When B’nai B’rith was founded in 1843 in New York, the initial focus was to help recent German Jewish immigrants adapt to their new home and provide aid to their widows and orphans. Indeed, B’nai B’rith was the first Jewish service organization founded in the United States.

Consider that when the first Coca-Cola was served in 1886, Atlanta had been home to a B’nai B’rith lodge for 16 years, and B’nai B’rith had nationally been assisting people of numerous ethnic groups for 43 years.

What do we stand for? The seven-branched menorah is the emblem of B’nai B’rith, whose mission is to fill the world with light of the divine truth. Each candle is symbolic of a noble ideal: Light, Justice, Peace, Truth, Generosity, Harmony and Brotherly Love.

Today, with members in 59 countries, B’nai B’rith International defends Jewish interests around the world. But our impact goes far beyond the worldwide Jewish community.

BBI mobilizes volunteers and provides financial assistance to meet local needs. It operates the respected B’nai B’rith Disaster Relief Fund for nonsectarian assistance worldwide. We were there to help when floods plagued the Midwestern United States and when hurricanes struck Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Texas and Haiti. We were there after terrorists attacked the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, after earthquakes upset Armenia, Iran, San Francisco and Turkey, and after tsunamis devastated Indonesia and Japan.

We offer assistance wherever and whenever needed, without regard to religious, racial or cultural background.

Distributed to parents and caregivers nationwide, our “Smarter Kids, Safer Kids” guide provides information to protect children against abduction and sexual abuse. And our community service programs for the elderly, hungry and homeless have helped more than 10,000 people throughout the United States in the past year alone.

B’nai B’rith International is widely respected as the world’s largest Jewish membership organization promoting human rights, community action and humanitarian efforts. Why do we do all this and more? It’s the right thing to do.

Tikkun olam is a concept that is an integral part of being Jewish. Loosely translated, it refers to our obligation to repair the world, to make the world a better place in which to live, work and play. What we in BBI do is in keeping with tikkun olam.

Achim/Gate City, Atlanta’s longstanding lodge, is one of the oldest B’nai B’rith lodges. At the local level, we organize and promote volunteer community service programs, including the following:

  • Cares for Kids — Annually delivers new and gently used stuffed animals to children in hospitals and homeless shelters. Since 1997 we have distributed more than 20,000 furry friends to these children and brought countless smiles to their faces.
  • Pinch Hitters — Provides more than 300 volunteers in Atlanta-area hospitals and residential care facilities each Christmas Day to relieve our Christian neighbors from work so they can spend the holiday with their families. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush recognized Pinch Hitters as his 335th Point of Light.
  • Enlighten America — Encourages education, understanding and tolerance of our differences, and appreciation for diversity through an annual essay contest for middle school students.
  • Unto Every Person There Is a Name — Reads aloud names of actual victims of the Holocaust to help people realize that there were 6 million individual lives lost, not just a monolith of many people grouped together. This nationally observed B’nai B’rith program generally occurs around Yom HaShoah. Anyone who would like to do so may read names of victims; it is quite a moving experience for the reader and for those hearing the names being read.

In addition, social programs throughout the year feature notable speakers with contemporary messages. These events often are combined with dinner at trendy Atlanta restaurants. Also popular are our social outings to plays and cultural events.

We are B’nai B’rith Atlanta — Achim/Gate City Lodge. We would like to get to know you.

Art Link is a board member of B’nai B’rith Atlanta (www.bnaibrith.org/southern-communities.html). For more information, contact lodge President Karen Kahn Weinberg at kw30076@gmail.com or 770-645-1239.