Many people ask why we affiliate with Bnai Brith. Below is an article of many valuable programs that our membership dollars help support for the international Jewish and non-Jewish communities.
For more information on Bnai Brith international programs click here.
From its earliest days, a hallmark of the organization’s local efforts was service to the communities in which members reside. In 1852, that meant raising money for the first Jewish hospital in Philadelphia. In the 21st century, these community service efforts range from delivering Jewish holiday packages of meals and clothing to the elderly and infirm, and distributing food and medicine to the Jewish community of Cuba.
With the graying of the American Jewish population, service to seniors became a major focus with the first of what was to become a network of 36 senior residence buildings in more than 27 communities across the United States and more internationally—making B’nai B’rith the largest national Jewish sponsor of housing for seniors. The U.S. facilities—built in partnership with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)—provide quality housing to more than 6,000 men and women of limited income, age 62 and over, of all races and religions. Residents pay a federally mandated rent based upon income.
The beginning of the 21st century also saw the senior service program expand and become the Center for Senior Services, providing advocacy, publications and other services to address financial, legal, health, religious, social and family concerns for those over 50.
In recent years, B’nai B’rith has advocated for health care reform, Social Security and Medicare protection.
B’nai B’rith also includes, on its domestic agenda, tolerance issues such as advocating for hate crimes legislation as well as sponsoring a youth writing challenge, Diverse Minds. This annual writing contest asks high school students to create a children’s book dedicated to the message of ending intolerance and bigotry. Winners earn college scholarships and the publication and distribution of their books to schools and libraries in their communities.
B’nai B’rith also sponsors the Enlighten America program, the centerpiece of which is a pledge that individuals can take to refrain from using slang expressions or telling jokes based on race, sexual orientation, gender, nationality or physical or mental challenges that would serve to demean another.
B’nai B’rith also produces and distributes “Smarter Kids – Safer Kids”, a booklet in both English and Spanish meant to guide parents through discussions with their children about potential dangers.
B’nai B’rith has responded to natural and manmade disasters since 1865, when it assisted victims of a cholera epidemic in what was then Palestine. B’nai B’rith later raised funds and distributed them to those affected by the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the Galveston, Texas, flood of 1900 and the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906.
Recently, the B’nai B’rith Disaster Relief Fund responded to the 2010 earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, the 2011 Japan tsunami and the multiple tornadoes and subsequent flooding that hit six states in the South and Midwest in 2011. B’nai B’rith also opened a disaster relief fund following the fires that raged through Mt. Carmel in northern Israel and has opened a fund to help victims of the worst drought to hit East Africa in more than 50 years.
Much of the money B’nai B’rith raises for disaster relief is focused on long-term rebuilding, meeting needs beyond what the initial responders provide. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the U.S. Gulf Coast-region in 2005, B’nai B’rith raised more than $1 million, distributing the money among various projects over a five-year span. The projects included rebuilding homes, houses of worship and restoring parks.
In Haiti, B’nai B’rith raised $250,000 for shoes, medicine, health supplies and other needs immediately following the January 2010 earthquake that struck the island nation. The year following the disaster, B’nai B’rith and IsraAID initiated “Haiti Grows,” a program that trained farmers in theory and in practice over a six-month period. The farmers learned new agricultural techniques that allowed them to increase the number of crops they could grow as well as the yield of those crops.
Following Hurricane Sandy in the fall of 2012, B’nai B’rith’s Young Professional Network in New York immediately began assisting in the cleanup. Members descended upon the Rockaways, and over the course of several days helped remove debris and sand from buildings, extract moldy drywall and insulation, and pull out water damaged furniture and appliances from area homes. B’nai B’rith has also held and planned several fundraisers for future rebuilding projects.