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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.

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