B'nai B'rith Girls
women's order of B'nai
B'rith Youth Organization
(BBYO), an international youth-led
high school sorority
BBG as it
is known today has thousands of members in chapters worldwide,
including chapters in the United States, Bulgaria, United Kingdom, Israel, and
Recognition of the special needs and rights of women is nothing
new. As early as 1926, in Seattle, Washington, a group of girls
organized as the first "Junior Auxiliary of B'nai B'rith Girls." A
short while later the Emma Lazarus Junior Auxiliary was disbanded.
In March of 1927, a Chapter of "Junior B'nai B'rith Girls" was
organized in Newark, New Jersey. This also disbanded.The first
permanent Chapter of what is now B'nai B'rith Girls was organized
in December, 1927 in San Francisco by Rose Mauser. Sponsored by
what is now San Francisco B'nai B'rith Women's Chapter #1, Mattie
Olcovich and Essie Solomon served as the first Advisors.
Unlike AZA, Aleph Zadik Aleph
which began in Omaha and then spread to become a national and then
international organization, Chapters of girls began to mushroom
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.
As a matter of fact, there was no common organizational name. The
early chapters were known as Junior Auxiliaries, Girls’
Auxiliaries, Young Women's Auxiliaries, B'nai B'rith Junior
Leagues, B'nai B'rith Girls, B'nai B'rith Young Women, and BZB. The
last intended as a catchy substitute for AZA, was often taken by
Chapters of girls that were "sponsored" by AZA Chapters.
The ages of girls varied as much as the names of the Chapters.
Ranging from 15 into the 30's, there were also a number of
sub-junior groups which enrolled girls between the ages of 12 and
Each Chapter developed its own activities, based on the interests
of the members. However, the program was patterned basically after
the "Five-Fold-and-Full" program which was suggested to the AZA in
1928 by Dr. Boris Bogen, then secretary of the B'nai B'rith. The
emphasis was primarily on social and community service activities,
though not to the exclusion of educational, religious, and
Obviously, since there was no organized development of the girls
groups, there were no national projects in the early years. Many
girls groups participated in such AZA observances as AZA Sabbath
and AZA Parent's Day or imitated other AZA national programs.
Later, Regional and District programs began to emerge as the girls
formed their own Regional and District associations. Since the
B'nai B'rith Women (then known as B'nai B'rith Auxiliaries)
experienced their most rapid growth on the West coast, it was only
natural for the Junior Auxiliaries to find their most fertile soil
on the shores of the Pacific. However, girl's groups also sprang up
in the East and Midwest. Only in the two Southern Districts, where
the organization of women's Chapters lagged behind the other
Districts, was there a slow building of girls' Chapters.
Following this pattern of moving from West to East, the first
District organization came into being in 1933. In that year, 10
West Coast Chapters met in Santa Cruz, California and established
the Western Conference of B'nai B'rith Auxiliaries. Age limits were
fixed at 15 to 21.In 1935, District 1, embracing the territory from
New York up through Eastern Canada, was organized. Most of the
chapters enrolled girls in high school and up, with a smaller
number consisting of members between 13 and 16 years of age.
District 6 followed shortly afterwards with girls' groups ranging
in age from 15 up to about 30. The District 6 girls benefited from
the talents and vitality of Mrs. Louis Perlman of Chicago who
became District chairman. Anita Perlman was to go on to become the
first National Chairman of B'nai B'rith Women, and later, the
Chairman of the B'nai B'rith Youth Commission. In those early days,
she had her hands full attempting to organize separate groups of
high school girls.
District 2 was the next to organize, beginning in 1937 with girls
in high school and up to 21 welcomed into their chapters.
In 1941 District 3 organized with girls ranging from high school
age up to 25; District 5 followed soon after with its first meeting
in 1944, though only the Southern part of the District was
represented at the time.
The last North American District organization came into the fold in
1945, when the Southwestern states of District 7 called their first
conference in Memphis, Tennessee.
Sponsorship by B'nai B'rith Women
Most of the early girl's chapters were sponsored by women's or
ladies' auxiliaries of the B'nai B'rith as they were then known.
The women provided the girls' Chapters with volunteer Advisors and
often scheduled joint programs. Some of the girls' groups adopted
the rituals of their sponsoring Chapters and some followed the
adult groups in the use of the word "sister."As soon as some of the
women's Districts came into being, they undertook sponsorship of
the Junior Auxiliaries on a District-wide basis. Some collected
dues from each girl and used this money to promote the girls'
programs; others made supplementary allocations to further the
District organization of the B'nai B'rith Girls. Today, B'nai
B'rith Women contribute a major portion of the money needed to
The girls' Chapters' future was tied to that of the B'nai B'rith
Women. It was difficult to form a national organization of girls
until there was a national organization of B'nai B'rith Women.
Although Women's Auxiliaries of the B'nai B'rith had been in
existence since 1897, they did not organize on a national basis
until 1940 when they formed the Women's Supreme Council.
Anita Perlman Becomes Chairman
At its very first meeting, the Women's Supreme Council, under the
leadership of its first president, Judge Lenore D. Underwood (later
Mills) of San Francisco, voted to establish a national girls'
program patterned after the AZA. Judge Underwood appointed Anita
Perlman as chairman of B'nai B'rith Girls.The Appointment of Anita
Perlman was certainly a positive step towards the future of the
many loosely organized Chapters of girls that were sprouting up in
virtually all parts of the country. Few women were ready to give as
much of themselves for the cause. Though many hands and hearts have
gone into the building of the girls' groups over a period of more
than five decades, no woman has put as much of herself into this
work as Anita Perlman. As soon as Anita Perlman received this
appointment, she carried on an amazingly large amount of
correspondence with leaders of B'nai B'rith Women, Advisors, and
officers of the girls' Chapters. In this first year, with a budget
of only $600 she was able to supply the girls' Chapters with an
Advisor's manual, a president's manual, a membership manual, and
Name Adopted in 1941
In the Spring of 1941, the Women's Supreme Council adopted the name
"B'nai B'rith Girls" and an upper age limit of 21 for all girls'
groups under B'nai B'rith sponsorship. There were now 117 junior
groups and 27 sub-junior groups with a total membership of about
7,000 girls.Although the number of groups and the number of members
continued to grow, it was generally believed that the time was not
yet ripe for the formation of a national organization of
The long awaited breakthrough finally occurred late in 1943 when
the AZA Supreme Advisory Council (the policy making body for AZA)
agreed to form a Youth Commission to govern both AZA and a new
national organization of BBG.
The National Organization of BBG officially began at a meeting
sponsored by the Women's Supreme Council April 22 and 23, 1944 at
the Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago. This first conference was
primarily one of adults. Indeed, it was a special meeting of the
Women's Supreme Council. However, there were present girls
representing each District with a BBG program.
The conference decided that the main objectives and general program
of activities of AZA be adopted in principle with modification
where necessary to meet the special needs of girls. It recommended
that AZA publications be edited so as to meet the needs of both
groups and called for the preparation of a uniform ritual for the
girls' Chapters. Future leadership training courses were to include
BBG as well as AZA officers and Advisors.
The conference agreed upon two divisions: B'nai B'rith Girls for
girls of high school age, and B'nai B'rith Young Women for girls
out of high school to the age of 25 years. (Later, the older group
became B'nai B'rith Young Adults and still later became coed units
of B'nai B'rith and B'nai B'rith Women.)
A few months later, on November 10, 1944, the newly recognized
national organization became a part of the B'nai B'rith Youth
Organization with the B'nai B'rith Youth Commission as the overall
governing body. The first charter was issued to San Francisco BBG
#1, successors of the first group of girls to form a permanent
Chapter of B'nai B'rith Girls. The next nine cities to receive
charters were Oakland, Calif., #2; Linda Strauss, Los Angeles,
Calif., #3; Harrisburg, Pa., #4 Highland Park, Los Angeles, Calif.,
#4 Judah, Worcester, Mass., #6; Lancaster, Pa., #7; Ramah, Chicago,
#8; Potsville, Pa., #9; and Homestead, Pa., #10.
Although AZA and BBG were now a part of the B'nai B'rith Youth
Organization, each continued to have its identity. Now, however,
the opportunities to work together increased chances to make
friends from around the world. At conventions, AZA and BBG members
had a chance to meet one another and to establish lasting
relationships. Many marriages have had their beginnings in
First National Convention
The first National Convention of the newly organized B'nai B'rith
Girls took place in Chicago, February 23-25, 1945. The meeting was
called to order by Anita Perlman, Chairman of the BBG Advisory
Board. Present were 20 delegates representing all seven Districts,
two BBG non delegated, six B'nai B'rith Women, five BBYO staff
members, and one male Youth Commissioner.Delegates to that first
convention agreed that the generally accepted AZA program of
"Five-Fold-and-Full" be the outline for BBG activities on a
national scale. They adopted the Menorah Pledge of citizenship,
Jewish heritage, community service, philanthropy, inter-faith
relations, devotion to home and good fellowship. The Menorah was
adopted as a BBG symbol and blue and white as the official colors.
Opening rituals were prepared, as well as ceremonies for
installations of officers and initiation of new members.
This first convention also voted to establish a college scholarship
fund in the name of Anita Perlman, in appreciation of her services
as first national chairman of BBG for the Women's Supreme Council.
Since then, the fund has been broadened to provide scholarships for
summer leadership training programs. Every BBG Chapter was expected
to contribute $5 to this scholarship fund. Before adjourning, the
girls elected as their first National President, Frieda Tischler of
At the second National Convention, held in Port Jervis, New York,
the girls ratified the constitution and by-laws which had been
formulated the previous year. It was at the third National
Convention, held at Camp Highpoint in Shokan, New York, that the
girls adopted the MIT (Members in Training) Program. At that same
convention, they rejected a proposal for future combined AZA and
BBG conventions. Since then, obviously things have changed and AZA
and BBG now hold their International Conventions
When the new B'nai B'rith Youth Organization was formed in 1944,
Julius Bisno became the Administrative Secretary of the Youth
Commission and Director of Boys' Work, while Mrs. Beatrice Chapman
was appointed Director of Girls' Work. The same dual type of
administration carried through to the Districts and Regions.In
1945, Mr. Bisno resigned to join the staff of the Los Angeles
Jewish Federation Council. At about the same time, Mrs. Chapman
resigned to assume family responsibilities. Miss Alice Elson was
selected to direct the work of BBG while Dr. Abram L. Sachar, then
National Director of the Hillel Foundations, also assumed the
position of National Director of BBYO. Late in 1948, Dr. Max F.
Baer, former Director of B'nai B'rith Vocational Service Bureau,
and a former assistant executive secretary of AZA, became
International Director of the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization. Upon
Dr. Baer's retirement in 1977 another AZA Alumnus, Dr. Sidney M.
Clearfield, formerly Assistant International Director for Field
Services, was appointed International Director.
Much of the strength of BBYO in the community can be attributed to
the fact that from its beginning the B'nai B'rith Youth Commission
had as its leaders major figures in the American Jewish community.
Its first chairman, Henry Monsky, served as President of B'nai
B'rith while chairing the Youth Commission. After his death, his
Chairmanship went to J.J. Lieberman of Los Angeles, who held
membership on the AZA Supreme Advisory Council and the Commission
for 47 years until his death in 1973. He was succeeded by Label
Katz of New Orleans, David M. Blumberg of Knoxville, Ben Barkin of
Milwaukee, Jack J. Spitzer of Seattle, and then—the woman
responsible for the formation of BBG as a national
organization—Anita Perlman. Following Anita were Horace A. Stern of
Philadelphia, Aaron Grossman of Youngstown, Ohio and Edward
Yalowitz of Chicago. Jack Spitzer, David Blumberg, and the late
Label Katz, together with AZA's first professional, Philip
Klutznick-- all AZA alumni—moved up to the presidency of B'nai
B'rith and held that position for some 20 out of 26 years. Anita
Perlman is a former International President of B'nai B'rith Women.
BBG's first alumna to become International President of B'nai
B'rith Women was Evelyn (Evie) Wasserstrom of Kansas City.
Leadership Training Begins
It soon became clear that BBYO, as a major force in the American
Jewish community, had an obligation to train youth men and women
for future key roles in that community.
An important development in the BBYO program began in 1955 when the
first intensive Leadership Training Institute was planned as an
integral part of the International Convention. Held at our own camp
in Starlight, Pennsylvania the institute has since stressed Judaism
and democratic leadership. Workshops have dealt with all aspects of
leadership, seminars have focused on issues of Jewish concern,
evening programs have been devoted to Israeli singing and dancing.
The BBYO International Leadership Training Program provides a warm
Jewish atmosphere in which AZA and BBG members learn what it takes
to be a leader. The program has met with overwhelming success. Many
regions now include similar activities in their own conventions,
and some have their own leadership training conference.
Twenty-two years later in 1977, with the acquisition of a second
camp (B'nai B'rith Beber Camp) in Mukwonago Wisc., a Chapter
Leadership Training Conference (CLTC) was established for the
purpose of preparing chapter leaders to effectively conduct
meetings and programs.
BBG and Israel
In 1956, the first BBYO Israel Summer Institute was held. Since
that time, over 2,500 BBYO members have participated in this unique
"audio-visual learning laboratory" in the Jewish State.
In the 1960s, BBYO expanded to the Jewish state with the adoption
of Noar Lenoar as our counterpart organization in Israel. Noar
Lenoar's primary focus is on service to disadvantaged Israeli
youth. It also renders volunteer services to adult institutions and
plays an important role in the defense and security of the Jewish
state. Annually, while North American BBYO'ers are in Israel,
members of Noar Lenoar travel to North America to participate in
joint programs with BBYO members in many communities, the
International Leadership Training conference, and the International
Convention. This two-way passage of youth leadership in Israel and
North America has become a notable example of BBYO's strong
continuing relationship to Israel. As Israel faced some of her
greatest crises during the 1960s and early 70's, BBYO members came
to her aid in increasing numbers.
In 1983, BBYO opened its first office in Continental Europe, in
Paris, France. Within two years, BBYO Chapters were started and are
now thriving in France, Spain, Belgium, Holland, Germany and
There are now many members of BBYO in England and Ireland. Chapters
of BBYO also function in Central America, South America, Australia
and South Africa.
This period also saw the beginnings of the BBYO Judaism Pamphlet
Series, a series of 18 concise, easy-to-read pamphlets, written by
top scholars in the Jewish community especially for Jewish
An Age of Change
In the late 60'S and early 70's—an age of social change-BBYO
intensified its social action programming and became more involved
in the world around it. BBG chapters expressed their viewpoints on
important issues, took action to improve the environment, and
campaigned to have the voting age lowered to 18. At the same time,
BBG began to recognize its obligation to future generations. In
conjunction with B'nai B'rith Women, BBG began a program entitled
"Operation Stork". This joint BBG-BBW program, originally conceived
by Anita Perlman, provided an opportunity for BBG and BBW Chapters
to become involved in prenatal care, education, and other such
services.The "Operation Stork" program was so successful that in
1972, it was revised and expanded to include AZA. The new program
was then labeled "Operation Yarusha". A cooperative program with
the March of Dimes, programs involve community educational
activities for prospective parents, and distribution of information
to other teens of such potential health dangers as drugs, VD, and
In 1971, the BBG International N'siah and convention S'ganit were
made full voting delegates with all rights and privileges at the
B'nai B'rith Women International Convention. That same year, the
B'nai B'rith International Convention made the Godol and N'siah of
each North American District and the Grand Aleph Godol and
International N'siah full voting delegates to all future
conventions. This expanded involvement of youth in decision making
in both B'nai B'rith and B'nai B'rith Women carried over to all
levels. B'nai B'rith Women Regional Conventions now include BBG
delegates and many B'nai B'rith Women Chapter have placed BBG
members on their Executive Committees.
At the 1974 International B'nai B'rith Convention, the link between
BBYO and the parent body became even firmer as AZA and BBG members
were placed on B'nai B'rith Commissions. Just as the B'nai B'rith
Youth Commission serves as the highest governing body for BBYO,
other B'nai B'rith agencies and departments have their own
BBG in the Eighties
1981 marked the beginning of a new stage in the history of BBG. In
a process initiated 13 years earlier, BBYO Districts were phased
out of operation.
Originally the District level had served to coordinate the
activities of the Regions comprising it, and to serve as a link to
the International Order. As jet travel replaced long, arduous train
and bus rides, communication and personal visits of the
International Officers increased. Also, where once the only
professional staff person working with BBYO members and Advisors
were the District Secretaries, now almost every Region has at least
one full-time Director; and many have one or two Assistant Regional
Directors as well.
As a result of the need to bring the Chapters and the International
level closer together, and to strengthen the Regional level, the
1977 International Convention voted to disband the Districts.
Succeeding International Conventions created and defined the new
structure of BBYO; and in 1981, the plan was initiated. Regions
related directly to the International level; and the International
Executive Board, the leadership of BBG, comprised the 4
International Officers, the N'siot of 37 North American Regions,
and the three overseas Districts.
In order to expand our BBG membership and service Junior High
School students, the Teen Connection program was created. The Teen
Connection program was designed for members to participate in
social, cultural, religious, community service, and athletic
activities. Many of our members joining BBG are graduates of the
Teen Connection program.
In the late 1980s, the Directions program was established to help
High School Juniors and Seniors explore their future educational
and professional goals. Both the Teen Connection and Direction
programs, unveiled during the 1980s, have established themselves in
communities all over North America with tremendous success.
BBG into the 90's
BBG entered the 1990s with all the spirit and excitement it held
throughout its previous decades. In 1989 the BBG added a fifth
International officer, that of the International Sh'licha. The
International Board now comprised five International officers (plus
the Madrichah), the Regional N'siot of 30 North-American Regions,
the Council N'siot of five additional regions, and the Overseas
District Presidents and Vice-Presidents. In 1990, AZA and BBG
members from around the world participated in The March of the
Living; a 3,000 youth mission to Poland and Israel. BBYO members
studied the Holocaust and the exodus to Israel. BBYO was the
largest organization represented on The March, and many of the
Holocaust programs held at Council and Regional conventions were
initiated by participants of this historic expedition. In the
summer of 1990 the first BBYO program was held in the Soviet Union.
A week long Kallah program was held in Leningrad and then again in
Birobidzhan. Over 200 Soviet Jewish youth attended and learned
about their Jewish history and culture.
BBG, indeed all of BBYO, has moved forward to become the largest
Jewish youth organization in the world. Leadership Training
Programs on all levels—Chapter, Council, Regional, and
International—have been intensified. BBG has come a long way since
those very early days when groups of girls in Seattle, New Jersey,
and San Francisco were searching for a central program, structure,
and organization. However, one factor remains constant. Friendship,
camaraderie, warmth, unity—whatever you choose to call
it—contribute to BBG's growth and development.
The new millennium has brought with it many changes for the B'nai
B'rith Youth Organization. The process to establish BBYO, Inc. as a
legally independent organization was completed in 2002. A new Board
of Directors consisting of representatives from B'nai B'rith
International, leading Jewish philanthropies, the United Jewish
Communities, and other community leaders assumed governance of
BBYO. The organization's international headquarters, along with
B'nai B'rith, moved locations for the first time in nearly 50
years.With more than 18,000 members and 80 years of experience,
BBYO continues to be one of the world's leading
trans-denominational Jewish teen movements. Through its long
history, BBYO has expanded around the globe, introduced new
programs and most important, touched hundreds of thousands of
Today, there are approximately 250,000 living BBYO alumni,
including many prominent figures in Jewish communal life, as well
as people of note in the business, political, academic and cultural
worlds. Key to the organization's success has been its
highly-effective leadership model - AZA and BBG. While BBYO will
continue to focus on its leadership development programs, the
organization's recent independence affords BBYO to forge a new
direction and adopt a much more expansive and transformational
approach to engaging Jewish teens.
Representing the Jewish community's largest pool of teens and most
likely catalyst for reaching the next tens of thousands, BBYO is in
the process of launching a rich array of innovative opportunities
designed to appeal to the widest possible teen audience through its
new website, b-linked.org. The new opportunities include services
to assist with college admission and help teens fulfill their
community service requirements, as well as vastly expanded travel
and social networking opportunities.
Through these new approaches, BBYO will increase significantly the
number of teens participating in meaningful Jewish experiences and
ultimately inspire them to live Jewish lives.
Past International Boards of the B'nai B'rith Girls
||Sara Rose Schwartz
||Elaine (Micki) Kaner
64th International Board of the B'nai B'rith Girls
- Lauren Shenfeld, Los Angeles, CA: 64th International
- Gabbi Baker, Columbia, SC: 64th International S'ganit
- Caroline Canning, Miami, FL: 17th International Aym-Ha
- Morgan Finkelstein, Sarasota, FL: 64th International
- Taylor Kent, Charlotte, NC: 20th International Sh'licha
- Renee Sharon, Charlotte, NC: 63rd International Madricha
65th International Board of the B'nai B'rith Girls
The five young women currently serving the highest offices in the
order for the 2009-2010 school year are as follows.
- Emily Trotz, Memphis, TN: 65th International N'siah
- Jeni Willenzik, Charlotte, NC: 65th International S'ganit
- Ilana Avergun, Washington, DC: 18th International Aym-Ha
- Mara Hahn, Knoxville, TN: 65th International Mazkirah
- Happie Hoffman, Memphis, TN: 21st International Sh'licha
In addition, the past president is customarily honored in the
position of Madricha.
- Lauren Shenfeld, Los Angeles, CA: 64th International
Information from BBYO.org
List of BBG Chapters
Main Article List of B'nai B'rith Girls
Northern East-DC Council -