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B'nai B'rith International

Originally called the Independent Order of B'nai B'rith, which is Hebrew for the "Sons of the Covenant," the order was established in New York City on October 13, 1843, by twelve German Jewish immigrants. It originally used six degrees, regalia, secret passwords, hand signs and grips, but these have long since been discontinued. Members of the B'nai B'rith participated in fraternal regalia in the funeral procession of President Andrew Jackson in 1845.

The order originally conducted its meetings in the German language, and its founders drew heavily from the Masonic Fraternity and the Odd Fellows in its ritual and lodge meeting system. It no longer conducts its meetings in German or uses degrees, and has discontinued much of its ritual.

The order is organized in lodges for men and also has chapters for women, and has 250,000 members in 55 countries throughout the world. It is now called
B'nai B'rith International, and is headquartered in Washington, DC.

United Order of True Sisters

This order for Jewish women was founded in 1846 in New York City by Henrietta Bruckman, the wife of a prominent New York physician. It was the first women's order founded in the United States that was strictly for women, and not affiliated with any male fraternal orders.

The orders still uses secret ritual, degrees and regalia. Initially, the order conducted its lodge meetings and business in German. In 1892, the first English language lodge was created. In 1918, the use of German was discontinued by the order. Its Grand Lodge headquarters are in New York City.

Free Sons of Israel

This order is the oldest national Jewish fraternal order still in existence. It was founded in New York City on January 10, 1849, by a group of men who were Masons and Odd Fellows. Its motto is "Friendship, Love and Truth." It still uses regalia, passwords, ritual and is organized in lodges governed by a Grand Lodge.

The order was originally called the Independent Order of Free Sons of Israel, and admits both men and women, 18 years of age or older, into its ranks.

Order of B'rith Abraham

This Jewish men's fraternal order was first established in New York City on June 12, 1859. It was organized in a lodge system and provided fraternal benefits to its members such as funeral, sick and death benefits to survivors of members.

The order suffered a schism in 1887, when several lodges felt that the governing body of the order was incompetent. The breakaway branch formed the "Independent Order of B'rith Abraham". This branch is no longer in existence today, as it merged with the B'nai Zion in 1981. The parent body is now defunct also.

Independent Order of the Sons of Benjamin

This Jewish men's fraternal order was first established in New York City in 1877. It utilized a secret ritual form of initiation for new members, and was headquartered in New York City. It was founded by members of the Order of B'rith Abraham, the Masonic Fraternity and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and incorporated some of their ceremonial into their order.

The order also established lodges strictly for women. The order is now defunct.

Independent Order of Sons of Abraham

This Jewish fraternal order was founded in New York City in 1892. It was founded by three men, one a Mason, one a member of the Sons of Benjamin, and the other a member of the Order of B'rith Abraham.

The order admitted both men and women into its ranks, and was established in Manhattan and Brooklyn. It offered fraternal benefits to its membership, such as funeral, death and sick payments.


The B'Nai Zion, or Hebrew for the "Sons of Zion," is a fraternal benefit life insurance society that was originally founded as the "Order of the Sons of Zion" for Jewish men in 1908 in New York City. It was primarily composed of  Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, such as Poland and Russia, when it was first organized. The organization adopted its present title in 1945. It operates as a standard ethnic fraternal life insurance society, promoting Jewish causes as well as providing insurance to its members. In 1981, the organization absorbed the Independent Order of B'rith Abraham. The organization publishes the quarterly B'nai Zion Voice as its journal.

A special "Thanks" Brother Denis P. McGowan who provided the history of these Orders. Brother Denis P. McGowan is a dedicated fraternalist and student of the history of American fraternal organizations.

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