B’nai B’rith is the oldest Jewish service organization in North America. It was founded on October 13, 1843 by a group of eleven men in New York City.
Originally called Bundes-Brueder [League of Brothers], with the alternate title of “The Independent Order of B’nai B’rith”, they later shortened their name to simply “B’nai B’rith”, meaning sons of the covenant.
In an attempt to unite Jewish communities, they developed an inclusive membership mandate that does not discriminate against ethnic or religious sects. The initial vision of the organization was to develop a national Jewish organization, which would provide aide to all Jewish citizens. These goals have long since been realized. The organization currently has lodges internationally and B’nai B’rith membership is in the millions.
B’nai B’rith cites its main goals to be: reaching out to those in need, fighting antisemitism and prejudice of any kind, and promoting human rights and world peace. One of their most recognized accomplishments is the formation of the Anti-Defamation League, which combats anitsemitism and promotes human rights.
In Canada, the first B'nai B'rith lodge was founded in Toronto, the Canada Lodge, in 1875, but it folded in 1894. Other lodges were formed in Montreal, in 1881, and Victoria, in 1886. These lodges were disbanded around the turn of the century and the organization did not have much of a presence in Canada until the outbreak of the first World War. Shortly afterwards, in Toronto, B’nai B’rith had fifteen lodges and eleven chapters. The lodges were the men’s groups and the chapters were for the women; in addition, there was also the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization, called the Hillel Foundation, which was located at the University of Toronto.
In Toronto, the Sportsmen Lodge began as a modest sized group of 100 members in 1954, and doubled in membership over the next 10 years. They sponsored an annual baseball night and a sportswriters dinner that honoured an outstanding sports journalist. The dinner was well known amongst journalists and was well attended. The Sportsmen Lodge also hosted an annual Celebrity dinner, at which a outstanding Canadian personality was chosen and honoured for his or her achievements.
The lodge was also active in working with handicapped children and in fundraising campaigns.
Scope and Content
Series consists of images taken by Al Gilbert of the B’nai B’rith Sportsmen Lodge Dinners at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto. The files in this series document three different dinners for the years 1969, 1970 and an unidentified dinner from the 1960s.
Selection for this series was based on the various activities and functions of the event. The dinner was held as an annual award ceremony and installation for the newly appointed officers of the Sportsmen Lodge. The criteria used for selection included: awards, speeches, installation oaths, entertainment, and dinner tables.