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.