To the Editor:
We are surprised that Haaretz chose to run such a negative and accusatory story as it did when it picked up a piece from The Forward: “B'nai B'rith Disaster Aid Is 95% Donated Drug Handouts to Latin America.” The story, with its fuzzy math, is misleading. B’nai B’rith raises and distributes funds for people in need all over the world.
The Forward piece is judging tzedakah. It is suggesting that it’s somehow a bad thing to donate pharmaceuticals to needy communities in Latin America.
Furthermore, the Communities in Crisis program, conducted with our wonderful partner Brother’s Brother Foundation, is but one aspect of our overall disaster relief mission. We partner with other organizations such as IsraAID (of which we are a founding member). And our ongoing relief efforts focus on the long-term sustainability of a community, such as our work with IsraAID in Haiti. Our final allocation of funds after the Haiti earthquake provided scholarships for young people to go to school as part of the Dream Team program. The students in this program then return to help their own communities. Our relief efforts supply helping hands as well. Our Young Leadership Network and our partner Alpha Epsilon Pi (the Jewish fraternity) have provided people-power—hundreds of hours of work—on clean-up projects after disasters in New York and Oklahoma.
We have been assisting the victims of natural disasters since the mid-1860s when we helped victims of Baltimore, Maryland flooding and of a cholera epidemic in a pre-state Palestine. Talk about continuity! In fact, our disaster assistance pre-dates the American Red Cross. Co-founded by a B’nai B’rith member, it wasn’t established until 1881.
For 170 remarkable years, B’nai B’rith has shown incredible range and reach, while also adapting to the changing times. The Forward story gives short shrift to our many accomplishments. In fact, we are in Israel right now, as part of a delegation including the Conference of Presidents and representatives from two American-Hellenic organizations, taking part in a three-country visit to Israel, Cyprus and Greece. The purpose of the trip is to analyze the strategic and emerging relationship between the three countries.
Disaster relief continues to be a guiding principle for us. And we are equally proud of our pro-Israel advocacy, our commitment to human rights, our dedication to the aging and our promoting tolerance. Our name and our accomplishments are respected around the world.
Allan J. Jacobs
Daniel S. Mariaschin
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