- B'nai B'rith Girls
B'nai B'rith Girls or BBG is the women's order of
B'nai B'rith Youth Organization(BBYO), an international youth-led high school sororityfor Jewish youth. BBG as it is known today has thousands of members in chapters worldwide, including chapters in the United States, Bulgaria, United Kingdom, Israel, and Canada.
Recognition of the special needs and rights of women is nothing new. As early as 1926, in Seattle, Washington, a group of girls organized as the first "Junior Auxiliary of B'nai B'rith Girls." A short while later the Emma Lazarus Junior Auxiliary was disbanded. In March of 1927, a Chapter of "Junior B'nai B'rith Girls" was organized in Newark, New Jersey. This also disbanded.The first permanent Chapter of what is now B'nai B'rith Girls was organized in December, 1927 in San Francisco by Rose Mauser. Sponsored by what is now San Francisco B'nai B'rith Women's Chapter #1, Mattie Olcovich and Essie Solomon served as the first Advisors.
Aleph Zadik Aleph, which began in Omaha and then spread to become a national and then international organization, Chapters of girls began to mushroom throughout the United States and Canada in response to spontaneous local forces but without any central pattern of structure or policy and without professional supervision.
As a matter of fact, there was no common organizational name. The early chapters were known as Junior Auxiliaries, Girls’ Auxiliaries, Young Women's Auxiliaries, B'nai B'rith Junior Leagues, B'nai B'rith Girls, B'nai B'rith Young Women, and BZB. The last intended as a catchy substitute for AZA, was often taken by Chapters of girls that were "sponsored" by AZA Chapters.
The ages of girls varied as much as the names of the Chapters. Ranging from 15 into the 30's, there were also a number of sub-junior groups which enrolled girls between the ages of 12 and 15.
Each Chapter developed its own activities, based of the interests of the members. However, the program was patterned basically after the "Five-Fold-and-Full" program which was suggested to the AZA in 1928 by Dr. Boris Bogen, then secretary of the B'nai B'rith. The emphasis was primarily on social and community service activities, though not to the exclusion of educational, religious, and recreational activities.
Obviously, since there was no organized development of the girls groups, there were no national projects in the early years. Many girls groups participated in such AZA observances as AZA Sabbath and AZA Parent's Day or imitated other AZA national programs. Later, Regional and District programs began to emerge as the girls formed their own Regional and District associations. Since the B'nai B'rith Women (then known as B'nai B'rith Auxiliaries) experienced their most rapid growth on the West coast, it was only natural for the Junior Auxiliaries to find their most fertile soil on the shores of the Pacific. However, girl's groups also sprang up in the East and Midwest. Only in the two Southern Districts, where the organization of women's Chapters lagged behind the other Districts, was there a slow building of girls' Chapters.
Following this pattern of moving from West to East, the first District organization came into being in 1933. In that year, 10 West Coast Chapters met in Santa Cruz, California and established the Western Conference of B'nai B'rith Auxiliaries. Age limits were fixed at 15 to 21.In 1935, District 1, embracing the territory from New York up through Eastern Canada, was organized. Most of the chapters enrolled girls in high school and up, with a smaller number consisting of members between 13 and 16 years of age.
District 6 followed shortly afterwards with girls' groups ranging in age from 15 up to about 30. The District 6 girls benefited from the talents and vitality of Mrs. Louis Perlman of Chicago who became District chairman. Anita Perlman was to go on to become the first National Chairman of B'nai B'rith Women, and later, the Chairman of the B'nai B'rith Youth Commission. In those early days, she had her hands full attempting to organize separate groups of high school girls.
District 2 was the next to organize, beginning in 1937 with girls in high school and up to 21 welcomed into their chapters.
In 1941 District 3 organized with girls ranging from high school age up to 25; District 5 followed soon after with its first meeting in 1944, though only the Southern part of the District was represented at the time.
The last North American District organization came into the fold in 1945, when the Southwestern states of District 7 called their first conference in Memphis, Tennessee.
ponsorship by B'nai B'rith Women
Most of the early girl's chapters were sponsored by women's or ladies' auxiliaries of the B'nai B'rith as they were then known. The women provided the girls' Chapters with volunteer Advisors and often scheduled joint programs. Some of the girls' groups adopted the rituals of their sponsoring Chapters and some followed the adult groups in the use of the word "sister."As soon as some of the women's Districts came into being, they undertook sponsorship of the Junior Auxiliaries on a District-wide basis. Some collected dues from each girl and used this money to promote the girls' programs; others made supplementary allocations to further the District organization of the B'nai B'rith Girls. Today, B'nai B'rith Women contribute a major portion of the money needed to operate BBYO.
The girls' Chapters' future was tied to that of the B'nai B'rith Women. It was difficult to form a national organization of girls until there was a national organization of B'nai B'rith Women. Although Women's Auxiliaries of the B'nai B'rith had been in existence since 1897, they did not organize on a national basis until 1940 when they formed the Women's Supreme Council.
Anita Perlman Becomes Chairman
At its very first meeting, the Women's Supreme Council, under the leadership of its first president, Judge Lenore D. Underwood (later Mills) of San Francisco, voted to establish a national girls' program patterned after the AZA. Judge Underwood appointed Anita Perlman as chairman of B'nai B'rith Girls.The Appointment of Anita Perlman was certainly a positive step towards the future of the many loosely organized Chapters of girls that were sprouting up in virtually all parts of the country. Few women were ready to give as much of themselves for the cause. Though many hands and hearts have gone into the building of the girls' groups over a period of more than five decades, no woman has put as much of herself into this work as Anita Perlman. As soon as Anita Perlman received this appointment, she carried on an amazingly large amount of correspondence with leaders of B'nai B'rith Women, Advisors, and officers of the girls' Chapters. In this first year, with a budget of only $600 she was able to supply the girls' Chapters with an Advisor's manual, a president's manual, a membership manual, and other materials.
Name Adopted in 1941
In the Spring of 1941, the Women's Supreme Council adopted the name "B'nai B'rith Girls" and an upper age limit of 21 for all girls' groups under B'nai B'rith sponsorship. There were now 117 junior groups and 27 sub-junior groups with a total membership of about 7,000 girls.Although the number of groups and the number of members continued to grow, it was generally believed that the time was not yet ripe for the formation of a national organization of girls.
The long awaited breakthrough finally occurred late in 1943 when the AZA Supreme Advisory Council (the policy making body for AZA) agreed to form a Youth Commission to govern both AZA and a new national organization of BBG.
The National Organization of BBG officially began at a meeting sponsored by the Women's Supreme Council April 22 and 23, 1944 at the Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago. This first conference was primarily one of adults. Indeed, it was a special meeting of the Women's Supreme Council. However, there were present girls representing each District with a BBG program.
The conference decided that the main objectives and general program of activities of AZA be adopted in principle with modification where necessary to meet the special needs of girls. It recommended that AZA publications be edited so as to meet the needs of both groups and called for the preparation of a uniform ritual for the girls' Chapters. Future leadership training courses were to include BBG as well as AZA officers and Advisors.
The conference agreed upon two divisions : B'nai B'rith Girls for girls of high school age, and B'nai B'rith Young Women for girls out of high school to the age of 25 years. (Later, the older group became B'nai B'rith Young Adults and still later became coed units of B'nai B'rith and B'nai B'rith Women.)
A few months later, on November 10, 1944, the newly recognized national organization became a part of the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization with the B'nai B'rith Youth Commission as the overall governing body. The first charter was issued to San Francisco BBG #1, successors of the first group of girls to form a permanent Chapter of B'nai B'rith Girls. The next nine cities to receive charters were Oakland, Calif., #2; Linda Strauss, Los Angeles, Calif., #3; Harrisburg, Pa., #4 Highland Park, Los Angeles, Calif., #4 Judah, Worcester, Mass., #6; Lancaster, Pa., #7; Ramah, Chicago, #8; Potsville, Pa., #9; and Homestead, Pa., #10.
Although AZA and BBG were now a part of the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization, each continued to have its identity. Now, however, the opportunities to work together increased chances to make friends from around the world. At conventions, AZA and BBG members had a chance to meet one another and to establish lasting relationships. Many marriages have had their beginnings in BBYO.
First National Convention
The first National Convention of the newly organized B'nai B'rith Girls took place in Chicago, February 23-25, 1945. The meeting was called to order by Anita Perlman, Chairman of the BBG Advisory Board. Present were 20 delegates representing all seven Districts, two BBG non delegated, six B'nai B'rith Women, five BBYO staff members, and one male Youth Commissioner.Delegates to that first convention agreed that the generally accepted AZA program of "Five-Fold-and-Full" be the outline for BBG activities on a national scale. They adopted the Menorah Pledge of citizenship, Jewish heritage, community service, philanthropy, inter-faith relations, devotion to home and good fellowship. The Menorah was adopted as a BBG symbol and blue and white as the official colors. Opening rituals were prepared, as well as ceremonies for installations of officers and initiation of new members.
This first convention also voted to establish a college scholarship fund in the name of Anita Perlman, in appreciation of her services as first national chairman of BBG for the Women's Supreme Council. Since then, the fund has been broadened to provide scholarships for summer leadership training programs. Every BBG Chapter was expected to contribute $5 to this scholarship fund. Before adjourning, the girls elected as their first National President, Frieda Tischler of Pittsburgh.
At the second National Convention, held in Port Jervis, New York, the girls ratified the constitution and by-laws which had been formulated the previous year. It was at the third National Convention, held at Camp Highpoint in Shokan, New York, that the girls adopted the MIT (Members in Training ) Program. At that same convention, they rejected a proposal for future combined AZA and BBG conventions. Since then, obviously things have changed and AZA and BBG now hold their International Conventions simultaneously.
When the new B'nai B'rith Youth Organization was formed in 1944, Julius Bisno became the Administrative Secretary of the Youth Commission and Director of Boys' Work, while Mrs. Beatrice Chapman was appointed Director of Girls' Work. The same dual type of administration carried through to the Districts and Regions.In 1945, Mr. Bisno resigned to join the staff of the Los Angeles Jewish Federation Council. At about the same time, Mrs. Chapman resigned to assume family responsibilities. Miss Alice Elson was selected to direct the work of BBG while Dr. Abram L. Sachar, then National Director of the Hillel Foundations, also assumed the position of National Director of BBYO. Late in 1948, Dr. Max F. Baer, former Director of B'nai B'rith Vocational Service Bureau, and a former assistant executive secretary of AZA, became International Director of the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization. Upon Dr. Baer's retirement in 1977 another AZA Alumnus, Dr. Sidney M. Clearfield, formerly Assistant International Director for Field Services, was appointed International Director.
Much of the strength of BBYO in the community can be attributed to the fact that from its beginning the B'nai B'rith Youth Commission had as its leaders major figures in the American Jewish community. Its first chairman, Henry Monsky, served as President of B'nai B'rith while chairing the Youth Commission. After his death, his Chairmanship went to J.J. Lieberman of Los Angeles, who held membership on the AZA Supreme Advisory Council and the Commission for 47 years until his death in 1973. He was succeeded by Label Katz of New Orleans, David M. Blumberg of Knoxville, Ben Barkin of Milwaukee, Jack J. Spitzer of Seattle, and then--the woman responsible for the formation of BBG as a national organization--Anita Perlman. Following Anita were Horace A. Stern of Philadelphia, Aaron Grossman of Youngstown, Ohio and Edward Yalowitz of Chicago. Jack Spitzer, David Blumberg, and the late Label Katz, together with AZA's first professional, Philip Klutznick-- all AZA alumni--moved up to the presidency of B'nai B'rith and held that position for some 20 out of 26 years. Anita Perlman is a former International President of B'nai B'rith Women. BBG's first alumna to become International President of B'nai B'rith Women was Evelyn (Evie) Wasserstrom of Kansas City.
Leadership Training Begins
It soon became clear that BBYO, as a major force in the American Jewish community, had an obligation to train youth men and women for future key roles in that community.
An important development in the BBYO program began in 1955 when the first intensive Leadership Training Institute was planned as an integral part of the International Convention. Held at our own camp in Starlight, Pennsylvania the institute has since stressed Judaism and democratic leadership. Workshops have dealt with all aspects of leadership, seminars have focused on issues of Jewish concern, evening programs have been devoted to Israeli singing and dancing. The BBYO International Leadership Training Program provides a warm Jewish atmosphere in which AZA and BBG members learn what it takes to be a leader. The program has met with overwhelming success. Many regions now include similar activities in their own conventions, and some have their own leadership training conference.
Twenty-two years later in 1977, with the acquisition of a second camp (B'nai B'rith Beber Camp) in Mukwonago Wisc., a Chapter Leadership Training Conference (CLTC) was established for the purpose of preparing chapter leaders to effectively conduct meetings and programs.
BBG and Israel
In 1956, the first BBYO Israel Summer Institute was held. Since that time, over 2,500 BBYO members have participated in this unique "audio-visual learning laboratory" in the Jewish State.
In the 1960's, BBYO expanded to the Jewish state with the adoption of Noar Lenoar as our counterpart organization in Israel. Noar Lenoar's primary focus is on service to disadvantaged Israeli youth. It also renders volunteer services to adult institutions and plays an important role in the defense and security of the Jewish state. Annually, while North American BBYO'ers are in Israel, members of Noar Lenoar travel to North America to participate in joint programs with BBYO members in many communities, the International Leadership Training conference, and the International Convention. This two-way passage of youth leadership in Israel and North America has become a notable example of BBYO's strong continuing relationship to Israel. As Israel faced some of her greatest crises during the 1960's and early 70's, BBYO members came to her aid in increasing numbers.
In 1983, BBYO opened its first office in Continental Europe, in Paris, France. Within two years, BBYO Chapters were started and are now thriving in France, Spain, Belgium, Holland, Germany and Austria.
There are now many members of BBYO in England and Ireland. Chapters of BBYO also function in Central America, South America, Australia and South Africa.
This period also saw the beginnings of the BBYO Judaism Pamphlet Series, a series of 18 concise, easy-to-read pamphlets, written by top scholars in the Jewish community especially for Jewish teens.
An Age of Change
In the late 60'S and early 70's--an age of social change-BBYO intensified its social action programming and became more involved in the world around it. BBG chapters expressed their viewpoints on important issues, took action to improve the environment, and campaigned to have the voting age lowered to 18. At the same time, BBG began to recognize its obligation to future generations. In conjunction with B'nai B'rith Women, BBG began a program entitled "Operation Stork". This joint BBG-BBW program, originally conceived by Anita Perlman, provided an opportunity for BBG and BBW Chapters to become involved in prenatal care, education, and other such services.The "Operation Stork" program was so successful that in 1972, it was revised and expanded to include AZA. The new program was then labeled "Operation Yarusha". A cooperative program with the March of Dimes, programs involve community educational activities for prospective parents, and distribution of information to other teens of such potential health dangers as drugs, VD, and alcohol.
In 1971, the BBG International N'siah and convention S'ganit were made full voting delegates with all rights and privileges at the B'nai B'rith Women International Convention. That same year, the B'nai B'rith International Convention made the Godol and N'siah of each North American District and the Grand Aleph Godol and International N'siah full voting delegates to all future conventions. This expanded involvement of youth in decision making in both B'nai B'rith and B'nai B'rith Women carried over to all levels. B'nai B'rith Women Regional Conventions now include BBG delegates and many B'nai B'rith Women Chapter have placed BBG members on their Executive Committees.
At the 1974 International B'nai B'rith Convention, the link between BBYO and the parent body became even firmer as AZA and BBG members were placed on B'nai B'rith Commissions. Just as the B'nai B'rith Youth Commission serves as the highest governing body for BBYO, other B'nai B'rith agencies and departments have their own commissions.
BBG in the Eighties
1981 marked the beginning of a new stage in the history of BBG. In a process initiated 13 years earlier, BBYO Districts were phased out of operation.
Originally the District level had served to coordinate the activities of the Regions comprising it, and to serve as a link to the International Order. As jet travel replaced long, arduous train and bus rides, communication and personal visits of the International Officers increased. Also, where once the only professional staff person working with BBYO members and Advisors were the District Secretaries, now almost every Region has at least one full-time Director; and many have one or two Assistant Regional Directors as well.
As a result of the need to bring the Chapters and the International level closer together, and to strengthen the Regional level, the 1977 International Convention voted to disband the Districts. Succeeding International Conventions created and defined the new structure of BBYO; and in 1981, the plan was initiated. Regions related directly to the International level; and the International Executive Board, the leadership of BBG, comprised the 4 International Officers, the N'siot of 37 North American Regions, and the three overseas Districts.
In order to expand our BBG membership and service Junior High School students, the Teen Connection program was created. The Teen Connection program was designed for members to participate in social, cultural, religious, community service, and athletic activities. Many of our members joining BBG are graduates of the Teen Connection program.
In the late 1980's, the Directions program was established to help High School Juniors and Seniors explore their future educational and professional goals. Both the Teen Connection and Direction programs, unveiled during the 1980's, have established themselves in communities all over North America with tremendous success.
BBG into the 90's
BBG entered the 1990's with all the spirit and excitement it held throughout its previous decades. In 1989 the BBG added a fifth International officer, that of the International Sh'licha. The International Board now comprised five International officers (plus the Madrichah), the Regional N'siot of 30 North-American Regions, the Council N'siot of five additional regions, and the Overseas District Presidents and Vice-Presidents. In 1990, AZA and BBG members from around the world participated in The March of the Living; a 3,000 youth mission to Poland and Israel. BBYO members studied the Holocaust and the exodus to Israel. BBYO was the largest organization represented on The March, and many of the Holocaust programs held at Council and Regional conventions were initiated by participants of this historic expedition. In the summer of 1990 the first BBYO program was held in the Soviet Union. A week long Kallah program was held in Leningrad and then again in Birobidzhan. Over 200 Soviet Jewish youth attended and learned about their Jewish history and culture.
BBG, indeed all of BBYO, has moved forward to become the largest Jewish youth organization in the world. Leadership Training Programs on all levels--Chapter, Council, Regional, and International--have been intensified. BBG has come a long way since those very early days when groups of girls in Seattle, New Jersey, and San Francisco were searching for a central program, structure, and organization. However, one factor remains constant. Friendship, camaraderie, warmth, unity--whatever you choose to call it--contribute to BBG's growth and development.
The new millennium has brought with it many changes for the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization. The process to establish BBYO, Inc. as a legally independent organization was completed in 2002. A new Board of Directors consisting of representatives from B'nai B'rith International, leading Jewish philanthropies, the United Jewish Communities, and other community leaders assumed governance of BBYO. The organization's international headquarters, along with B'nai B'rith, moved locations for the first time in nearly 50 years.With more than 18,000 members and 80 years of experience, BBYO continues to be one of the world's leading trans-denominational Jewish teen movements. Through its long history, BBYO has expanded around the globe, introduced new programs and most important, touched hundreds of thousands of Jewish lives.
Today, there are approximately 250,000 living BBYO alumni, including many prominent figures in Jewish communal life, as well as people of note in the business, political, academic and cultural worlds. Key to the organization's success has been its highly-effective leadership model - AZA and BBG. While BBYO will continue to focus on its leadership development programs, the organization's recent independence affords BBYO to forge a new direction and adopt a much more expansive and transformational approach to engaging Jewish teens.
Representing the Jewish community's largest pool of teens and most likely catalyst for reaching the next tens of thousands, BBYO is in the process of launching a rich array of innovative opportunities designed to appeal to the widest possible teen audience through its new website, b-linked.org. The new opportunities include services to assist with college admission and help teens fulfill their community service requirements, as well as vastly expanded travel and social networking opportunities.
Through these new approaches, BBYO will increase significantly the number of teens participating in meaningful Jewish experiences and ultimately inspire them to live Jewish lives.
Information from [http://www.bbyo.org/ BBYO.org]
List of BBG Chapters
List of B'nai B'rith Girls Chapters"
* [http://www.yesbbyo.org/ Greater Jersey Hudson River Region]
* [http://www.nwcbbyo.org/ Northwest Canada Region]
* [http://www.geocities.com/onrbbyo23/ Ohio Northern Region]
* [http://www.wibbyo.org/ Wisconsin Region]
* [http://erbbyo.com/ Eastern Region]
* [http://goldcoastbbyo.org/ Gold Coast Region]
* [http://mibbyo.org/ Michigan Region]
* [http://crwbbyo.org/ Central Region West]
* [http://kiobbyo.org/ Kentucky Indiana Ohio Region]
Northern East-DC Council - [http://www.b-linked.org/BBYO.Web/blinked/MyRegionDetail.aspx?rid=10044]
* [http://www.bbyo.org/ BBYO.org]
* [http://www.b-linked.org/ b-linked.org]
* [http://www.bbyo.org/teen/index.php?c=64&kat=BBG+Headquarters BBG Homepage]
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