B’nai Brith 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 Brith”, they later shortened their name to simply “B’nai Brith”, 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 aid to all Jewish citizens. These goals have long since been realized. The organization currently has lodges internationally and B’nai Brith membership is in the millions.
B’nai Brith 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 antisemitism and promotes human rights.
In Canada, the first B'nai Brith 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 Brith 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 Brith Youth Organization, called the Hillel Foundation, which was located at the University of Toronto.
The lodges primarily work in the community in a fundraising capacity, but many of the lodges also support various causes, such as youth and senior programs.
Scope and Content
Sub-series consists of negatives documenting the events and activities of several B'nai Brith lodges in Toronto. The images depict meetings, installation banquets, special events, theatrical productions, and group photographs of the executive and officers of the various lodges. The negatives have been arranged chronologically by event and are described at the file or item level.