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NEWS - News of the Lodges

At a Gala Dinner in Frankfurt on Sunday, 1st December 2013 the members of the Frankfurt Schönstädt Lodge, together with numerous guest personalities, looked back on the illustrious history of B'nai B'rith in Frankfurt and, indeed, in Germany.

B'nai B'rith was founded in New York in1843 by German Jewish immigrants, but it was not until 1882 that the first Lodge was formed in Germany itself, in Berlin. Six years later, in 1888, a B'nai B'rith Lodge was formed in Frankfurt, the 20th to be created in Germany. Its President was Charles Hallgarten. The objectives of the founders were that the lodge should be the centre of the spiritual life of its members, that it should care for their welfare and that it should work towards strengthening the Jewish community. This remains the central objective of the Frankfurt Lodge to this day.

FRANKFURT LODGE

The Lodge grew in importance and numerous leading personalities were initiated. It created a body to fight against anti-Semitism (already a growing problem in 1890), it defended the interests of Jews being persecuted in Russia and Romania, and it created the basis of what was later to become the central Jewish charitable organisation in Germany.


In 1901 the Lodge bought some land in the Eschersheimer Landstrasse and work was started some months later on what was to become the home of the Lodge until the Nazi period. This was financed entirely by the lodge members. By 1914 the Frankfurt Lodge had become the largest in Germany with a membership of 484 people and financial assets of 174.000 Mark.

During the 1st World War, many lodge members fought for Germany, many lost their lives and others were decorated for bravery. The lodge members worked hard during the war to support the needy in Frankfurt, and devoted great efforts to rebuilding lives after the war. Anti-Semitism, however, once again reared its ugly head and the lodge created a discussion group in which political matters were debated. At this time, shortly after the end of the war, the lodge was instrumental in the creation of a second lodge in Frankfurt, the Hermann Cohen Lodge.

In 1920 the lodge bought a neighbouring property in the Eschersheimer Landstrasse, No. 25 (they already owned Nos. 27 and 29). Despite the difficult economic times in Germany, lodge members agreed to increases in their membership fees and supported the formation of a third lodge in Frankfurt, the Marcus Horowitz Lodge. By 1928 there were some 100 B'nai B'rith Lodges in Germany with about 15.000 members.

Social Responsibilities
From the very outset, the Frankfurt Lodge took its social responsibilities very seriously opposite those members of the community who found themselves in difficulty.
• In 1918, after the war, they created a register of job vacancies, thereby providing great help to the many unemployed.
• The lodge financed the training of nurses.
• They financed the establishment of a home for poor people in Bad Soden.
• Lodge members bought and managed a home in Bad Nauheim for poor and sick Jewish children.
• A holiday home for Jewish children was established in Hofheim.
• A kindergarten was set up in Frankfurt.
• A chidren's home was established in Diez.
• Lodge members and wives successfully ran a soup kitchen for the poor.
• In 1928 lodge members created the Montefiore Society whose objective was the development of young people in the widest sense. There was a library, a dining room, a reading room and regular Friday evening social gatherings.

These were just some of the ways in which the members of the Frankfurt Lodge saw their social responsibilities towards the less fortunate members of society. By 1938, however, the darkest days of German history forced the closure of all B'nai B'rith Lodges in Germany, with the loss of all financial assets.

It was not until 1961 that the Frankfurt Lodge was newly formed. They had no permanent home at the start, but some years later, the lodge received a bequest which enabled them to purchase their new, elegant home at Liebigstrasse 24. Today's lodge is of course not the same as it was in the time of the foundation. Many things have changed, not least the fact that today's lodge is a unity lodge with women members. In fact the first female Vice-President was Ruth Hofmann, mother of the present President Ralph Hofmann.
The basic values of B'nai B'rith have not changed – Brotherly and Sisterly love, Benevolence and Harmony remain the pillars of our organisation.

We wish the members of the Frankfurt Schönstädt Lodge much success for the next 125 years.