The Menorah Lodge of B’nai B’rith will celebrate its 100th anniversary on Sunday, June 28 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Milk and Honey Bistro in Pikesville with Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz as a guest speaker.
“I am proud to have been associated with the Menorah Lodge of B’nai B’rith for 25 of their remarkable 100 years as a positive force for social good in the Baltimore area as well as for their advocacy of human rights for Jews around the world,” said Kamenetz.
B’nai B’rith International, which was formed in 1843, is a human rights advocacy group for global Jewry and has a presence in more than 50 countries. It has been recognized as a vital voice promoting Jewish unity and as a staunch defender for the State of Israel. The organization was also responsible for the creation of the Anti-Defamation League.
Felix Jacob, co-president of the Menorah Lodge and a member of B’nai B’rith since the 1970s, is described by his fellow members as one of the primary forces behind planning the celebration. Jacob’s father, Aaron Jacob, and Menorah Lodge member Melvin Sykes’ father, Baltimore Judge Philip Sykes, were founding members of the lodge. Although the lodge doesn’t have a permanent physical space, members meet monthly at the Park Heights JCC.
“[The Menorah Lodge] has a long history of helping the Jewish people in Baltimore and of fighting anti-Semitism,” said Jacob.
The cause for the creation of the lodge isn’t completely clear, but many members claim it was the national outrage sparked by the wrongful imprisonment and eventual lynching of Leo M. Frank, a B’nai B’rith member, that was the impetus to start the local chapter.
In 1913, Mary Phagan, a 13-year-old girl who worked at a pencil factory in Georgia, was found dead in the basement of the factory the day after collecting her wages from Frank, who was the plant manager. During the trial, Frank admitted to being one of the last people to see Phagan alive. Although Frank lost all of his appeals, including two to the Supreme Court, the governor of Georgia commuted his death sentence to life imprisonment. While behind bars, an angry mob broke into the Marietta, Ga., prison and lynched Frank.
In 1986 the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles posthumously pardoned Frank because of the state’s failure to protect him while in prison and for not bringing Frank’s killers to justice. Historically, the case has been surrounded by harsh feelings between Northerners and Southerners and also Jews and gentiles.
Though the Menorah Lodge was founded in the midst of controversy concerning Jews domestically, B’nai B’rith has gone on to play a key role in relations concerning Jews worldwide.
During Harry S. Truman’s tenure as president, said Jacob, B’nai B’rith member Eddie Jacobson, who had been a business partner and friend of Truman’s, played a major role in convincing the president to lean in favor of the creation of Israel.
Although fighting anti-Semitism is the organization’s goal, it also focuses on enhancing and improving Jewish identity.
“The Menorah Lodge gives people a feeling of belonging,” said lodge officer Steve Hyman, who has been a member for five years. “There are a lot of areas of the country where Judaism is slowly evaporating; it is our goal is to help [Judaism] continue.”
The Menorah Lodge is one of the largest and oldest existing chapters of B’nai B’rith in Maryland.
“There are 27 lodges in the Chesapeake Bay region of B’nai B’rith, which encompasses Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia,” said Jerry Jacobs, Chesapeake Bay Region president. “The Hebrew word menorah means candelabra, and we are very proud that Menorah continues to light the way in our region’s good works for the community at large on behalf of the Jewish people. May it continue to thrive for another 100 years.”
B’nai B’rith Menorah Lodge 100th Anniversary
Milk and Honey Bistro
Sunday, June 28, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
1777 Reistertown Road, Pikesville.
Reservations are required, and seating is limited. Call 410-484-4648.