Organizations / B’nai B’rith Girls
B’nai B’rith Girls formed as a girls youth wing of the local B’nai B’rith parent organization, supported by B’nai B’rith Women. It provided a whole range of social, educational, religious and service opportunities for Jewish girls in Greater Buffalo.
As a twentieth century development, B’nai B’rith Girl chapters in Buffalo, grew out of the national, originally all male B’nai B’rith organization that formerly began a century before on October 13, 1843, when twelve men met in a café on New York’s Lower East Side in 1843. They decided to form a Jewish American organization originally named “Bundes-Brueder” (League of Brothers), and alternatively known as “The Independent Order of B’nai B’rith” (Sons of the Covenant). They chose as their mission the goal of, “uniting Israelites in the work of promoting their highest interests and those of humanity.”
As the first Jewish organization that was formed outside of a synagogue structure, B’nai B’rith sought to defend Jewish and human rights and promote intercultural relations. B’nai B’rith continued to develop the organization’s scope and influence during the twentieth century, with an emphasis on national and international social welfare. In 1913, B’nai B’rith established the Anti-Defamation League as concerns about antisemitism grew. From the 1920s, B’nai B’rith expanded its work into a variety of youth movements. In 1923, it supported the first B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundation at the University of Illinois. A year later, in 1924, a youth wing, called Aleph Zadik Aleph (AZA) for teenage boys was established and the first local groups of B’nai B’rith Girls (BBG) began in 1927. From 1949, both girls and boys divisions were organized under the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO).
B’nai B’rith as a contemporary national organization sponsors adult Jewish education and promotes youth groups, provides vocational guidance, supports philanthropic institutions, sponsors welfare projects in Israel, assists victims of natural disasters, and carries on a broad program of community service and welfare. It pursues special interest in civil rights, immigration, and Israel advocacy. As the oldest and largest Jewish service organization in the world, it has lodges for men and chapters for women and youth around the world.
In Buffalo, there is limited source material about the history of B’nai B’rith Girls (BBG) and the boys group, the AZA. The scrapbook of Elaine Kellick (née Kaiser), however, provides a wonderful snapshot of the late 1950s and her activities with her twin sister Eileen, in one chapter: Rena Chaim, and their interactions with other youth groups active in Buffalo. Through its pages it connects readers to a very specific time in Buffalo when youth, and especially teen programming was served by an array of institutions including sororities and fraternities. As a study in Jewish organizational youth activities, it highlights B’nai B’rith at an active time in Buffalo from a particular perspective, making it a valuable study of Jewish girlhood and community at mid-twentieth century.
Click the image to explore the scrapbook!
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COLLECTION AT THE UNIVERSITY ARCHIVES, UNIVERSITY AT BUFFALO, BUFFALO, NY
The University Archives, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY is currently closed due to the pandemic.
- Buffalo Jewish Review Records, 1917-2012 (MS217) [Only available off-line/in-person research at the Buffalo Central Library, Buffalo History Museum and the University at Buffalo, University Archives].
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We are seeking further information about other B’nai B’rith Girls groups and the AZA the boys B’nai B’rith youth organization, as well as B’nai B’rith Women. Please contact us, or upload here.
Our thanks to Elaine Kellick for permission to image her scrapbook.