Throwback Thursday – B’nai B’rith

By Kristen Johnson

On this day in history, October 13, 1843, the B’nai B’rith was formed.

B’nai B’rith, the oldest Jewish service organization in the world, is founded in New York City by Henry Jones and 11 others. B’nai B’rith, meaning “Sons of the Covenant,” organized its first lodge in November, and Isaac Dittenhoefer was elected the first president. The fraternal organization went on to become a national leader in charity work and disaster relief, and in 1913 it formed the Anti-Defamation League to combat anti-Semitism. Today, some 500,000 men and women are members of B’nai B’rith. (

B’nai B’rith works on advocacy for Jewish unity and defending the state of Israel, senior advocacy and housing, disaster relief, healthcare, human rights, racism, and the fight against anti-Semitism. (

There are so many ways we can “give back” to society through our time, talents, and service. B’nai B’rith is but one example of literally thousands and thousands of opportunities to serve in the United States and abroad.

In the United States, there are:

  • 1,571,056 tax-exempt organizations, including:
    • 1,097,689 public charities
    • 105,030 private foundations
    • 368,337 other types of nonprofit organizations, including chambers of commerce, fraternal organizations and civic leagues. (National Center for Charitable Statistics).

Nonprofit organizations are:

Nonprofit organizations include everything from neighborhood associations that meet a couple of times a year and have no assets, to large universities and foundations with billions of dollars in assets.  They include soup kitchens and traditional charities that serve the poor as well as a local church, the Chamber of Commerce, the Sierra Club, the United Steel Workers Labor Union, and the Metropolitan Opera.  Nonprofit organizations can be divided by the subsection of the United States Internal Revenue Code 501(c). (National Center for Charitable Statistics).

With over a million places that we can choose to serve, certainly there must be a way for each and every one of us to serve. (If you would like some ideas, feel free to click on my tab labeled “Organizations I support.”)

Approximately 25.3% of Americans over the age of 16 volunteered through or for an organization between September 2010 and September 2014.  This proportion has remained relatively constant since 2003 after a slight increase from 27.4% to 28.8% in 2003. (National Center for Charitable Statistics). Surely we can do better than only 25% of Americans volunteering!

The time to serve is now. Be the change you want to be in the world.

Galatians 5:13: (NRSV): 13 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters;[a] only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence,[b] but through love become slaves to one another.

Serve all with love.

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