B'nai B'rith

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Type of entity

Corporate body

Authorized form of name

B'nai B'rith

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Dates of existence

1843-

History

The Independent Order of B’nai B’rith (Sons of the Covenant) (IOBB) is an international fraternal organization which aims to unite Jews in service to their community and the world at large (1). The organization does not aim to support or draw its membership from any particular Jewish congregation (i.e. reform, conservative) or group of national origin (i.e. Russian Jews, German Jews). It was established in 1843 in New York by twelve German-Jewish immigrants, led by Henry Jones. The Preamble to the first B’nai B’rith Constitution is as follows:

B’nai B’rith has taken upon itself the mission of uniting 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 persecution; providing for, protecting an assisting the widow and orphan on the broadest principles of humanity (2).

Since its inception this statement of principles has guided the work of B’nai B’rith which takes as its motto Benevolence, Brotherly Love and Harmony.

The Constitution also set up a central power, the Supreme Lodge, responsible for issuing charters to new lodges, and enforcing the laws and ordinances of the Order. In the first twenty-five years of operations, several hundred lodges were established with membership in the thousands. Geographic districts were then set up to organize the work of lodges in the regions. District 4 included the U.S. states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington, and the province of British Columbia.

In 1895, as a result of a recommendation by the delegates at the Constitution Grand Lodge Convention, the District Grand Lodges were authorized to establish auxiliary groups for women, these women’s organizations to be known as ‘Daughters of Judah.’ Membership generally was drawn from the wives and daughters of the members of the men’s lodges. As the number of groups grew, Women’s Districts were organized following the same geographical divisions as the Men’s District Lodges, with the first Women’s District formally recognized in 1922. In 1938 the B’nai B’rith Convention delegates agreed to allow women representatives to attend the Supreme Lodge Convention. In 1940 the next step was taken when representatives of the then existing six Women’s Districts met in Washington D.C. to formally organize the Women’s Supreme Council as a coordinating body. In 1956 the Supreme Lodge officially created the National Organization of B’nai B’rith Women.

The men’s and women’s groups take on both separate and joint program work. These programs include work to preserve Jewish culture, encourage positive interfaith relations, defend human rights, combat discrimination, support scholarship, assist veterans, contribute to institutions that care for the sick, needy, orphaned, and aged, and raise funds for both the Jewish and general community.

A significant segment of B’nai B’rith program work focuses on Jewish youth services. One of these programs starting in 1923 has been the Hillel Foundation, named after an outstanding scholar and teacher in Jewish history. This organization serves the needs of Jewish college and university students. Each Foundation operates through a Hillel House building located on campus, from which a program divided into six main categories: cultural, religious, fellowship, community service, personal guidance, and inter-faith activities is run. The first Hillel House was located on the campus of University of Illinois.

Concurrent with the beginnings of the Hillel Foundation program, another program developed in Omaha Nebraska to give Jewish youth, in grades nine through twelve in particular, an understanding of Jewish history and Judaism and a sense of belonging in the community. The first chapter of Aleph Zadik Aleph, or AZA, was organized in 1924 and within months several more chapters were established in other U.S. cities in the mid- West.

On an informal basis, girls groups have also been organized since 1927 through sponsorship by B’nai B’rith Women’s chapters. In 1944 these groups were joined into a national B’nai B’rith Girls organization.

Alongside these two groups for teens, Young Men’s and Young Women’s groups were also organized to accommodate the more mature youth. Consequently, also in 1944, B’nai B’rith authorized the creation of a Youth Commission with jurisdiction over all four youth agencies. In 1949 the Young Men’s and Young Women’s group merged to form the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO)

The declared aims of these three youth groups; AZA, B’nai B’rith Girls, and the BBYO are as follows:

1. To help their members feel at home in the Jewish community, identify themselves with the common aspirations of the Jewish People, and make contributions of distinctive Jewish values to the mosaic of their country’s culture,
2. To afford their members group life experiences which give them an understanding of and loyalty to our democratic heritage.
3. To offer supervised leisure-time activities in which youth make happy adjustments to real life situations by making friends, exploring and expressing individual interests and developing skills.
4. To provide learning experiences whereby youth become ethical and altruistic in human relationships, devoted and competent in the fulfillment of family and community responsibilities (3).

B’nai B’rith in British Columbia
1. Victoria Lodge #365
Victoria Lodge #365 was instituted September 8, 1886. It was the first B’nai B’rith organization in B.C., and the third Lodge to be formed in all of Canada. In the first year of its operation, the Lodge had difficulty in recruiting members, collecting dues, and there was poor turnout at meetings. The last record of a regular meeting is in August of 1887. At this meeting a new panel of officers was installed. There is evidence (penciled notes upside down at the back of the minute book) of a Lodge meeting taking place more than four years later, on Feb. 7, 1892.

2. Victoria Lodge #758
Victoria Lodge #758 was instituted July 19, 1914. Last record of activities is an entry of minutes for Sept. 15, 1925.

3. Vancouver Lions’ Gate Vancouver Lodge #668 (Samuel Lodge #668 ; Vancouver Lodge #668)
Lodge #668 was inaugurated as Samuel Lodge on June 26, 1910, with 56 charter members, named in memory of the son of Solomon Weaver, a pioneer member of the Vancouver Jewish community. In appreciation of this honour, Mr. Weaver donated a substantial sum to help fund the startup of the Lodge. Samuel Schultz was the first president.

Samuel Lodge was the fifth B’nai B’rith Lodge to be formed in Canada. In June of 1924 it hosted the first District Convention to be held in Canada. The event was the 61st Annual IOBB District Grand Lodge Convention.

To provide athletic activities for Lodge members, the B’nai B’rith Athletic Association was organized in May 1925. The Association formed a bowling league which was later amalgamated with the Hebrew Athletic Club league. Particularly up to World War II, the annual B'nai B’rith picnic, held at various locations such as Grantham’s Landing, Howe Sound, were important community events.

In 1939 the Lodge officially changed its name from Samuel Lodge #668 to Vancouver Lodge #668.

The Lodge participated financially in building the old Jewish Community Centre in the late 1920s and the new Centre in the late 1950s. It was a major permanent tenant of the old facility at 11th and Oak.and assisted financially in its maintenance. The men held bimonthly meetings there.

Vancouver Lodge #668 changed its name to Vancouver Lions’ Gate Lodge #668 in 1985, with amalgamation of membership from Lions’ Gate Lodge #1716. In 1992 the Lodge opened a senior’s facility, the Haro Park Lodge, in downtown Vancouver.

4. B’nai B’rith Auxiliary Chapter; Vancouver Chapter B’nai B’rith Women #77; Jewish Women’s International
The Ladies Auxiliary of B’nai B’rith was instituted on December 7, 1926 with 53 names listed on the charter, including six members of the Samuel Lodge #668. Among the early projects adopted by the group was fundraising for the Vancouver Jewish Community Centre built in 1928, and starting in 1930 scholarships to be awarded to needy Jewish students. Fund-raising projects included an annual garden party and in the early 1930s the group worked with the Hebrew Aid Society to establish a clothing depot, providing used clothing to needy members of the Jewish community. The chapter also provided equipment for a Boy Scout kitchen at Crescent Beach, raised funds for flood victims in the Vancouver suburbs, and furnished a four bed ward at Vancouver General Hospital, a room at the TB hospital, four wheel chairs for Shaughnessy hospital and a transport bus for the armed forces. During World War II, the group raised $6000 for an RCAF training plane. In 1947 the auxiliary became a B’nai B’rith Women chapter, founded as the Louise Mayer Chapter.

5. B’nai B’rith Youth Organization:
a. AZA (Aleph Zadik Aleph) - Chapter 119
AZA Chapter #119 was installed on 11 November 1929. Dr. Jacob Gorosh, president at the time of Samuel Lodge, was a founder of the Chapter.

b. AZA (Aleph Zadik Aleph) – Totem #646
No information available.

c. AZA (Aleph Zadik Aleph) – Churchill
No information available.

d. BBG (B’nai B’rith Girls) – Tamar #269
No information available.

e. BBG (B’nai B’rith Girls) - Elana #668
No information available.

f. BBG (B’nai B’rith Girls) – Exodus
No information available.

g. BBG (B’nai B’rith Girls) – Chapter 229
No information available.

h. BBG (B’nai B’rith Girls) - Aviva Girls Chapter
No information available.

i. BBG (B’nai B’rith Girls) - Rishona Girls Chapter
No information available.

j. BBYW (B’nai B’rith Young Women)
No information available.

k. BBYM (B’nai B’rith Young Men)
No information available.

l. BBYA (B’nai B’rith Young Adults)
No information available.

6. Vancouver B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundation
On November 20, 1946, Vancouver Lodge #668 and Vancouver Chapter #77 unanimously endorsed a petition proposing a Vancouver Hillel program at U.B.C. The next month the petition was granted by the National Hillel Commission. The Vancouver B'nai B’rith Hillel Foundation was then registered as a Society in July of the next year. As a result of efforts led by Lodge #668 member Max Waterman, U.B.C. agreed to sign a contract allowing Hillel the free use of land for a Hillel building on the campus. With fundraising underway construction began behind Brock Hall of a Hillel House, the first in the Hillel network to be purpose built rather than adapted from an existing campus structure. Construction was soon completed and the House dedicated on November 5, 1947. In January of 1948 the first Hillel Night was held at the Vancouver Jewish Community Centre. This event continues as an annual fundraiser for Hillel programs. (Local to the Vancouver Jewish Community, the Menorah Club of B.C., organized in 1925, was a forerunner to the B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundation. The Menorah Club was established for the express purpose of “keeping the younger element of the community together and giving them advanced study on Jewish history and affairs.”)

7. Lions’ Gate Lodge #1716
The Lions’ Gate Lodge #1716 was formed in 1947 as a ‘Young Men’s B’nai B’rith.’ Its membership was comprised by a group of young men in the Vancouver Jewish community, many of them soldiers returned from World War II service. For the first two years of its operation the Lodge maintained an age restriction on its membership, with an upper limit of 35. The Charter, granted by District Four of the B’nai B'rith International was presented to the inaugural executive, with Ed Friedman president, by Executive of the long-established Vancouver Lodge #668. The by-laws of the older Lodge were adopted temporarily by the newly-formed Lodge, and a meeting schedule set up for the first and third Mondays of the month in a room at the Jewish Community Centre at 11th and Oak Streets in Vancouver.

In an effort to ensure that there would be no conflict between its service work and that of other organizations in the community, the Lions’ Gate Lodge decided that its first service project would be to take over a non-sectarian scout troop in the process of being formed. As well, the new Lodge helped to support other B’nai B’rith projects such as Hillel House at U.B.C. and the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO), and to establish a non-sectarian Lions’ Gate Boxing Club for young men of BBYO age.

Planning work done by the Lodge and its committees was divided between service projects and organizing events for the membership, such as stag nights, dinner and dance parties, ‘Monte Carlo nights,’ picnic outings, and sports leagues (golfing, bowling). These were fund-raising events, with the service work of the Lodge being financed primarily by such efforts and secondarily by membership dues.

The membership formed a men’s baseball team, which won the international Softball Championship in the 1955 Tournament of B’nai B’rith Northwest Lodges. In 1966 the Lodge was instrumental in organizing and forming the Brotherhood Interfaith Society of B.C., with the aim of developing and promoting interfaith relations with all organization in the province. (The Society was registered in B.C. in 1990.) In liaison with a number of other groups, such as the Knights of Columbus (a Catholic organization), the Vancouver Chinatown Lions’ Club, the Confratellanza Italo-Canadese (Italian Association), and the Kiwanis Club of the Pacific, the central activity of the Society was an annual dinner honouring a member of the community with a “Man of the Year” award.

The charter of Lodge #1716 was retired in 1985, when the membership amalgamated with Vancouver Lodge #668, which then was renamed Lions’ Gate Vancouver Lodge #668.

8. Vancouver Pacific Chapter B’nai B’rith Women, Lions’ Gate Chapter #763
This women’s group was established in September 1951, primarily from the membership of the Women’s auxiliary assisting the project work of Lions’ Gate Lodge #1716. In 1954 the Chapter began sponsoring a Brownie Pack.

9. B’nai B’rith Women’s Council
The B’nai B’rith Women’s Council was inaugurated in 1952 to coordinate the activities of the three local Women’s chapters. Starting in 1953 the group coordinated participation by these chapters in an annual B’nai B’rith Women’s Brotherhood Night. The Council also organized visits from district and national B’nai B'rith women officers and encouraged support of the various B’nai B’rith youth groups, including the Hillel Foundation at U.B.C. Starting the late 1950s, the Council sponsored a booth at the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver and worked with the Fairview Branch of the Canadian Legion to co-sponsor annual outings for veterans at Shaughnessy Hospital.

10. Centennial Chapter B’nai B’rith Women
This chapter of the Women’s group was organized in 1958. It provided parties and needed equipment for a ward of boys at Woodland’s School, a facility for mentally challenged children. This work earned them a Sydney G. Kusworm Award from B’nai B’rith International. Members of this chapter also worked with deaf and blind children at Jericho School.

11. Evergreen Lodge
Evergreen Lodge was proposed as a young men’s B’nai B’rith Lodge, circa 1960. There is no information yet available as to whether or not it received a charter. It was disbanded soon after first efforts were made at establishing prospective membership.

12. Regina Philo Chapter B’nai B’rith Women
Regina Philo Chapter B’nai B’rith Women was a Victoria Chapter named after the mother of Louis Mahrer. Not much information is available. Dates are likely early 1900s.

13. Shari Chapter B’nai B’rith Women
Shari Chapter B’nai B’rith Women was established in the 1970s (exact date not known) in Richmond. The Shari Chapter B’nai B’rith Women contributed to the community of Richmond by founding a ‘Family Place’ in Minoru Park through a grant from the Provincial lottery fund.

14. Vancouver B’nai B’rith Women's Council #57
The Vancouver B’nai B’rith Women’s Council #57 was established in the 1980s (exact date not known) in Vancouver. It was established as a coordination body for the chapters. Project work included Soviet Jewry Rally, Red Cross Mobile Blood Bank, and the Kosher Food Bank. Members were involved with B’nai B’rith Oakridge Bingo which donated $10,000 towards a Sunshine Bus for Pearson Hospital. They won the Sydney Kusworm Award for best community service.

15. Lions’ Gate B’nai B’rith Building Society
In July of 1974 the Lions’ Gate Lodge #1716 established the Lions’ Gate B’nai B’rith Building Society as a B.C. non-profit organization, with the use of the B'nai B’rith name sanctioned by District Four of B’nai B’rith and International B’nai B’rith. The work of this Society focused on two major seniors’ projects offering subsidized housing. The first was a thirteen story high rise residence, Haro Park, in the downtown area of Vancouver. Completed in 1980 the facility includes three floors of Long Term Care.

The second project was a nine story 65 suite residential building for seniors, B’nai B’rith Manor, completed in 1988.

(1) Secondary sources: A.J. Arnold, B’nai B’rith Family in British Columbia is 48 Years Old, Jewish Western Bulletin Centenary Issue, June 30, 1958, pp. 30-38; Rebecca Becker, The B’nai B’rith Family, B’nai B’rith Women, 1985; Maurice Bisgyer, ed., This is B’nai B’rith: A Story of Service, Supreme Lodge of B’nai B’rith, Washington, D.C. 1955; Arthur Daniel Hart, comp. and ed., The Jew in Canada: A Complete Records of Canadian Jewry From the Days of the French Regime to Present Times, Jewish Publications Limited, Toronto and Montreal, 1926; Cyril E. Leonoff, Pioneers, Pedlars, and Prayer Shawls, Sono Nis Press, Victoria, 1978; B’nai B’rith, Celebrating 150 Years of Service: Honoring the Past, Building the Future - Commemorative Journal, Lions’ Gate Vancouver Lodge No. 668, Vancouver, 1993; B’nai B’rith Manor, Lions’ Gate Vancouver Lodge No. 668, Vancouver, 1989.

(2) This is B’nai B’rith: A Story of Service, p. 28.

(3) This is B’nai B’rith: A Story of Service, p. 83.

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Vancouver, British Columbia

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Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia

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Final

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Full

Dates of creation, revision and deletion

Created November 25, 2014

Language(s)

  • English

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Sources

A.J. Arnold, B’nai B’rith Family in British Columbia is 48 Years Old, Jewish Western Bulletin Centenary Issue, June 30, 1958, pp. 30-38; Rebecca Becker, The B’nai B’rith Family, B’nai B’rith Women, 1985; Maurice Bisgyer, ed., This is B’nai B’rith: A Story of Service, Supreme Lodge of B’nai B’rith, Washington, D.C. 1955; Arthur Daniel Hart, comp. and ed., The Jew in Canada: A Complete Records of Canadian Jewry From the Days of the French Regime to Present Times, Jewish Publications Limited, Toronto and Montreal, 1926; Cyril E. Leonoff, Pioneers, Pedlars, and Prayer Shawls, Sono Nis Press, Victoria, 1978; B’nai B’rith, Celebrating 150 Years of Service: Honoring the Past, Building the Future - Commemorative Journal, Lions’ Gate Vancouver Lodge No. 668, Vancouver, 1993; B’nai B’rith Manor, Lions’ Gate Vancouver Lodge No. 668, Vancouver, 1989.

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