B'nai B'rith International

Originally called the Independent Order of B'nai B'rith, which is Hebrew for the "Sons of the Covenant," the order was established in New York City on October 13, 1843, by twelve German Jewish immigrants. It originally used six degrees, regalia, secret passwords, hand signs and grips, but these have long since been discontinued. Members of the B'nai B'rith participated in fraternal regalia in the funeral procession of President Andrew Jackson in 1845.

The order originally conducted its meetings in the German language, and its founders drew heavily from the Masonic Fraternity and the Odd Fellows in its ritual and lodge meeting system. It no longer conducts its meetings in German
or uses degrees, and has discontinued much of its ritual.

The order is organized in lodges for men and also has chapters for women, and has 250,000 members in 55 countries throughout the world. It is now called
B'nai B'rith
International, and is headquartered in Washington, DC.

United Order of True Sisters

This order for Jewish women was founded in 1846 in New York City by Henrietta Bruckman, the wife of a prominent New York physician. It was the first women's order founded in the United States that was strictly for women, and not affiliated with any male fraternal orders.

The orders still uses secret ritual, degrees and regalia. Initially, the order conducted its lodge meetings and business in German. In 1892, the first English language lodge was created. In 1918, the use of German was
discontinued by the order. Its Grand Lodge headquarters are in New York City.

Free Sons of Israel

This order is the oldest national Jewish fraternal order still in existence.  It was founded in New York City on January 10, 1849, by a group of men who were Masons and Odd Fellows. Its motto is "Friendship, Love and Truth." It
still uses regalia, passwords, ritual and is organized in lodges governed by a Grand Lodge.

The order was originally called the Independent Order of Free Sons of Israel, and admits both men and women, 18 years of age or older, into its ranks.

Order of B'rith Abraham

This Jewish men's fraternal order was first established in New York City on June 12, 1859. It was organized in a lodge system and provided fraternal benefits to its members such as funeral, sick and death benefits to survivors of members.

The order suffered a schism in 1887, when several lodges felt that the governing body of the order was incompetent. The breakaway branch formed the "Independent Order of B'rith Abraham".  This branch is no longer in existence today, as it merged with the B'nai Zion in 1981. The parent body is now defunct also.

Independent Order of the Sons of Benjamin

This Jewish men's fraternal order was first established in New York City in 1877. It utilized a secret ritual form of initiation for new members, and was headquartered in New York City. It was founded by members of the Order of
B'rith Abraham
, the Masonic Fraternity and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and incorporated some of their ceremonial into their order.
The order also established lodges strictly for women. The order is now defunct.

  Independent Order of Sons of Abraham

This Jewish fraternal order was founded in New York City in 1892. It was founded by three men, one a Mason, one a member of the Sons of Benjamin, and the other a member of the Order of B'rith Abraham.

The order admitted both men and women into its ranks, and was established in Manhattan and Brooklyn. It offered fraternal benefits to its membership, such as funeral, death and sick payments.


The B'Nai Zion, or Hebrew for the "Sons of Zion," is a fraternal benefit life insurance society that was originally founded as the "Order of the Sons of Zion" for Jewish men in 1908 in New York City. It was primarily composed of  
Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, such as Poland and Russia, when it was first organized. The organization adopted its present title in 1945. It operates as a standard ethnic fraternal life insurance society, promoting Jewish causes as well as providing insurance to its members. In 1981, the organization absorbed the Independent Order of B'rith Abraham. The organization publishes the quarterly B'nai Zion Voice as its journal.

A special "Thanks" Brother Denis P. McGowan who provided the history of these Orders.  Brother Denis P. McGowan is a dedicated fraternalist and student of the history of American fraternal organizations.

Independent Order of B’nai B’rith
District Grand Lodge of Great Britain and Ireland.
Ritual of the Constituent Lodges


Opening the Lodge.

Signal to rise.
Brethren, we are again assembled to exemplify the teachings of the Independent Order of B’nai B’rith. Brother Vice-President, how can the brethren best carry into practice the principles of the Order?
By remaining constant to our motto: "Benevolence, Brotherly Love and Harmony." We are to work and watch, learn and teach, seek peace and pursue it.
Brethren, these precepts we are admonished to observe, not only while in the Lodge, but in our every-day life; and your presence manifests your desire to promote the purposes of our Order. Brethren, I request your assistance i1i this work. Be mindful of your obligations: BENEVOLENCE, BROTHERLY LOVE and HARMONY.
In beginning our labours we implore that Divine Aid which Israel has called to its support for ages past. The Monitor will invoke God’s blessing.
All-Powerful and All-Merciful God, we pray Thee to grant Thy blessing upon the work before us. May it be a work of Brotherly Love and Benevolence. Hear our supplication in behalf of the oppressed, the sick, the widow and the orphan. Heal, console and protect them - in Thy mercy. Enlighten us with the understanding of Thy law, lead us in the path of truth and righteousness, and grant us Harmony. Amen.
I now declare the … Lodge open for the transaction of business.
Signal to be seated.


Initiation of Members.

The Officers of the Lodge place themselves by the side of the President.
Brethren, again a fellow-Jew seeks admission into our Brotherhood. A new link is to be added to our fraternal chain.
To the Candidate:
Will the candidate come forward. My friend, I direct your careful attention to the principles and purposes of our Order. The Independent Order of B’nai B’rith has taken upon itself the task of uniting Israelites in the work of promoting their highest interests and those of humanity, of supporting science and art, of practising philanthropy, of alleviating the wants of the poor and needy, visiting and attending the sick, coming to the rescue of victims of persecution, and protecting and assisting the widow and the orphan.
Before proceeding with your initiation into this Order, it wilt be necessary that you pledge yourself to obey its laws and to further its aims to the best of your ability. Are you willing to make such a pledge?
Candidate answers.
Brethren, I call upon you to witness this candidate’s solemn pledge.
Place your right hand upon your heart. On your honour as a Jew, do you solemnly promise to abide by the laws and regulations of the Order and of this Lodge of which you are now to become a member? Do you promise to promote the principles and purposes of the Order? Do you promise to defend and protect the fair name of Judaism?
To all this, do you pledge your honour?
Candidate answers:
I do.
I shall now direct your attention to the emblem of the Order.
The Menorah has been made the emblem of the Order of B’nai B’rith, and in each Lodge we find its counterpart. The seven branched Menorah stood in the first Tabernacle erected to the worship of God, and in the Temple of the Holy City.
The Menorah is typical of the Mission of Israel which is to fill the world with the light of the Divine Truth. Each branch symbolises a noble ideal.

The President lights the first light of the Menorah, commencing from the right:
"In the beginning ... darkness was upon the face of the deep … and God said, Let there be light, and there was light." (Gen. 1, 3.) This was the decisive act of creation. It fashioned the Universe and made it brilliant and warm with light. Since that first day nature testifies to a living God.

Vice-President, lighting the second light:
"Justice, justice shalt thou pursue." (Deut. 16, 20.) Justice upholds the world and orders the affairs of men.

Monitor, lighting the third light:
"And the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness quietness and confidence forever." (Is. 32, 17.) The work of man and the enjoyment of the fruits of his labour require the guarantee of peace.
My brother, these three symbols Justice and Peace, are represented by one arm of the Menorah the other arm President points to the three lights on the left is dedicated to the three virtues which make up the Order’s motto: BENEVOLENCE, BROTHERLY LOVE AND HARMONY.

Treasurer, lighting the fifth light from the right, omitting the centre light, which is the last one to be lighted:
"He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed, for he giveth of his bread to the poor." (Pro. 22, 9.) In various ways each of us can render some service unto his fellow- men.

Brotherly Love.
Vice-President, lighting the sixth light, omitting the centre light:
"Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." (Lev. 19, 18.) Brotherly love leads us to labour for others, and to contribute to their happiness; and in the exercise of this virtue we realize the common fatherhood of God and the common brotherhood of man.

Monitor, lighting the seventh light, omitting the centre light:
"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" (Ps. 133, 1.) Harmony is the strength of a people. This spirit has given unto Israel the power of its past and the promise of its future.

President, lighting the centre, or fourth, light:
"The seal of the Holy One, blessed be He, is Truth". (Rabbinic Saying) Without Truth, no labour has value, no word has credence, no talent has power. Israel has borne the banner of truth in the dark ages of the world’s ignorance, and its mission still is to hold this banner firmly aloft.
I shall now impart to you the signs, signals and passwords of a Ben B’rith, which you shall guard as a means of identification of membership. The password is: … President gives the password.
It was the injunction to Abraham to become a blessing—a blessing to himself and to mankind.
There is also a travelling password by means of which you can gain entrance into sister Lodges, and which will be communicated to you by the President when required.
The signal of admission is given thus —The signal of salutation, which on entering or leaving the Lodge you are requested to give to the President, is given in this manner President shows the signal.
This is the sign of recognition. President gives the sign.
The signal of admission is also the signal for the brethren to rise — it reminds us of the three cardinal principles of the Order: BENEVOLENCE, BROTHERLY LOVE and HARMONY.
This — is the signal to be seated and is also the call to order.
My brother, while in every fraternal organisation it is customary that there shall be some ceremony of initiation, this Order is not dependent on rites to captivate the imagination. Its purpose is to cultivate the sentiment of common brotherhood and to promote lofty conceptions of Jewish obligations.
I address you now as a member of the Independent Order of B’nai B’rith—Sons of the Covenant. This, our name, reminds us of the covenant made between God and Abraham and between God and his people on Sinai, when the divine words were addressed to Israel: "And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests and a holy people," a priesthood to proclaim a divine mission, exclaiming with one voice, amidst trials and sufferings, even in the face of death itself: "Hear, O Israel. the Lord our God, the Lord is One."
Dispersed throughout the world, Israel has diffused the knowledge of God and preserved the truth of Judaism amidst the overthrow of peoples and the destruction of nations.
My brother, light, represented by the Menorah, is the symbol of our Order. By becoming a member of the B’nai B’rith you have undertaken to tend this light, the light of faith, justice and truth.
My brother, as a Ben Brith (B’nai B’rith) the honour of Israel is in your keeping, as a member of our Order, you should spread faith, justice and truth, until all nations will proclaim "The Lord is One and His name is One." I now invoke upon you and upon the brethren here assembled the benediction which the High Priest invoked upon Israel: "May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His countenance to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May ,the Lord turn His countenance toward you and give you peace."
President: This, my brother, completes the ceremony of your initiation and constitutes you a member of the … Lodge. It should be your endeavour to attend our meetings regularly, to associate yourself with the work of the Order, and to perform to the best of your ability those duties which devolve upon you as a Ben Brith (B’nai B’rith).
President gives name of candidate:
I now take great pleasure in introducing you to the brethren of the Lodge.
The President mentions the name of each initiate, shakes hands with him and gives him the grip of recognition.

Closing the Lodge.

Signal to rise.
Brother Vice-President, the business of this Meeting is ended; proceed to close the Lodge.
Vice-President: Brethren, we entered the Lodge with the earnest purpose of promoting the objects of our Order. Let us, on leaving, endeavour to carry them into practice.
Brethren, attend while the Monitor invokes God’s blessing on our parting.
Heavenly Father, we again implore Thy blessing. Strengthen us by Thy spirit so that we may practise throughout our lives BENEVOLENCE, BROTHERLY LOVE and HARMONY.
I now declare the … Lodge closed until our next meeting.

Signal to close.





Museum Home Page     Phoenixmasonry Home Page

Copyrighted © 1999 - 2019   Phoenixmasonry, Inc.      The Fine Print