B’nai B’rith Goes Co-Ed

In a move to reverse its decrease in membership (from 200,000 in 1969 to 136,000 in 1987), B’nai B’rith International is reorganizing and admitting women as full members.

Prior to a September 1988 ruling, women who wanted to participate in B’nai B’rith activities joined B’nai B’rith Women, a parallel organization with 120,000 members. Now, some B’nai B’rith Women members, including President Hyla Lipsky, fear that women will leave BBW to join B’nai B’rith International. “We’re in competition with [other] Jewish women’s organizations already,” Lipsky explained. She feared that BBI, by opening its doors to women, will “raid” BBW’s female members. “Men and women are supposed to complement one another in this organization — not compete.”

Yet Captain Ruth Levy, a United States Air Force captain now stationed in Korea, says that she joined BBI so that she would no longer feel like a “second-class citizen.” She added that the primary goals of B’nai B’rith International “are not feminist, they’re humanist.”