Celebrating B’nai B’rith’s 170th … and 70th

B’NAI B’rith International’s executive vice-president Daniel Mariaschin will be visiting Sydney and Melbourne next month to celebrate the organisation’s 170th birthday.

Mariaschin, who is coming to Australia for the first time, said that all around the world B’nai B’rith is helping the elderly, fighting for humanitarian causes and advocating for Israel.

“This is an organisation that has been serving the Jewish people for 170 years,” Mariaschin said.

“We are a volunteer organisation, a member organisation, and our success comes back to our grassroots character.”

In 1843, 12 German-Jewish immigrants gathered in a cafe in New York to discuss the conditions for Jews in America.

From that meeting, B’nai B’rith was born and the first concrete action that was taken by the organisation was to create an insurance policy that awarded members’ widows $30 towards funeral expenses, and a stipend of one dollar a week for the rest of their lives.

Mariaschin said B’nai B’rith gives Jewish people an opportunity to organise their own events around the world locally, with the support of a global organisation.

“We have a reputation for helping the victims of disasters, fighting anti-Semitism; and there is a good feeling about an organisation that has this 17 decades of tradition.

“B’nai B’rith was founded in America in 1843 and by all accounts we may very well be the oldest volunteer-led NGO.”

He said that the world leadership and the Australian leaders have always worked very well together.

“Over the many years that I’ve been working in the Jewish community I’ve had the good fortune to work with a number of Australian leaders who are active in Jewish organisations, who I meet frequently at international gatherings around the world.

“We follow Australia in terms of the dynamic and relationship with Israel; and of course, right now, with Australia on the UN Security Council the country holds a very important position.”

In Australia, B’nai B’rith was founded in 1944 in Sydney but B’nai B’rith NSW president Diana Laufer said the organisation will celebrate its 70th birthday in October to coincide with the governing bodies’ 170th.

“By 1960 we had such a strong presence with units in Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne and obviously Sydney, and then it spread to New Zealand as well,” Laufer said.

“Our emphasis over time has changed because initially it was to help people bond and find companionship, but now we are very focused on anti-defamation and other situations that occur in Australia.”

Melbourne’s Ben Alexander, who is on the B’nai B’rith board that oversees operations in Australia and New Zealand, said the organisation has been trying to bring Mariaschin to Australia for a long time.

“He will speak at our convention in Melbourne and at the end he will install the new executive,” Alexander said.

Mariaschin will meet with politicians in Canberra, attend the 70th/170th celebration in Sydney on October 3 and in Melbourne at the B’nai B’rith convention from October 5-8. For more information go to www.bnaibrith.org.au.


Daniel Mariaschin (left) with Shimon Peres.