The B'nai B'rith Bagel Brigade
My name is Jerry Magel and I have been a member of B’nai B’rith for over 50 years. I’ve been through the AZA movement, I’ve been through B’nai B’rith Young Adults, and in the early 1970s, I got involved with B’nai B’rith in Woodland Hills, California.
I’ve become Lodge President and about 12 years ago, I got involved with The Bagel Brigade; which had started about 10 years prior. The Bagel Brigade was founded by Herman Berman. Its thrust is to collect bakery and pastry products, put them in bags, and take them to elementary schools – specifically in low-income areas on Monday to Friday – and on weekends, we take the same products to local shelters and foodbanks since schools are closed.
The Bagel Brigade is operated by 150 volunteers -- 7 days a week, 365 days a year. No matter what the weather conditions are. We have another group of volunteers that picks up in the evenings and donates directly to different locations the next morning.
We operate this program also where get donated funds and we purchase milk and cereal. We take them to a distribution center for LA Unified Schools, low income schools, so they can distribute them to schools in the San Fernando Valley – specifically elementary schools – so children who do not receive a proper breakfast every morning will have something in their stomach to help them learn as the day goes on.
I THINK I LOVE MY JOB…
I have been on staff with B’nai B’rith since June 1987, but a part of the B’nai B’rith “Family” since 1957. As a new resident of Michigan, I thought a good way to make friends, was to join a woman’s bowling league, so I did and then became a member of “B’nai B’rith Women.” While bowling I did make new friends and I got involved in the organization’s community services projects. Then I got involved in their International Bowling Association. Bowling in their tournaments afforded me the opportunity to visit different cities and make even more friends. When Michigan got to host the tournament, my parody writing skills were put to work, co-writing and producing the Detroit Bowling Association’s shows for their night of entertainment. That led to becoming the President of B’nai B’rith Women in Metro Detroit in 1984.
As President of BBW, I got to work with the leadership of B’nai B’rith, so when the position of Director of the Metro Detroit Men’s Council opened, I was encouraged to apply for the job. I applied, was interviewed, and based on my experience in the volunteer world, got the job as the first female executive to be employed by a then all men’s organization. My colleagues, in the other 17 councils across the country, were men. At that time there were only a few women in B’nai B‘rith, in the peer group units, so I found myself in a “man’s world” under a microscope having to prove myself every day.
As Council Director, my focus at that time was strictly on MEMBERSHIP and PROGRAMMING. Those were the days when the tag line for BB was “The larger the membership, the louder the voice when the International President speaks out on behalf of Jews everywhere.” And I believed…”If there were no BB, someone would invent it tomorrow”.
When B’nai B’rith Women, became their own organization - JWI (Jewish Women International), B’nai B’rith changed from “Sons of the Covenant” to “Children of the Covenant” and members were encouraged to bring their wives into their units and socialize under the banner of B’nai B’rith. This would go a long way to strengthen the organization and its mission, and to guarantee its existence for the next generation..
In those days I can remember telling my family and friends…”if you want to see more of me…join BB”…and many of them took me up on it…and I am proud to say, many even took leadership roles.
Because of my position, I feel I owe B’nai B’rith a great deal. It afforded me the privilege of meeting and partnering with many important professional and lay leaders in the community. It rewarded me with many lifelong friends and colleagues here in Michigan and throughout the Mid-West. It has given me the opportunity to do “feel good work” that provides the much needed “people power” in our community while promoting the mission of B’nai B’rith. And because of my position, I learned computer skills, got to travel, and above all got “on the job training” to earn my “unofficial” Masters Degree in Social Work!
It has been said…”if you LOVE WHAT YOU DO, IT’S NOT WORK." Well, I SURE LOVE WHAT I DO…so I guess it’s not work! (but if you tell my boss I…I’ll deny I ever said it.)
LOOKING FOR MY COUSIN PLEASE…
One day I received a mail from Monique, a B’nai B’rith member from Paris, who is also my very good friend. She received a call for help from her very good friend Irene living in Grenoble (near the Alps). Irene had a very good friend in Melbourne (Australia), Anita, who hadn’t heard news from her cousin living in Nice for months. She had tried everything, including the police, with no results. This is how it arrived to me, living in Nice.
Edith Silber was living alone at the 9 Marechal Foch in Nice. She has had health problems, broke her leg months ago, had to be in a clinic, and the last words she said to her cousin was that she was going to a nursing home near Nice.
As the climate of Nice is wonderful, there are many aged people who come for retirement, and of course many nursing homes.
At first I called the two Jewish nursing homes in Nice but they didn’t know her. Then I called a member of my lodge who is working at Social Security to see if she could find some information. Yes, she found her: she saw she was born in 1931 and made a 2-months stay in a clinic, leaving in May. I immediately called the clinic: the answer was not great as by phone they didn’t want to give any information. And they added that family only could meet the doctor and get the information.
So I tried another way. It happened that at the same address, 9 Marechal Foch in Nice, I knew a couple who were members of B'nai B'rith… I tried to call them but nobody answered. It is summertime and people are on holiday. So I sent a mail and waited.
The answer came very quickly. Josiane was on holiday in Israel, but of course she knew Edith and gave me the names of neighbors who were very close to her. I called one of the neighbors, who said he didn’t know where she was, but she had her sister coming to pick up her mail in the mail box.
Meanwhile I gave the information to Anita, who was very pleased to learn her cousin was alive, and we were trying very hard to find her. But she said she didn’t have any sister… Who was that person? It was a mystery.
And suddenly I had a great idea: as someone was coming to pick up the mail, the easy way was to write a message and put it in the mail box, so I did.
The day after, I was delighted to receive a phone call from a lady, who told me she found the message. She gave me the name of the nursing home where Edith was staying, and I sent the information to Anita who was very happy.
I thought my mission was fulfilled as two days later, I received a phone call from… Edith!
She was so nice I decided to visit her, and so I would give full news to the cousin!
The nursing home was 30 km from Nice, in a mountainous region, which is a very nice place during summer time compared to Nice, which was so hot. I t looked to me as a good place to live, well organized with medical services. As I knocked at the door, I was welcomed by a charming old lady, unhappily walking with much difficulty. She looked very happy from the little plant with colored flowers I brought her, and then we started to talk.
She told me about her life, not a very easy life considering her age.
Anita was delighted to learn all these news, and happy to have a phone number to call her. As we talked thru mails, I learnt… she was also a member of B'nai B'rith in Melbourne!
And I have been delighted and very moved to have been a little something in that chain of BBI friendship to help find Edith.
I am a survivor who was four years old when I arrived in the U.S. with my parents in December 1938 from Germany. An uncle brought us over, who left Germany at age 19 almost 20 years prior.
Welcome to the new BB(and)I Blog!
By way of a virtual introduction, I'm a second generation Jewish American. My grandfather immigrated to the United States from Eastern Europe during World War II with his mother, one of his sisters, and $15 -- collectively between them -- in their pockets. As they passed through the gates of Ellis Island they would start a new life in New York City. A metropolis in a country that would offer safety and sanctuary for my family. A land that would also provide untold opportunities.
My grandfather has always been my role model. He taught me chess at a very young age. Those lessons have since become a metaphor to working hard for what I wanted most in life and setting a game-plan to achieve my goals.
Today, I am thankful to serve as the Digital Media Strategist for B'nai B'rith International. A goal that I set to turn my career into something that makes an impact for the global Jewish community and for the country that gave my family a home. A job at an organization that provided a network for my family when they came to America. An organization that provides humanitarian aid and community support for many families like my own when they are in need.
I hope to learn about your story and how B'nai B'rith International has impacted your life; and you have impacted B'nai B'rith.