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Lodges: A Move Toward Electronic Bonding

March 05, 1995

As a life member of B'nai B'rith, the world's largest Jewish fraternal order, your Feb. 19 cover story ("Lodging Some Concerns") hit a responsive chord.

Organized in 1843 by 12 concerned German Jews to meet the needs, differences and schisms between immigrant Jews coming from Europe in great numbers at that time, they created the "Sons of the Covenant" to "unite Israelites in the work of promoting their interests and those of humanity."

In cities across the country, and wherever Jews gathered in goodly numbers, including Palestine--today's Israel--the bonding took place in lodge halls and work began to provide services. They helped build synagogues, schools, took care of orphans and widows, hospitals and acted in behalf of Jews where oppressed and in need of succor. In time these services become community programs, e.g., Congregation B'nai B'rith became the Wilshire Boulevard Temple.

Prior to World War II, B'nai B'rith organized the Anti-Defamation League to fight "defamation of the Jew," created B'nai B'rith Youth and Hillel to provide direction and outlets for Jewish youngsters in local clubs and on the college campus. Rabbis acted as "chaplains" and "counselors" on the college campus.

When World War II ended, B'nai B'rith prospered as the lodge became a social outlet. Newlyweds and families developed friendships, enjoyed lectures and speakers on timely topics, and joined in community services.

The Vietnam War and television brought a big change in our social outlets. The need for togetherness found self-gratification in a culture that brought forth loss of self in mass hypnosis, cults, alcohol and drugs, and violence.

New economic opportunities, integration and assimilation lessened the need for "unity" on American Jewish issues. The exception was Israel. The new state needed political support. But in time, politics and volunteerism have weakened unity. We now live in a competitive jungle of fund raising, ignoring waste in duplication. And where I becomes more important than We .

This has led B'nai B'rith to move away from the lodge concept to special interests. It may work. But I question it. People need people, especially as we move into the telecommunication culture that stresses individualism over group.

The highest purposes of humanity can't be achieved by electronic bonding. It takes a human touch. That comes in group activity: the family, the fraternal order, church/synagogue/mosque--or whatever you name the human association.

HYMAN H. HAVES, Pacific Palisades

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