||A letter from D. Wolff who was the secretary of the Bnai Brith Grossloge VIII, stating that they had enacted a resolution. (The resolution follows the letter).
B'nai B'rith, the world's oldest and largest Jewish service organization, with lodges and chapters in 45 countries. It was founded on Oct. 13, 1843, by 12 men who met in a cafe on the Lower East Side of New York to establish a new fraternal order for U.S. Jews who then numbered 15,000 souls. The first president was Isaac Dittenhoefer, but Henry Jones, his successor, is credited as the chief founder. The founders chose B'nai B'rith ("Sons of the Covenant") as the name of their new organization and the Menorah as its insignia. They formulated its aims in the following preamble to the B'nai B'rith constitution: "B'nai B'rith has taken upon itself the mission of uniting persons of the Jewish faith [originally: 'Israelites'] in the work of promoting their highest interests and those of humanity; of developing and elevating the mental and moral character of the people of our faith; of inculcating the purest principles of philanthropy, honor, and patriotism; of supporting science and art; alleviating the wants of the poor and needy; visiting and attending the sick; coming to the rescue of victims of persecution; providing for, protecting, and assisting the widow and orphan on the broadest principles of humanity."
These purposes were implemented during the 19th and the early 20th century via a program dominated by mutual aid, social service, and philanthropy. In 1865 the order made a substantial grant to aid cholera epidemic sufferers in Erez Israel, and six years later to provide food, clothing, and medical supplies for victims of the Chicago fire. The organization established orphanages, homes for the aged, and hospitals. After 1881, when the mass immigration from Eastern Europe poured into the country, B'nai B'rith sponsored Americanization classes, trade schools, and relief programs. Hitherto B'nai B'rith had consisted primarily of German Jews, but the changing character of the U.S. Jewish population, and of the 20th century, gave a new complexion to the constituency of the order, its program, and its structure. In 1897, when B'nai B'rith's membership numbered slightly more than 18,000, B'nai B'rith Women came into being with the founding of a ladies' auxiliary chapter in San Francisco. By 1968 B'nai B'rith Women had over 1,000 chapters in 22 countries, with a membership of 135,000, with 90% of the chapters in North America.
In 1901, when immigration of Jews from Eastern Europe was at its height, the Baron de Hirsch Fund established the Industrial Removal Office in order to relieve the congestion of the eastern cities, especially New York. The purpose was to settle Jews in other parts of the country. B'nai B'rith joined with the Baron de Hirsch Fund in this effort and organized committees outside of New York, especially in the west and the south, to resettle Jews away from the eastern seaboard. In its first year 2,000 persons were moved to 250 different locations. Before the office closed 15 years later, 100,000 Jews were dispersed into every state of the Union, and they in turn attracted new Jewish immigrants to these communities. When anti-Semitism in the United States increased prior to World War I, B'nai B'rith founded its Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in 1913. ADL seeks to strengthen interreligious understanding and cooperation, to improve relations between the races, and above all to protect the status and rights of Jews.
The concern of B'nai B'rith for the preservation of Jewish tradition and values was given new impetus with the establishment in 1923 of the first B'nai B'rith Hillel Foundation to serve the religious, cultural, and social needs of the 400 Jewish students at the University of Illinois. The Hillel movement spread to almost 270 university campuses on six continents. Hillel also sponsors chairs of Judaic studies and faculty programs. About 300,000 Jewish students are enrolled on the campuses served by full-time Hillel Foundations and part-time Hillel Counselorships.
A year later, in 1924, the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization (BBYO) came into being. It has three sections: Aleph Zadik Aleph (A.Z.A.) for Jewish teenage boys, B'nai B'rith Girls for teenage girls, and B'nai B'rith Young Adults. In 1970 BBYO had a membership of 50,000 in 1,500 chapters throughout the world, conducting a program of cultural, religious, community service, social, and athletic activities. To aid young Jewish people in their career planning, in 1938 the order founded the B'nai B'rith Vocational Service. This agency conducts individual and group vocational guidance programs, does occupational research, sponsors career conferences, and publishes career guides.
B'nai B'rith's commitment to Jewish learning found another outlet in its Department of Adult Jewish Education, begun in 1948 and elevated in 1959 to the status of a commission. Its program includes institutes for the study of Judaism, informal learning groups, and lecture tours by distinguished scholars. The commission also publishes a quarterly magazine, Jewish Heritage, and the Great Book Series, and has experimented in new ways of teaching Hebrew to adults. B'nai B'rith has been rendering social services on behalf of war veterans for decades, and has also undertaken citizenship programs. These activities were combined in 1962 into a Commission on Citizens, Veterans, and Community Affairs. Among their activities are service to the disabled, encouragement of employment of handicapped, blood banks, and cooperation with government agencies.
B'nai B'rith has always taken interest in Israel; it fulfilled an important role in support of Israel's independence. The Israel Commission, originally established in 1953, promotes the sale of Israel Bonds and the purchase of trees, especially for the B'nai B'rith Martyrs' Forest near Jerusalem, stimulates tourism to Israel, and in other ways serves as a bridge between the State of Israel and Jews in the Diaspora.
Although founded in the United States, B'nai B'rith has spread throughout the world. Its involvement in world affairs is coordinated through the B'nai B'rith International Council, established in 1959, which has offices in several countries and at the United Nations in New York. Other avenues for B'nai B'rith expression of its international interests are through its membership in the Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations, the Presidents' Conference, the Conference on Soviet Jewry, the World Conference on Jewish Education, and the Conference of Jewish Organizations. It publishes the National Jewish Monthly magazine. B'nai B'rith's presidents have occupied distinguished positions of leadership in the American Jewish community and in international efforts on behalf of world Jewry.
The first lodge in Europe - and the first outside the United States - was founded in 1882 under the name "Lodge of the German Empire." The order was active in Germany and by 1932 there were 103 lodges numbering 13,000 brethren and a chain of institutions. These lodges formed the B'nai B'rith District Nine. The lodge in Rumania was founded in 1911, and here also an independent district was formed—No. Ten. District No. 11 was formed in Czechoslovakia, District No. 12 in Austria, and District No. 13 in Poland. The first lodge of England, which was also called by this name, was founded in 1910. With the increase of lodges England was recognized in 1926 as an independent district under the name "The District of Great Britain and Ireland." The B'nai B'rith Youth (A.Z.A.) was founded in Britain in 1940. B'nai B'rith work in Europe found expression in Jewish education, the Anti-Defamation League, activity on behalf of Israel, etc. The B'nai B'rith in Bulgaria played a central role in Jewish life there and became an independent district (No. 18), as the B'nai B'rith in Yugoslavia also became an independent district of its own. Individual lodges existed also in other countries in Europe, South Africa, Australia, etc.