During the 1968-1969
school year representatives of the B’nai B’rith National Office came to me in the administration building and
asked for my help in establishing an Educators Lodge in Philadelphia. They explained that B’nai B’rith was embarking
on a campaign to organize lodges made up of people in particular occupations and professions and asked us to take a leadership
role in this effort. As a member of the William Portner Lodge of B’nai B’rith, I was well aware of the very significant
work of the organization and so I readily agreed to establish a lodge that would include a membership composed of people living
in the Philadelphia area who were involved in the field of education.
While my immediate acceptance of a responsibility for increasing the level of B’nai B’rith presence in our area
was due primarily to a commitment to the goals and worthwhile programs of the organization, I will freely acknowledge an additional
highly significant motivational factor.
Some of you will recall that one of the manifestations of the tumultuous “Sixties” was the very disquieting
and dangerous climate which developed in our school system. A Superintendent of Schools who had been attempting,
in a thoughtful manner, to seek solutions to urban education problems and to “open up” opportunities for all,
was replaced by one who completely misread desired needs and desirable means to meet those needs. Imbued
with a commitment to administer through creative tension, he managed to create a climate of tension and distrust and to threaten
the careers of dedicated professionals in the system and to cloud the future of many who looked forward to entering the system.
A very disturbing factor was his enthusiastic acceptance of a misguided, poorly conceived, stupid, ill-advised report
which concluded that the problem in our system was that there were “too many second-generation Americans” involved
In that setting, I called together
a group of twenty Jewish teachers and administrators. We met at the regional B’nai B’rith offices
and presented our proposal to form an Educator’s Lodge. As you would naturally expect in a meeting
of any number of people, there were differences of opinion. Several of our articulate colleagues suggested
that we form an independent “protection” group (as New York City Jewish educators did). We
explained our desires transcended those concerns. We wanted to become an integral part of B’nai B’rith in order
to join with over 500,000 Jews in forty-one countries who were involved in perpetuating our heritage, fighting discrimination,
supporting their youth, and giving leadership to many programs providing community service. The group overwhelmingly
agreed to work for the establishment of an Educator’s Lodge that would reach out to include as many men as possible
in their area
Due to the circumstances and conditions
existing in the then B’nai B’rith by-laws membership had to be limited to men at the time of the Lodge’s
formation. Many of their members were not at all pleased by this and continually sought remediation of the situation. We were
very pleased that the efforts of many farsighted members were rewarded by the formation, in 1984, of the Educators Unit B’nai
B’rith/ B’nai B’rith Women.
From its beginning, the Lodge had grown to become one of the largest and most active in B’nai B’rith.
Our Lodge’s leaders, have gone on to become regional and national leaders and we’ve
contributed very significantly to the improvement of the quality of life in our community.
May we go from strength to strength in the coming years!
I. EZRA STAPLES
Curriculum & Instruction