The Independent Order of B'nai B'rith (IPA: ; Hebrew: בני ברית, "Sons of the Covenant") is the oldest continually-operating Jewish service organization in the world. It was founded in New York City by Henry Jones and 11 others on October 13, 1843.
The organization is engaged in a wide variety of community service and welfare activities, including the promotion of Jewish rights, assisting hospitals and victims of natural disasters, awarding scholarships to Jewish college students, and opposing anti-Semitism and racism through its Center for Human Rights and Public Policy. The organization's main body is B'nai B'rith International, the entity that works with hundreds of countries around the world to increase the welfare of resident Jews.
Besides its welfare activities, B'nai B'rith is also a vocal supporter of Israel. Together with AIPAC, it created in 2002 an initiative called 'BBYO 4 Israel.'
Also, until 2001, B'nai B'rith sponsored the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization (BBYO), which is now BBYO, Inc. BBYO, an organization for high school-age Jewish teens, was founded in 1923, and comprises the boys' order, Aleph Zadik Aleph (AZA), and the girls' order, B'nai B'rith Girls (BBG).
B'nai B'rith International bestows various recognitions and awards, including its Presidential Gold Medal awarded every few years to honor the recipient's commitment to the Jewish people and the State of Israel
. Recipients have included David Ben Gurion
, John F. Kennedy
, George H.W. Bush
, Stephen Harper
, and Golda Meir
. In November 2005, the Gold Medal was given to former Austrian chancellor Franz Vranitzky
, and in May 2006, it was awarded to Australian Prime Minister John Howard
''See B'nai Brith Canada
Location of source materials for research on B'nai B'rith
The Western Jewish History Center, of the Judah L. Magnes Museum, in Berkeley, California
has a large collection of historical records and papers, membership ledgers, correspondence, reports, and photographs that document the history of B'nai B'rith's Grand District Number Four (which included the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington, as well as the Canadian Province of British Columbia) for the years 1963–92.