In 1888, the fledgling Jewish community of Jerusalem suffered from stagnation, vulnerability and poverty. A pioneering group of community leaders—including such historic Zionist figures as Eliezer Ben Yehudah and David Yellin—committed to breathe new energy into the community by promoting the revival of Hebrew as the living vernacular of the community and by establishing a variety of other groundbreaking initiatives aimed at improving community life. Thus—10 years before Theodor Herzl’s first Zionist Congress—the B’nai B’rith Jerusalem Lodge formed.
Twenty-three years earlier, in 1865, the United States-based B’nai B’rith raised more than $4,500 ($67,000 in current values) to assuage the effects of a severe outbreak of cholera in what was to become the State of Israel. They would also send more than $200,000 in 1934 to help acquire acreage that could be an important basis for a new Jewish state, and would send millions of dollars in cash, medical supplies and equipment to Israel throughout the years.
125 years after the creation of the Jerusalem Lodge, B’nai B’rith is still involved with Israel in many of the same ways. B’nai B’rith provides aid to victims of terror attacks. It is a staunch supporter at the United Nations and other international bodies of Israel’s right to defend itself. And B’nai B’rith is invested in connecting Jews around the world to the State of Israel.
Last November, while Israelis sought shelter from Hamas rocket fire, B’nai B’rith opened its Israel Emergency Fund to collect donations for residents dealing with the onslaught. As ardent supporters of Israel’s right to defend itself, the organization undertook an assertive campaign to educate its members and major media outlets to the facts regarding Palestinian aggression.
The B’nai B’rith Fire Scouts Clubhouse at the central Haifa Fire Station built by B’nai B’rith in memory of 16-year-old fire scout Elad Riven, who was killed in the 2011 forest fire.
B’nai B’rith works to assure continued U.S. foreign aid to Israel. B'nai B'rith International is the only Jewish non-governmental organization (NGO) with full-time representation at the United Nations in New York and its agencies in Europe and Latin America. And, because of the universal respect in which the organization is held, B’nai B’rith leaders regularly meet with world leaders to advocate for the Jewish state and to combat attempts to marginalize and demean it.
Today, the B'nai B'rith World Center in Jerusalem serves as the organization's permanent and official presence in Israel, providing a link between Israel and the Diaspora. The World Center’s annual “Contemporary Israeli Attitudes Toward Diaspora Jewry” survey provides valuable insights into Israel-Diaspora relations.
“B’nai B’rith leaders have pledged to build upon the 125-year history and assure that their covenant with the people of Israel will never be broken,” B’nai B’rith President Allan J. Jacobs said.
The Scroll of Fire Monument in the B’nai B’rith Martyrs’ Forest near Jerusalem