BRITH ABRAHAM , fraternal order founded on June 12, 1859, in New York City by German and Hungarian Jews. It later attracted also Russian, Polish, and Romanian Jews. The five original objectives set by Brith Abraham were (1) aiding members in need, (2) giving medical aid, (3) burying deceased members "in accordance with Jewish Law and ritual," (4) providing for families of deceased members, and (5) assisting members to become citizens. In 1887, 27 delegates to the convention in New York left the order, and at a synagogue on Norfolk Street, under the chairmanship of Jacob Schoen, founded the Independent Order of Brith Abraham. These delegates were dissatisfied with the incompetence of the administration of the original order, and being unable to bring about a change from within, they decided to organize a new order with the same objectives and programs as the old one. In time Brith Abraham became the largest Jewish fraternal order in the world. Yet, though it outnumbered B'nai B'rith, it never equaled the latter in importance. Early in the 20th century, the Independent Order of Brith Abraham reported 302 lodges with a membership of 56,949; by 1909 the number grew to 210,000, but by 1940 the membership declined to 58,000 and since then it has continued to decline. The old Order Brith Abraham had 73,109 members in 1913, but was dissolved in 1927. In 1968 the Independent Order Brith Abraham (which now calls itself Brith Abraham) listed as its activities and objectives: "Fosters brotherhood, Jewish ideals and traditions, and concern for welfare of Jews; provides fraternal benefits to members; supports camps for under-privileged children and senior citizens." It also espoused interest in Zionist and general philanthropic activities. It issued a publication called The Beacon.
History of the Independent Order Brith Abraham (1937).
[Morris A. Gutstein]