B’nai B’rith comes into play.”
Alan Samuels, lodge vice president, chaired the brunch.
Lodge president Neil Schor and Dr. Steven Smiga of Pittsburgh, president of the Allegheny Ohio Valley Region and a member of the international executive committee, brought greetings to members and guests, who came from Cleveland, Pittsburgh and elsewhere. Rabbi Frank Muller of Congregation Rodef Sholom in Youngstown gave the invocation.
Kaufman recounted the history of B’nai B’rith from its founding in 1843, when 12 German Jews met at Sinsheimer’s Café and pooled $27 to help Jewish widows and orphans. The service and advocacy organization spread to Germany, France and the rest of Europe in the 1880s.
“Nobody does the Diaspora like B’nai B’rith International,” said Kaufman, who outlined many of B’nai B’rith’s continued efforts to innovate programming to meet the needs of the Jewish people.
He encouraged the audience to “practice your Judaism with pride and without fear; show your love for Israel; teach college students about Zionism and the wars of 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973; remind them Jews were in Judea, the city of David, Jerusalem and Hebron almost 4,000 years ago; a strong Israel means Jews are never going into exile again; and remember, you are your brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. And that is the essence of being a B’nai B’rith and a good Jew.”