WASHINGTON (Apr. 10)
Climaxing several years of public exchanges, the executive board of B’nai B’rith Women (BBW) has approved a resolution calling for the development of a plan to terminate BBW’s present affiliate relationship with B’nai B’rith International (BBI), according to Beverly Davis, BBW president.
The resolution was adopted in response to a proposal approved last fall by the BBI to admit women into its generally all-male lodges and chapters. BBW officials publicly assailed the BBI action as a threat to BBW’s status as “an independent Jewish, women’s organization,” adding that it was “important” that the organization’s identity “remain intact.”
Davis said that language was included in a “Platform of Purpose” for the agency adopted at a 1978 BBW convention. She said the proposed plan for disaffiliation will be presented to a special Delegate Assembly, to be convened in Chicago June 30-July 1 and that a final plan of action will be presented to the delegates to the next BBW biennial convention in Las Vegas in March, 1986.
After the executive board vote, Davis said “BBW has been moving in this direction for a long time.” She said BBW leaders will devote the next several months to discussions with members about the potential of a new organization.
A series of “town hall” meetings have been scheduled in 50 cities to poll the BBW members and obtain their views about a separate and new Jewish women’s organization, Davis reported. In addition, 18 regional conferences have been scheduled in major cities to explore organizational options with regional leaders, she added. She said BBW currently has more than 120,000 members in 834 chapters.
The action of BBI which brought the long-simmering controversy to a head was adoption at a BBI convention last September of a resolution calling on Gerald Kraft, BBI president, to set up a special committee to develop a plan for “full and equal membership” for women to be submitted to the 1986 BBI convention.
Daniel Thursz, BBI executive vice president, said at the September convention that implementing the plan would require a constitutional amendment approved by two-thirds of the delegates at the 1986 convention.
He added that section 145 of the BBI constitution specifies that “members of B’nai B’rith lodges must be men of Jewish faith, of good moral character and at least 18 years of age.” He said the projected amendment would likely replace “men” with “persons.”
‘THESE HAVE BEEN INJUSTICES’
Seymour Reich, BBI senior vice president, who was acting chairman of the study committee which proposed acceptance of woman, said the committee treated the issue as one of male bias against women members.
Reich declared that “the fact that women have not been admitted to membership in B’nai B’rith in the United States for 141 years does not make it right. At worst these have been injustices; at best, they have been cultural lags. There is no valid reason for B’nai B’rith to continue its anachronistic membership policy.”
Kraft, responding to the concerns voiced by BBW leaders, said there was no intention on the part of BBI to eliminate BBW as an independent Jewish women’s organization.