B’nai B’rith Women Rap Bbi Plans to Open Its Membership to Women

The president of the B’nai B’rith Women (BBW), Beverly Davis, has reacted to plans of the parent B’nai B’rith International (BBI) to open its membership to women with a blunt warning that “we will take all steps necessary to preserve our independence and our membership.”

A resolution containing that proposal was adopted at the B’nai B’rith International convention last week. Davis said the 37 BBW delegates to the convention “came to the convention with a mandate given them by BBW leadership in 33 cities across the country, urging a firm stand in opposition to the resolution.” She added that “we have fulfilled our mandate by making opposition clear.”

In her statement, Davis said the BBW is “an independent Jewish women’s organization, with its own program and priorities,” which “has served and will continue to serve as a respected and important voice for Jewish women.”

She asserted that when a woman joins BBW “she knows she will be adding her voice to those of 120,000 members to speak for issues of importance to her as a Jewish woman,” adding that “it is only by joining a women’s organization like BBW that a (Jewish) woman can be assured of having her concerns adequately addressed.”

Davis had raised the issue in the June/July issue of Women’s World, the official BBW publication, in her page one President’s Column, in which she reported on the wording of the resolution she declared would be presented at the BBI convention in September.

According to Davis, the resolution read: “Commencing January 1, 1987, full and equal membership in B’nai B’rith shall be made available in accordance with a plan that shall be presented for approval at the next international convention of B’nai B’rith in 1986.”

A resolution embodying that proposal was approved at the BBI convention last week but the B’nai B’rith has not yet officially released the resolution. A B’nai B’rith spokesman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that it will be released as soon as the wording is checked out, possibly by the end of the week.

In her column, Davis asserted she had attended a May meeting of the BBI Board of Governors, as a BBW representative, and that BBI president Gerald Kraft had discussed the matter in terms which led her to believe that “the resolution could lead to the complete integration of B’nai B’rith and B’nai B’rith Women above the chapter, lodge and unit level.”

She asserted that “the net effect” of such “integration” could be “the subordination of all that B’nai B’rith Women has struggled for and achieved through the years, and BBW’s eventual elimination as an independent Jewish women’s organization.”

Kraft has denied that the proposal was intended to bring about the destruction of B’nai B’rith Women.

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