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B'nai B'rith and the Challenge of Ethnic Leadership

Deborah D. Moore

Publication Year: 1981

B’nai B’rith has a history almost as diverse as the story of American Jewry itself. The oldest secular Jewish organization in the United States, it was founded in 1843. Thereafter, it followed in the footsteps of its immigrant founders, spreading into the cities, towns, and villages of America, eventually becoming the worldwide order it is today.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Front Matter

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

THIS HISTORY OF B'NAI B'RITH was commissioned at the approach of the Bicentennial of the United States of America, when many of us were thinking in historical terms. America is not a single concept; it has grown into a rich, colorful tapestry of varied peoples, institutions, ideas, and ideals. ...

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pp. xi-xvi

THE OLDEST SECULAR JEWISH ORGANIZATION in the United States, B'nai B'rith claims a history almost as diverse as that of American Jewry itself. B'nai B'rith began as a fraternal order in 1843, a product of the New World, one of the first fruits of its early years. Established by German-Jewish immigrants to New York City, B'nai B'rith followed its founders into the cities and towns of the United States. ...

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CHAPTER ONE: A Secular Synagogue

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pp. 1-34

IN 1843 A CONGENIAL GROUP of young Jewish men were in the habit of gathering on Sundays at Aaron Sinsheimer's saloon on Essex Street in New York City. Speaking in German, since they were recent immigrants from the German states, they shared experiences over a drink and discussed common concerns together. Though they had lived in the United States for less than ten years, ...

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CHAPTER TWO: The Order at Home and Abroad

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pp. 35-51

THE UNITED STATES celebrated its Centennial in 1876 amid general exultation and praise for the spirit of progress infusing the country. The widespread optimism voiced at numerous events throughout the nation, but particularly at the special Philadelphia Exposition, glossed over the difficult struggles of the past decade. ...

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CHAPTER THREE: Adjusting the Immigrants

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pp. 52-79

B'NAI B'RITH DEVELOPED ITS RESPONSE to the changing situation of American Jews in the context of worldwide concern for the victims of Russian pogroms. It initially reacted to the pogroms with charitable relief and international protests on behalf of the victims. Julius Bien, as the Order's president for thirty years until the end of the century, set the tone in his statements. ...

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CHAPTER FOUR: Ideological and Institutional Challenges

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pp. 80-101

B'NAI B'RITH'S MIDDLE-CLASS CHARACTER, democratic structure, secular ideology, and innovative program of social service and internationalism placed in center stage in its self-chosen role as unifier of American Jewry. When Adolph Kraus became president of B'nai B'rith in 1905, succeeding Simon Wolf who had held an interim one-year term, ...

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CHAPTER FIVE: Defending the Jews

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pp. 102-134

B'NAI B'RITH'S GROWING CONCERN with defending the Jews in the United States reflected its leaders' perception that the organization which protects Jewish rights possesses the potential power to unite and lead the Jewish community. Kraus's inaugural remarks had suggested that the Order adopt Jewish defense as a more noble cause than philanthropy. ...

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CHAPTER SIX: Serving Jewish Youth

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pp. 135-163

THE ENCOUNTER WITH ORGANIZED HATE GROUPS, racism, prejudice, and discrimination in the 1920's throttled American Jews. Discrimination particularly distressed Jewish youth, who resented their exclusion from many of the opportunities of American society. As a boy in Missouri Philip Klutznick, future president of the Order, saw Klan crosses burn. ...

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CHAPTER SEVEN: Witnessing the Holocaust

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pp. 164-194

ADOLF HITLER'S RISE TO POWER in Germany cast a long shadow over American-Jewish life. While hindsight shows that anti-Semitism did not expand significantly during the Depression, more than enough of it persisted in the United States to worry Jews and color their self-perceptions as they entered the critical years preceding the Holocaust. ...

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CHAPTER EIGHT: Searching for Unity

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pp. 195-223

THE WAR'S CONCLUSION revealed the enormity of the Holocaust and the extent to which the catastrophe had been underestimated. While the war liberated Europe from Nazi terror and oppression, for Jews the peace that had returned was that of the graveyard. Hitler failed to destroy world Jewry, but he did deliver a death blow to the European-Jewish communities, ...

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CHAPTER NINE: The American Era

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pp. 224-249

DURING THE TREMENDOUS UPHEAVAL produced by the postwar years, Philip Klutznick affirmed the centrality of B'nai B'rith to American-Jewish life. Indeed, he had contributed to the physical remaking of the world of American Jews. His Park Forest development epitomized a new stage in the Jewish trek from the ...

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pp. 250-256

AS A MASS-MEMBERSHIP, "general practitioner" organization, B'nai B'rith found itself beleagered by the challenges of the late sixties and early seventies. The reigning counterculture on college campuses had little use for Hillel, viewing it as weighed down with organizational "establishment" apparatus; ...


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pp. 257-270

Suggested Reading

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pp. 271-276


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pp. 277-288

E-ISBN-13: 9781438413501
E-ISBN-10: 1438413505
Print-ISBN-13: 9780873954808
Print-ISBN-10: 0873954807

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 1981