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January 24, 1986 - Image 26

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-01-24

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

26 Friday, January 24, 1986

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

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service, social, religious, athletic and
cultural activities. Summer in Israel in-
stitutes and weekend retreats at the youth
camps in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are
clearly the highlights of the program.
Sidney Clearfield, international director,
says BBYO is responsive to the parent
organization not only out of gratitude for
funding. "BBYO leadership youth have
votes on the (BBI) board of governors," he
points out. "In the executive session there
are no staff present, but the kids are. They
have seats on the commissions and 18 of
them are at the convention that votes for
(BBI) president." In fact, the youth have
"more constitutional power than Hillel
because of the membership structure."
B'nai B'rith Women, with 120,000
members roughly the same age as B'nai
B'rith men, began 87 years ago as an aux-
iliary of the men's group. Today, to carry
the family metaphor further, it is obvious-
ly the liberated, outspoken "wife." Hav-
ing struggled for financial and
philosophical independence, BBW is feel-
ing increasingly hampered in a possibly
outdated "marriage." The women's une-
qual status of by-gone days is still
reflected in the B'nai B'rith bureaucracy,
which permits ten women to sit on the
100-member board of governors.
After three years of back-and-forth on
the issue, BBI last year issued a resolution
permitting women to join B'nai B'rith in
the U.S., independently of BBW. BBW
feared that meant "take-over" and
responded by recommending total separa-
tion. That recommendation was later
withdrawn, but was reinstated by a joint
committee and voted on at the 1986 con-
vention. Three years of battling have

Rabbi Sam Fishman

Associate National
Director of Hillel

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Hillel was established
not as "a functional arm
of B'nai B'rith but as a
BBI charity, and it just
outgrew B'nai B'rith's
capacity to support it."

B'nai B'rith Hillel/Jewish
Association of College Youth
members help spruce up a
New York Lower East Side
synagogue as one of their
many community service
activities.

created their share of bad blood. Says
Gerald Kraft, "the approach seems to be
that if they can discredit the president of
B'nai B'rith, they can win points. There
are a lot of rumors about what I did and
didn't say."
Beverly Davis, president of BBW, is
strongly against integration. Speaking
with clear disdain about the time when the
women "served coffee at BBI functions,"
Davis says that BBW has finally prioritiz-
ed women's issues and made a place for
itself among other Jewish women's
organizations. She is adamant that it
"would never have as much strength be-
ing part of BBI." Though Davis feels in-
dependence has strengthened BBW, the
struggle seems to have left a touch of
paranoia, judging from her refusal to state
an operating budget ($3 million), and by
the fact that a staff member's interview
was cancelled by higher-ups. To date, the
men's and women's groups have booked
separate sites for the '88 convention.
BBI wants to keep BBW in the family
for reasons of tradition, pride and image.
On a nuts and bolts level, a separation
wouldn't help with BBI's membership and
financial problems, either.
Max Baer, a 51-year veteran of B'nai
B'rith and currently its consultant on

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