History and Structure
The BBG Story – A Brief Overview
In 1925, a prominent Jewish organization called B’nai B’rith adopted the Aleph Zadik Aleph as its auxiliary program for young men. Efforts began immediately to launch a program for Jewish young women that would serve as a sister to AZA in the B’nai B’rith Family. New groups emerged as early as 1926 in Seattle, Washington and 1927 in Newark, New Jersey; unfortunately, these groups dissolved quickly.
However, the movement was not defeated, and efforts to create a sisterhood for Jewish young women continued. Rose Mauser organized the first permanent chapter of what is now BBG in December of 1927 in San Francisco, California. Mattie Olcovich and Essie Solomon served as the first advisors.
Unlike AZA, which began in Omaha in 1924 and then spread to become an international Order, chapters of girls sprung up throughout the United States and Canada in response to spontaneous local forces but without any central pattern of structure or policy and without professional supervision. “B’nai B’rith Girls” was only one name in a long list of names given to the early chapters. The age levels of the members also ranged anywhere from 12 into the 30s.
BBG chapter activities consisted mostly of programming that was modeled after the AZA “Five Fold and Full” program created by Dr. Boris D. Bogen in 1928. The emphasis was primarily on social and community service activities, with the inclusion of educational, religious, and recreational activities.
Due to the lack of an organized uniform structure, some of the young women’s chapters also adopted national AZA observances. As Regional and District associations began to emerge, BBG’s programming also developed a broader base.
The development of the girls’ groups was directly related to the strength of the B’nai B’rith Women (then also known as B’nai B’rith Auxiliaries). The women’s groups served as both a guide and support for the developing girls’ groups. The word “sister” was even adopted from the adult organization. Eventually, the women’s auxiliaries began sponsoring the Junior Auxiliaries by collecting dues from the girls for the operations of their programs.
The appointment of Anita Perlman as Chairwoman of the B’nai B’rith Girls was a major step in bringing structure to the loosely organized chapters. Though much dedication and hard work has gone into the building of the girls’ groups over a period of decades, no woman has put as much of herself into this work as Anita Perlman. Within the first year of her appointment, and with a $600 budget, she was able to keep up correspondence with the leaders of B’nai B’rith Women and BBG while developing invaluable program resources for the new group.
BBG was officially established as an international Order at a meeting held on April 22 – 23, 1944. A structure was defined at that time to include women from high school to the age of 25, but that system has shifted over time.
The first ten BBG chapters were issued at this time to San Francisco BBG #1; Oakland, CA #2; Linda Strauss, Los Angeles #3; Harrisburg, PA #4; Highland Park, LA #5; Worcester, MA #6; Lancaster, PA #7; Ramah, Chicago #8; Potsville #9; and Homestead, PA #10.
The individual identities of BBG and AZA have always thrived within BBYO. Both are very strong entities that have been bringing fun and meaningful opportunities to their members, both independently and together.
1923: The first chapter of the Aleph Zadik Aleph was formed in Omaha, Nebraska.
May 3rd, 1924: The Aleph Zadik Aleph was officially declared an International Order by Sam Beber.
1925: The B’nai B’rith Organization adopted the Aleph Zadik Aleph as an auxiliary program for young men. Soon after, efforts began to launch a program for Jewish young women to serve as a sister program.
1926: The “Junior Auxiliary of B’nai B’rith Girls” was started in Seattle, Washington but disbanded shortly thereafter.
1927: The first permanent chapter of BBG was organized in San Francisco by Rose Mauser, with Mattie Olcovich and Essie Solomon as the first advisors.
1928: AZA “Five-Fold-and-Full” Programming was created by Dr. Boris D. Bogen. Most chapter BBG activities were modeled after this program with an emphasis on social, community service, educational, religious and recreational programs.
1933: Ten West Coast chapters established the Western Conference of B’nai B’rith Junior Auxiliaries in Santa Cruz, California. 1935: Anita Perlman becomes Chairwoman of District 6.
1940: B’nai B’rith Women formed the Women’s Supreme Council and became a National Organization. Judge Lenore D. Underwood voted to establish a National girls’ program to be modeled after AZA.
Spring 1941: The Women’s Supreme Council adopted the name of “B’nai B’rith Girls.” The age limit was set at 21, total membership at this point was about 7,000 girls.
1943: The AZA Supreme Advisory Council joined with the governing body of BBG to jointly run the Aleph Zadik Aleph and the B’nai B’rith Girls.
April 1944: The National Order of BBG meets at Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago and officially establishes BBYO as an International Organization. The first 10 BBG charters issued to: San Francisco BBG #1; Oakland, CA #2; Linda Strauss, Los Angeles #3; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania #4; Highland Park, LA #5; Judah, Worcester, Massachusetts #6; Lancaster, Pennsylvania #7; Ramah, Chicago #8; Potsville #9; and Homestead, Pennsylvania #10.
1944: Julius Bisno became the Administrative Secretary of the Youth Commission and Director of Boys’ Work. Beatrice Chapman became the Director of Girls’ Work.
February 1945: The First National Convention of the B’nai B’rith Girls was called to order by Anita Perlman. The Menorah was adopted as the official BBG symbol. Twenty delegates were present who represented all 7 districts. The Menorah Pledge, Opening Rituals, and other ceremonies were written. Frieda Tischler from Pittsburg was elected as the first International N’siah!
1945: Alice Elson became the director of BBG while Dr. Abram L. Sachar became the Director of BBYO.
1946: Second National Convention was held in Port Jervis, New York. The BBG Constitution and By-Laws were ratified.
1947: Third National Convention was held at Camp High Point in Shokan, New York. The MIT program was adopted.
1948: Dr. Max F. Baer became the International Director of BBYO.
1955: The First Leadership Training Institute was planned. It was part of International Convention and it stressed Judaism and democratic leadership.
1956: The First BBYO Israel Summer Institute was held.
1960: BBYO adopted Noar LeNoar as its first counterpart organization in Israel.
Late 1960’s- Early 1970’s: BBYO intensified its social awareness programming and started to increase involvement on an international level. 1974: At the International B’nai B’rith Convention, AZA and BBG International Board Members became official voting members of the B’nai B’rith Youth Commission.
1977: After Baer’s retirement, Dr. Sidney Clearfield was the successor to the position of BBYO International Director.
1977: The first Chapter Leadership Training Conference (CLTC) was held in Mukwonago, Wisconsin at B’nai B’rith Beber Camp.
1977: The BBYO International Convention voted to disband Districts.
1983: First office opened in continental Europe. Chapters launched in France, Spain, Holland, Germany, and Austria.
1989: BBG added a fifth International Board Member. The board then consisted of a N’siah, S’ganit, Mazkirah, Doveret, Sh’licha, and Madricha.
Late 1980’s: Teen Connection officially began.
1990: AZA and BBG send largest delegation on the March of the Living. First BBYO program held in Soviet Union with more than 200 Soviet Jewish teens in attendance.
1991: Sam Fisher became the International Director.
1992: International Doveret was eliminated as an International Board position and International Aym Ha-Chaverot was established.
1993: Israel Leadership Summer Institute (ILSI) established.
1994: BBG adopted the Mind, Body and Attitude program.
1994: BBYO designated the historic and biblical Mount Cheres in Israel as a community gathering place.
2002: BBYO transitioned to independence from B’nai B’rith International to become a new and legally independent organization under the name of BBYO, Inc. It is no longer officially recognized by its former full name, “B’nai B’rith Youth Organization.”
2005: Final International Convention at Camp Perlman takes place.
2006: AZA and BBG deliver 10,000 signatures to the White House to end nuclear proliferation in Iran.
2008: At International Convention, the My 2 Cents for Change campaign encouraged involvement in the 2008 Presidential election.
2009: BBYO’s Stand UP campaign was launched.
2010: At August International Executive’s Conference, the “Speak UP for Israel” and “Stand UP for Each Other” Campaigns launched; the Degrees of Programming were introduced; The International Service Fund was redefined for Globalization; the Global Ambassadors Network was created and the Coalition of Jewish Teen Leaders (CJTL) was motioned into action.
By the Decade
- 1920s The first chapter of the Aleph Zadik Aleph was formed in 1924 in Omaha, Nebraska. With guidance from advisor Sam Beber, AZA was declared an international organization on May 3, 1924. As chapters began to form throughout the United States and in Canada, International Conventions were held and International Officers elected. In 1925, AZA was adopted by B’nai B’rith International as its official youth program.
- 1930s As B’nai B’rith Junior Auxiliaries begin to form around the country modeled after AZA for young women, Anita Perlman becomes elected as Chairwoman of District 6.
- 1940s The B’nai B’rith Girls (BBG) was officially established in 1944 and the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO) was born as the umbrella over both groups. The B’nai B’rith Youth Commission was established as BBYO’s governing body.
- 1950s Camp B’nai B’rith opened in Starlight, Pennsylvania, in 1954 and became home to BBYO International Convention and other BBYO summer programs. Many of BBYO’s International Programs were established during this time period, including the International Leadership Training Conference, Kallah, and the Israel Summer Institute.
- 1960s The 1960’s saw continued growth for BBYO and the establishment of Noar LeNoar as BBYO’s first partner in Israel. 1970s B’nai B’rith Beber Camp was opened in Mukwonago, Wisconsin, in 1977 and the first Chapter Leadership Training Conference was held there that summer. Camp B’nai B’rith in Pennsylvania was rededicated as Perlman Camp in honor of BBG’s organizer, Anita Perlman.
- 1980s BBYO’s international presence increased with the establishment of chapters in France, Spain, Belgium, Holland, Germany, and Austria. At the same time, districts (which had previously encompassed several regions) were disbanded in North America. Teen Connection (now BBYO Connect) was also established during this time to involve middle school-aged Jewish youth. BBYO partnered with the March of the Living upon its establishment in 1988, sending the largest delegation on the first trip.
- 1990s The Chapter Leadership Training Conference expanded significantly, becoming the foundation of the organization’s training program. The organization’s international headquarters moved locations for the first time in nearly 50 years.
- 2002 & BEYOND
Just after the turn of the new millennium, many changes for the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization occurred. Our Order became a legally independent entity from B’nai B’rith International in 2002 and BBYO, Inc. was established as its official new name. Several leaders from the Jewish community, such as key Jewish philanthropists, BBYO alumni, Jewish Federation leadership, and BBYO’s International Teen Presidents (the Grand Aleph Godol and International N’siah), formed a new Board of Directors to assume governance over BBYO. While traditional summer programs such as CLTC, ILTC and Kallah continue to be offered, a new slate of Israel trips and community service programs grew extensively. In 2004, BBYO launched its international teen travel program, now called BBYO Passport, and restored its historical International Leadership Seminar in Israel (ILSI). The organization also created the BBYO Panim Institute, which offers premiere service learning opportunities open to members and non-members of BBYO. During this time, International Convention also left Camp Perlman for the first time in 50 years and convened at Camp Ramah Darom outside of Atlanta, GA in February 2006, and has been held in a different location every year since. Keeping with BBG’s mission to provide a meaningful experience to Jewish teens of all ages, BBYO’s 6th-8th grade experience, now known as BBYO Connect, was reestablished in the 2007-2008 programming year. BBYO Connect positions BBYO as a ‘rite of passage’ for pre-high school teens, while promoting Jewish community involvement from pre-bar/bat mitzvah through the high school years.
In recent years, BBYO and BBG have encouraged our members to become involved with community service both in and out of the Jewish community. The 85th/65th (2008 – 2009) International Boards introduced Stand UP - BBYO’s service, philanthropy, and advocacy campaign. The 86th/66th (2010-2011) Executive Body ignited a renaissance of globalization – reconnecting BBYO worldwide and establishing new partnerships with twenty Jewish teen communities across the globe. The 2010-2011 programming year also yielded the introduction of “Speak UP for Israel”, BBYO’s campaign for Israel education and advocacy. The first decade of the twenty-first century redefined our Order. Anita Perlman’s dream to provide a meaningful experience to Jewish teens has spread across the world and shows no signs of slowing down.