South of Fresno and San Luis Obispo
B’nai B’rith has been present in Southern California for more than 150 years, since the founding of Paradise Lodge in San Bernardino. In 1863, Paradise and the other lodges in California and the other Western states and provinces formed District 4, headquartered in San Francisco, then the center of Jewish life in the West. By the second century of the District, Southern California’s Jewish population had grown to the point that the area had the majority of District 4’s members, and the district office moved to Los Angeles. Metropolitan Los Angeles is the nation’s second largest Jewish community, after New York.
When B’nai B’rith International reorganized the seven American regions into 18 regions in 1997, the new Southern California Region became one of the largest in the United States. Following a series of mergers in the region, there are currently 15 active lodges and units stretching from Santa Barbara to San Diego to Palm Springs to the Antelope Valley.
In addition to Jewish programming, these lodges and units continue to fulfill B’nai B’rith’s traditional mission of community service. The Southwest Coordinating Committee (formerly the Southwest Council) and many of the units support veterans in veterans’ hospitals in the region. The Greater San Fernando Valley Unit operates the Bagel Brigade, in which volunteers collect day-old bread, bagels, and pastries for distribution to needy students in area schools. Most of the units support local B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO) chapters and college campus Hillel Foundations, which were initially created by B’nai B’rith.
The Southern California Region is led by President Ted Toback and Vice President David Prihar.
President's Message - Hopes for the Future
By Ted Toback
When I assumed the presidency of this region, I had in my mind a group of hopes and expectations for this term of office. I did not reach for the sky and wish that all of the problems facing B’nai B’rith would go away due to one person.
The first hope was that all of the region’s lodges and units would communicate better with one another. The lifeline of our organization is to inform our members of what is happening not only on a local level, but on the national and international levels, as well. This is being done via emails to all presidents, past presidents, and interested members on a weekly basis. This does not solve the whole problem, but it is my hope that this information will be made available to the members at large.
The second hope was regarding how to secure new and younger men and women into B'nai B'rith. This has been an ongoing problem for many years. Without new blood infused into our lodges and units, many of these groups will fall by the wayside. Being a B’nai B’rith member myself for over 50 years, I surely do not want the oldest and largest Jewish service organization to falter. Going back to hope Number One, without communication, prospective new members are not made aware of the good that B’nai B’rith is doing, not only in the United States, but all over the world.
Hope Number three. Combining one and two, we must try and publicize B’nai B’rith activities in the local news media. Here in Southern California, for example, we have recently had newspaper and television coverage with one of the more successful ongoing programs in the Los Angeles area. The program is called the Bagel Brigade. This program consists of collecting day-old breads and pastries from local supermarkets and bagel outlets, and distributing them to students at the neediest schools in our area. This project supplies many children with the advantage of having something to eat in the morning. Without the coverage of the media, the general public would not know of the great job that its founder, Herman Berman, and his volunteers do every morning of every week.
Hope Number Four is that more programs that involve help to senior citizens are available through B’nai B’rith. These issues are already being addressed across the United States. Senior citizen housing programs are sprouting up all over, helping not only our Jewish senior citizens, but seniors of all races and color. Without a doubt, this is the most successful program developed by B’nai B’rith in many years.
But, without communication outside of B’nai B’rith, who knows of these projects? That is why the emphasis during my term in office is based mainly on getting the word out as to what great work B’nai B’rith is doing.
I hope that whoever reads this will look in the mirror and say, "How can I help?"
We are 165 years old, and we hope to be around for many more years to come so that our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will be able to avail themselves of the same things we are enjoying today, as members of B’nai B’rith.
I look forward to the next two years and to be able to report then, "Mission Accomplished."
Shalom from the West Coast,
Marina del Rey/Ketubah Cookbooks:
Cookbooks Chairperson Shirley Miller reports that the cookbooks are now on sale. The cookbooks are for your personal use and are ideal gifts for many occasions. The cost of each cookbook is $10.00 plus postage. For additional information and to order books, contact Shirley Miller at 310-821-6665.
B’nai B’rith Southern California Region will accept your old cars, motorcycles, and other vehicles as a donation, even if they are NOT in working condition. We will accept vehicles located anywhere in the Southern California Region. For more information, contact B'nai B'rith at 212-490-3290.
Bagel Brigade collects cell phones:
The Bagel Brigade collects any unneeded or used cell phones. This helps pay for wholesome breakfast cereals for school age children or poverty-stricken families, and we will pick up the phones. Contact Franny Sondermann at 818-776-0741.
B'nai B'rith Southern California
801 Second Avenue, 14th Floor
New York, NY 10017