B'nai B'rith and the Challenge of Ethnic Leadership
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B'nai B'rith has a history almost as diverse as the story of American Jewry itself. The oldest secular Jewish organization in the United States, it was founded in 1843. Thereafter, it followed in the footsteps of its immigrant founders, spreading into the cities, towns, and villages of America, eventually becoming the worldwide order it is today.
What is more, B'nai B'rith's physical expansion was paralleled by the scope of its activities. It supports one of the most prominent American Jewish defense organizations, the Anti-Defamation League. Its Hillel Foundations constitute an international network of student activities on college campuses. It sponsors a broad array of learning programs through its Adult Jewish Education Commission. The B'nai B'rith Youth Organization serves the entire Jewish community. It conducts projects and programs in Israel of philanthropic and educational nature, helps finance several national Jewish hospitals and homes for the aged, and supervises an International Council to coordinate its overseas units and to take responsible action on issues relating to world Jewish affairs. And it is partnered in all these activities by B'nai B'rith Women, an independent organization.
This is the saga of B'nai B'rith, recounted by Professor Deborah Dash Moore. To elucidate the diverse facets of this venerable, yet youthful, organization and to reveal their integral relationship to the history of the Jews in America, Professor Moore focuses on the moments of innovation that have influenced its development and direction, and on the outstanding individuals who have guided the Order's destiny.
Deborah Dash Moore is Professor of Jewish Studies at Vassar College. She is the author of At Home in America: The Second Generation Ethnicity of New York Jews and has published articles on Jewish history. She directs the Research Program on New York Jews at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.