On October 13, 1843, twelve German Jews living in New York City met together to form what they called a Bundes Brüder, or “Brothers of the Covenant.” Patterned after other lodges of the day, it had ritual, regalia, and benefits in the form of insurance and mutual aid. It later became known as the Indepen­dent Order of B’nai B’rith, and finally, after 1930, as B’nai B’rith International.

B’nai B’rith’s membership in the U.S. stands at 550,000 people, in ad­dition to the members of Aleph Zadik Aleph (AZA) and B’nai B’rith Girls (BBG), its junior af­filiates. It is organized into somewhat autonomous local lodges, women’s chapters, and district grand lodges. The supreme lodge establishes general policies for the order.

Over the years, B’nai B’rith has supported, in whole or in part, the following institutions: Bellefaire, an orphan home in Cleveland; the Jewish Children’s Home of New Orleans; the Touro Infirmary of New Orleans; the Jewish Or­phan Home of Atlanta; the Home for the Aged in Yonkers, N.Y.; the National Jewish Hospital in Denver; the Leo N. Levi Memorial Hospital in Hot Springs, Ark.; the B’nai B’rith Orphanage in Erie, Pa.; and the B’nai B’rith Home for the Aged in Memphis.

B’nai B’rith has always been interested in ad­vancing the rights of Jews, and working with government and other groups to combat anti-Jewish agitation at home and abroad. Today these activities, together with B’nai B’rith’s concern for the democratic rights of all people, center in the Anti-Defamation League, formed in 1913.

Cultural and educational activities are em­phasized by B’nai B’rith, both in local lodges and on a national scale, through speakers, bureaus, cultural programs, and publications. The National Jewish Monthly, published under various names since 1886, has had the largest circulation of any Jewish journal in the English language. B’nai B’rith sponsors an extensive adult education pro­gram, featuring the annual Wildacres Institutes for adults, held at various camps in the U.S.

There are affiliates in 37 countries, in­cluding Israel.


The first B’nai B’rith youth groups were founded in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1924. Known as Aleph Zadik Aleph (AZA), they quickly took root throughout the Midwest, and by 1925 were in­corporated as a national branch of the adult organization. In 1927, the B’nai B’rith Girls (BBG) were formed as a sister organization to the AZA. About fifteen years later, to satisfy the needs of college students and young war veterans, the B’nai B’rith Young Adults was founded. All three groups, joined in the overall Youth Organization since 1949, con­ducted programs designed to familiarize young Jews with their heritage and to prepare them for active participation in Jewish and general community life. In addition to leadership camps and study groups dealing with specifically Jewish affairs, the organization offers a broad range of social outlets and volunteer activities. Today BBYO is an independent organization with over 30,000 members in in fifteen countries.


Founded in 1760 when, following the accession of George III in 1760, the Sephardic and Ashkenazic communities agreed upon the creation of a joint body to represent English Jewry at court. The board is organized on a synagogal basis and functions through committees. In addition to the administrative committees, specific committees deal with Israel affairs, charities, education, Shehitah (ritual slaughter), and defense against antisemitism.


The world’s largest central agency for Jewish education, BJE conducts extensive and varied services for Jewish school teachers, principals, parents, and students from the early childhood level through high school. These services include a network of Jewish Teachers’ Centers; guidance of schools’ production of multimedia materials; World Over magazine; scholarship aid to students; nutrition education; family education; and art and music programs for children.

BOHR, NIELS (1885-1962).

Born in Denmark, Bohr was one of the originators of the modern atomic theory. For his research in this field, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1922. Bohr’s investigations of the fission of uranium paved the way for the modern atom bomb and atomic energy. From 1943 to 1945, he took an active part in the preparation of the atomic bomb in Los Alamos.


Region in central Asia, now part of Uzbekistan. Bokhara is the home of an ancient and colorful Jewish community, which believes itself descended from the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Its ancestors are known to have come from Samarkand and other areas in Persia, where the Jews have lived since the destruction of the First Temple. The early records of Jewish life in this tiny country were destroyed during the invasion of the Huns in the 13th century. The Bokharan community is still Judeo-Persian in culture. It possesses a considerable literature in Tadjik, a Persian dialect which its members still speak. Until the conquest of Bokhara by Russia in the 19th century, the community was completely cut off from the rest of the Jewish world. In 1893, to escape persecution by the Tsar, a number of Bokharans settled in Jerusalem. The settlement has grown, but the bulk of Bokharan Jews


Republic in South America. In 1998, total general population was 7.4 million; Jewish population, 700. Jews were active in exploiting Bolivia’s rich silver mines during the early period of Spanish colonization in the 1500’s. All of them were Marranos, Jews who had been forced to convert to Catholicism and who practiced Judaism in secret. This community was stifled by the Inquisition, which was established in 1570. From that time until the rise of Hitler, few Jews lived in Bolivia. Between 1933 and 1939, however, Bolivia was the only country which did not restrict the immigration of Jews. As a result, 10,000 German refugees settled there. Today, there are only 500 Jews in Bolivia.


State of Israel Bonds is an international securities organization offering interest-bearing instruments issued by the government of Israel. The Israel Bonds organization was established in 1951 through the efforts of Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, who recognized the opportunity to secure long-term investment capital through the sale of securities. Since its inception, the organization has secured more than $16 billion in investment capital for the development of every aspect of Israel’s economy, including agriculture, commerce, and industry, transforming an underdeveloped country into a highly advanced industrialized nation in fewer than four decades. Recently, Bonds proceeds have supported the absorption of vast numbers of Jews immigrating to Israel from the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and elsewhere.

Israel’s steadily developing economy, its well-educated, highly-trained population, and its expanding role in world markets have led Israel Bonds to become firmly established in the North American, European, and Latin American investment communities. Israel Bonds are purchased by a broad spectrum of investors including corporations, banks, foundations, institutions, and individuals.


The idea of a divine book of life dates back to the Bible (Ex. 32:32). In the Talmud we are told that every year on Rosh Ha-shanah a set of books of life is opened in heaven, and the fate of each person is set for the coming year. This concept has been incorporated into the High Holy Day service.

BOROCHOV, DOV BER (1881-1917).

Labor Zionist leader, writer, and Yiddish philologist. He became active in the Zionist movement, joining the Poale Zion in 1905. Because of his activities, Borochov was arrested by the Russian police and made his escape from the country in 1907. He came to the U.S. in 1914, where he continued to be active in the Labor Zionist movement. He edited Der Yiddisher Kempfer and other publications and wrote books on Yiddish philology. His important theories on Socialism and Zionism were published in 1937 in Nationalism and the Class Struggle, a Marxist approach to the Jewish problem. Borochov returned to Russia after the Revolution in 1917, and died there shortly afterward. Ber Borochov was one of the founders of the World Confederation of Poale Zion in 1907, and Labor Zionism owes much to him. He formulated theories fusing Zionism and Socialism, and his ideas served greatly to win the sympathy of many labor and socialist circles for the Jewish upbuilding of Israel.


One of the oldest cities in the U.S., Boston first saw Jews arrive in the mid-17th century, but a Jewish community did not start until the mid-19th century. The first synagogues were organized by German Jews. Around 1900, large Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe signaled the beginning of what is today one of the best organized and most representative and influential Jewish communities in the U.S.. The metropolitan area’s Jewish population is 235,000.

Boston may be the American leader in Jewish literacy, with 80% of its Jews having received some form of Jewish education. It has important Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and even Hasidic communities. It has a long tradition of producing rabbis, leaders, scholars, jurists, artists, and writers who have enriched both Jewish and general culture: Rabbi Louis Epstein, a leading Conservative scholar; Rabbi Ronald Gittelson, a leading Reform rabbi; Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, one of America’s greatest Talmudists; Louis Brandeis, a great American jurist; Leonard Bernstein, conductor and composer; Mike Wallace, a leading television journalist.

Boston has many Jewish communal institutions, including a Hebrew Teachers College. It is one of the main centers of Jewish learning in the U.S., with Judaica chairs in schools like Harvard and Boston University, and especially with its full-fledged institution of higher learning, Brandeis University, the first non-sectarian Jewish university in America. A Jewish weekly, The Jewish Advocate, has been published in Boston since 1903.


U.S. Senator from California. Boxer, a Democrat, entered the Senate in 1993, and was elected to her fourth term in 2010.  She is the Chief Deputy Whip in the Democratic Senate leadership. Previously, she spent 10 years in the U.S. House of Representatives and six years on the Marin County Board of Supervisors .


American jurist and Zionist leader. Born in Louisville, Ky., he received his early education at a private school in Louisville and an academy in Germany. He had little formal Jewish training in his childhood.

In 1877, Brandeis, at the age of 20, was graduated from the Harvard Law School with its highest honors. He began his private law practice in St. Louis, but soon settled in Boston where he lived and practiced law for about forty years. In law, Brandeis distinguished himself as “the people’s attorney.” He defended the citizens of Boston against the monopolies and unethical practices of public utility companies.

Brandeis’s defense of the common man against the encroachments of “big business” continued throughout his career. His book Other People’s Money had such an effect on President Wilson that in 1916 he appointed Brandeis to the U.S. Supreme Court where he served for 23 years. His judicial opinions exerted a profound influence on American constitutional law. Brandeis often joined Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in minority dissenting opinions. These historic opinions changed American thought on social problems. Brandeis’s belief in the need for legal change to meet the new conditions of industrial society, and for public regulations to protect the public interest, foreshadowed the social legislation of the New Deal in the 1930’s.

In 1910, Brandeis’s interest in Jewish life was awakened by his contact with the Jewish garment workers of New York, when he served as mediator in a strike. His active participation in Zionism dates to the period closely preceding the World War I. As chairman of the Provisional Committee for General Zionist affairs from 1914 to 1918, he strengthened the World Zionist movement which had been disrupted by the war. He was influential in obtaining American approval of the Balfour Declaration. A businesslike Zionist, Brandeis stressed the practical aspects of the rebuilding of the Land of Israel. He helped found the Palestine Economic Corporation, and played an important part in the encouragement of the investment of private capital in Palestine. As a result of a disagreement with Chaim Weizmann on the proper methods to be employed in developing Palestine economically, he resigned from his Zionist offices in 1921. Brandeis remained, nevertheless, a devoted Zionist all his life, and was often consulted on important policy matters.


Founded in 1948 and located in Waltham, Mass., Brandeis University is the first Jewish-sponsored non-sectarian institution of higher learning in the Western Hemisphere. Named after the late Supreme Court Justice Louis Dembitz Brandeis, it admits students without regard to race, color, or religious affiliation. Its first president was Abram Sachar, a Jewish scholar and former national director of the Hillel Foundation of B’nai B’rith. The religious requirements of Christians and Jewish students are respected in planning the school calendar and in the dining hall. In October 1955, Brandeis University dedicated a modern group of three chapels, for students of the Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant faiths. This is a departure from the usual college practice of haing a single nondenominational chapel.


Federal republic; largest country in South America. Brazil, which was discovered by Portugal in 1500, was the home of the first organized Jewish community in the New World. Large numbers of Marranos, forced converts who observed their Jewish faith in secret, arrived early in the 16th century. They prospered in commerce and industry, but at the price of denying their Judaism publicly. Only when the Dutch conquered Pernambuco in 1630 were the Marranos able to declare their faith. Their congregations were enlarged by Jews from Holland, the West Indies, and North Africa. So extensive was their trade that Pernambuco came to be known as “the port of the Jews.” This happy interlude ended when the Portuguese recaptured Dutch Brazil in 1654, and expelled the Jews from the country. Most of the Brazilian Jews fled to Holland. Small groups found refuge in Surinam and Curacao in the Dutch West Indies. Twenty-three boarded a ship which bore them to New Amsterdam, where they became the nucleus of the famous Portuguese-Jewish community of New York.

So effective was the Portuguese persecution that for the next 175 years there was no indication of Jewish life in Brazil. After Brazil achieved its independence from Portugal in 1824, however, a small community of Marranos revealed its Judaism in Belem, far from the capital. Later in the century, two other small communities were founded in Brazil. Yet it is only at the turn of the 20th century that the “modern” community may be said to begin. At that time, the Jewish Colonization Association began to encourage European Jews to emigrate to Brazil and settle on farms. The farm colonies were not very successful. Most of their members settled in cities and founded communities there. These communities were enlarged by new immigrants, especially after the U.S. began to restrict its own immigration in 1924. Because of the opportunities it offered to newcomers, Brazil became the home of the second largest Jewish community in Latin America. Totaling 96,500 in 2007, it is second only to Argentina. Between 1957 and 1959, Brazil received some 3,000 immigrants from Egypt and 700 from Hungary.

The Brazilian Jewish community is a prosperous one. Most of its members are merchants or manufacturers; the remainder are largely skilled craftsmen. The large majority live in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, but there are Jews in every major city in the country. Since 1951, all sectors of the Jewish community have been represented in the World Jewish Congress by the Confederation of the Jewish Societies of Brazil.

The cultural activities within the community are varied. There are Yiddish newspapers and many Jewish periodicals in Portuguese. The larger communities have Jewish school systems and elaborate community organizations. Zionist feeling has run high, especially since the creation of the State of Israel. Educators from Israel play a large part in running the Jewish schools in Rio and Sao Paulo, although non-Zionists have their own schools. In addition, teachers from most of the Jewish schools are regularly sent to Israel for training. In 1954, an Israel-Brazilian Cultural Institute was inaugurated under the chairmanship of Brazil’s foreign minister. It grants scholarships to Brazil’s students who wish to study in Israel, and has set itself the task of popularizing Brazilian literature in Israel and Israel literature in Brazil. Another cultural institution of note is the Jewish-Brazilian Institute of Historical Research, which studies the history of the Jewish community in Brazil.


Zionist pioneer and Hebrew novelist who first attracted attention with his stories of the grim life in poverty-stricken small towns of Russia. His larger novels, Ba-Horef, Mi-Saviv La-Nekudah, are stories of the futile strivings of Jewish youth to improve their situation in Czarist Russia. In his later novels, he describes life in Palestine. Brenner lived for several years in London and edited there a Hebrew monthly, Ha-Meorer (The Awakener). He settled in Palestine in 1909, and there, deeply influenced by A.D. Gordon, followed Gordon’s ideas in advocating a just society and a life close to nature. Brenner advocated friendly relations with the Arabs, and lived and mingled freely with them. Ironically, he was killed in an Arab riot on May 1, 1921. One of the largest agricultural settlements, Givat Brenner, bears his name.

BRISCOE, ROBERT (1894-1969).

First Jew ever to serve as lord mayor of Dublin, Ireland (1956-57, 1961-62). Briscoe was active in the Irish Republican Movement during Ireland’s struggle for independence. He was also an ardent Zionist who supported Revisionist Zionism. His son, Benjamin Briscoe, was lord mayor of Dublin in 1989-90.


See Circumcision and Covenant.

BRODETSKY, SELIG (1888-1954).

Mathematician, Zionist leader. Brought to England from Russia at the age of five, Brodetsky was a professor of mathematics at the Universities of Bristol and Leeds. In 1921, he attended his first Zionist Congress; he was elected to the World Zionist Executive in 1928. Brodetsky was president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain from 1940 to 1949, and served as president of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem from 1949 until 1951.

BRODSKY, JOSEPH (1940-1996).

Russian-born poet and essayist. Brodsky lived and wrote in the USSR until, in 1972, when he was exiled. He then moved to the U.S., where he taught in several universities, and eventually became a U.S. Citizen in 1980. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1987, and served as U.S. Poet Laureate from 1991 to 1992.


See Sports.

BRONFMAN, EDGAR (1929- 2013).

President of the World Jewish Congress from 1981 until 2007, Bronfman was the son of Samuel Bronfman (1891-1971), one of Canada’s leading Jewish industrialists and communal leaders. Edgar Bronfman developed the Seagram Company founded by his father, and became an international Jewish leader as president of the Congress. Under his leadership, the Congress exerted influence on Jewish affairs around the world, mostly notably championing the plight of the Jews of the Soviet Union,  exposing of Austria’s president, Kurt Waldheim, as an ex-Nazi, and the discovery of bank accounts in Switzerland with funds belonging to Jewish victims of the Nazis.


Canadian businessman and philanthropist. Son of Samuel Bronfman and brother of Edgar (see Bronfman, Edgar). Edgar and he inherited the Seagram Company, the distillery founded by his father.  He became president in 1975 and then co-chairman until the company was sold in 2000. He was the principal owner of the Montreal Expos baseball team from 1968 until 1990.The team was sold to Major League Baseball and eventually moved and became the Washington Nationals, owned by businessman, Ted Lerner in 2004.

Bronfman and American philanthropist Michael Steinhardt co-founded Taglit-Birthright Israel, a program that sends Jewish college students on free educational trips to Israel.

BROOKNER, ANITA (1928- 2016 ).

Novelist and art historian. Brookner’s novels have been described as “gloomy. ” Already in her 50’s when her first novel was published, she won the prestigious Brooker literary prize for her fourth, Hotel du Lac, published in 1984.

Her parents were Jewish immigrants to Britain, who changed their name from Bruckner.  She once told the Paris Review, “My family were Polish Jews, and we lived with my grandmother, with uncles and aunts and cousins all around, and I thought everybody lived like that. They were transplanted and fragile people, an unhappy brood…” During WWII, her family tried to help refugees from war-torn Europe.


See Stage and Screen.

BROZA, DAVID (1955 – ).

Israeli singer and songwriter. A song he recorded to promote his live shows then became a number one hit in Israel, and he became a star. In a short time, Broza gained immense popularity as a musical sensation worldwide, with strong audience bases in Israel, South America, and the U.S. alike. Today he continues to perform and record songs in Hebrew, English, and Spanish.

BUBER, MARTIN (1878-1965).

Jewish philosopher and scholar, who exerted great influence on Jewish and Zionist thought in Western Europe. He was born in Vienna. Most of his works are in German, some in Hebrew. From 1916 to 1924 he was the editor of Der Jude, a leading publication of Jewish thought, philosophy, and religion, published in Berlin. Buber’s religious philosophy has its roots in an ethical and social approach to man’s place in the world. Together with Franz Rosenzweig, he translated the Bible into German. Buber delved into Jewish mysticism and published collections of Hasidic tales, in which he brought to light the beauty and thought of Hasidism. After the rise of Nazism, Buber settled in Palestine. In 1938, he became a professor of social philosophy in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He was the recipient of many honors from postwar Germany, including the Honor Prize of the City of Munich in 1960. Other honors included the Albert Schweitzer Medal.


Town in Germany. In 1937, the Nazis established a concentration camp there to provide slave labor for factories in central Germany. In November 1938, 10,000 German Jews arrived in Buchenwald; by 1944, the figure rose to nearly 100,000. Among the prominent political prisoners was the former French premier Leon Blum, who was liberated by American troops on April 11, 1945. Many inmates died of hunger, disease, and maltreatment. (See also Holocaust.)


Jews lived in Bulgaria during the 2nd century C.E. By the end of the 12th century the Jews controlled Bulgarian trade with Venice. In 1335, King Ivan Alexander married a Jewish woman named Sarah, who on her baptism took the name Theodora. Her son Ivan Sisman III came to the throne in 1346, and continued his mother’s amiable attitude to the Jewish population. Bulgaria was conquered by Turkey in 1389, and soon became a haven for Jewish refugees from the Spanish Inquisition. Since then, the majority of Bulgarian Jews have been Sephardim. During World War II, the Nazis exterminated the majority of the Jews of Bulgaria. Of the few Jews who survived at the end of the war, the majority emigrated to Israel in the mass exodus of 1949. After the fall of communism in 1989, the community was reconstituted. Currently, there are about 3,000 Jews in Bulgaria.


Jewish Socialist Party, founded in Russia in 1897. A militant group, the Bund worked for the overthrow of the Russian Tsarist government, organizing demonstrations and strikes. Some Bundists escaped to the U.S. and became active in the Jewish social movement in America. After the Russian Revolution in 1917, a part of the Bund joined the Jewish section of the Communist party. It established schools, conducted cultural work in the Yiddish language, and organized youth groups and workers’ cooperatives. Initially, the Bund bitterly opposed Zionism and considered it a “bourgeois utopia.” It was equally antagonistic to Hebrew as the Jewish national tongue. Remnants of the Bund are still active in America, Israel, and some European countries.


Burial customs date back to the stories of Abraham and Sarah in the Bible. In Jewish tradition, proper burial in the ground is one of the main life-cycle commandments. A corpse is to be treated with utmost respect, regardless who the person is, since, according to traditional belief, the soul is about to enter eternal rest, and the bones begin to wait for the eventual resurrection in the messianic age. Trained Jews (See Hevra Kadisha) purify the body and dress it in a simple white linen garment. A pious Jew stands by and recites Psalms. In Israel, no coffin is used, except for soldiers fallen in battle. In the Diaspora, a plain pine coffin is preferred, so as not to distinguish between rich and poor. Families often purchase a burial section in a Jewish cemetery for their members. A funeral service consists of prayers, a eulogy, and a Mourner’s Kaddish recited at the graveside. Mourning lasts for seven days (sitting shivah), and a memorial is erected before the end of the first year from the time of death.


See Hebrew Literature.