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Fraternal Societies

FRATERNAL SOCIETIES, organizations for mutual aid, fellowship, life insurance, relief of distress, and sick and death benefits, frequently modeled on the *Freemason pattern. Jewish fraternal societies originated in the 19th century. In England the Order Achei Brith and Shield of Abraham was organized in 1888, Ancient Maccabeans in 1891, Achei Ameth in 1897, Grand Order Sons of Jacob in 1900, followed by many others. In 1915 an Association of Jewish Friendly Societies was established there. In South and Central America these societies were organized as *Landsmannschaften, e.g., the Galician Farband or Bessarabian Landsleit Farein. The main society in the United States is the Independent Order *Bnai B'rith. Other bodies are the True Sisters (1846), the *Free Sons of Israel (1849), *Brith Abraham (1859), the Independent Order Brith Abraham (1887), and the defunct Order Kesher Shel Barzel (1860). Many others originated as Landsmannschaften. Many small-scale Landsmannschaften later enrolled in general orders, some of which were formed along political lines: the *Workmen's Circle (1900) stressed socialism; the Jewish National Workers' Alliance (1910) combined Zionism with socialism; the International Workers' Order (1930), later renamed Jewish People's Fraternal Order, was controlled by Communists. They established elementary and high schools with instruction in Yiddish and Hebrew and promoted adult education. With the growing popularity of commercial insurance, the commercialization of the mortuary business, and leisure time activities, the membership of fraternal orders rapidly declined.


Baron, Community, index, S.V. Landsmannschaften; Weinryb, in: JSOS, 8 (1946), 219–44; AJYB, 39 (1938), 123–4; 50 (1949), 34–37; Levitats, in: Essays on Jewish Life and Thought (1959), 333–49.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.