B’nai B’rith celebrates 150 years in St. Louis

BY ROBERT A. COHN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF EMERITUS

Local, regional and international leaders of B’nai B’rith gathered last Sunday at the St. Louis Airport Marriott Hotel to celebrate the l50th anniversary of B’nai B’rith St. Louis Missouri Lodge #22, also known as B’nai B’rith St. Louis. Over l00 members, past presidents and veteran leaders attended the event, which was coordinated by Michelle Gralnick, director of B’nai B’rith St. Louis.

B’nai B’rith International, one of the world’s oldest and largest Jewish fraternal organizations was itself founded in l843 by 12 charter members who sought to create a fraternal, cultural and educational organization that was open to Jewish membership and participation.

In the Greater St. Louis area, the Missouri Grand Lodge of B’nai B’rith was the founding chapter of the organization back in 1855. Through the years several other chapters of B’nai B’rith were founded in St. Louis, including Ebn Ezra and Brandeis, Harrison-Egel, North Valley, Archway, Akiba, St. Louis Singles, Yachad Couples and Impact St. Louis along with chapters of B’nai B’rith Women. B’nai B’rith also created several other major Jewish organizations, some of which evolved into separate entities, among them the Anti-Defamation League and Hillel. B’nai B’rith Women split from the parent organization about a dozen years ago and changed its name to Jewish Women International. BBYO, the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization, which includes BBG and AZA is semi-autonomous but continues its affiliation with B’nai B’rith International.

Moishe Smith, B’nai B’rith International’s chairman of the executive, who is in line to possibly become president of BBI, came in from Canada to offer remarks of congratulations and tribute to the leadership of B’nai B’rith St. Louis past and present. Gary Javitch, the Mid-America regional president of the organization, also offered remarks. Max Bierenbaum, president of B’nai B’rith Missouri Lodge #22, into which all other B.B. chapters merged, received a special citation for his leadership, as did David Blumenthal, who held numerous chapter, regional and leadership positions, and who was given a special citation for having been an active member of the organization for what Smith and Javitch called “an absolutely incredible total of 65 years.”

All of the living past presidents of B’nai B’rith chapters, lodges and units were also presented with certificates of merit by the BBI and the local chapter.

In their remarks, Smith and Javitch expressed strong appreciation to B’nai B’rith St. Louis on attaining its l50th anniversary, and outlined plans to reinvigorate B’nai B’rith activities locally, regionally, nationally and around the world.

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