Bene Berit u Srbiji i Jugoslaviji 1911-1940
B'nai B'rith in Serbia and Yugoslavia 1911-1940
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Prva jevrejska organizacija u formaciji loža Bene Berita (Sinova Saveza), preciznije Nezavisnog Ordena Bene Berit - N.O.B.B. - u Srbiji osnovana je 1911. godine pod imenom "Srbija". Godina osnivanja nije bila uslovljena nekim prelomnim događajem u odnosima Srba i Jevreja ili samih Jevreja Srbije. Te godine, nakon višegodišnjih nastojanja, usledila je završna akcija inicijatora i osnivača prve podružnice beneberitske sveobuhvatne svetske jevrejske organizacije u srpskoj državi. Kasnije će biti osnovano još pet ovakvih loža pod drukčijim okolnostima u granicama veće, jugoslovenske države. Sve lože Bene Berita u svetu, prema tome i u Srbiji, a zatim u Jugoslaviji, osnovane su i delovale su kao humanističke i humanitarne organizacije na ravni opštečovečanske borbe za ravnopravnost, blagostanje, toleranciju... Od bitnog značaja bili su povodi koji su inspirisali i podsticali već osnivače Bene Berita četrdesetih godina XIX veka u Njujorku i njihove sledbenike svuda u dijaspori. Vremenom sa ...dodatnim argumentima, novim potrebama i mogućnostima dalje se proširivala prvobitna platforma tih organizacija. Najistaknutija dostignuća Bene Berit-a bila su u domenu dobrotvornih organizacija: osnivanje Jevrejske škole za devojčice, Jevrejske biblioteke i čitaonice i Jevrejskog gimnastičkog društva (u Beogradu) i zgrade Jevrejske bolnice (u Subotici). Novčane donacije cionističkoj organizaciji "Keren Hajesod", za žrtve antijevrejskih pogroma u Smirni, Damasku, Bugarskoj, Ukrajini, Palestini bile su među najvećima. Ulaganja i napori Bene Berit loža u oblasti kulture i umetnosti bili su najznačajnije. Prva velika izložba velikog jevrejskog slikara Leona Кoena u Beogradu omogućena je zbog donacija Bene Berit. Spomenik poginulim jevrejskim vojnicima, podignut na jevrejskom groblju, nije mogao biti napravljen bez finansijske pomoći bogatih članova Bene Berit-a. U Zagrebu je finansijska pomoć Bene Berit-a u najvećoj meri omogućila izgradnju Jevrejske bolnice i proširivanje jevrejskog Doma za stare osobe "Dr Lavoslav Švarc". Međunarodne jevrejske organizacije iz celog sveta su, tokom Prvog svetskog rata, preko Bene Berit-a iz savezničkih država, pomogale Srbiji u napornoj borbi tokom tih teških godina, što su veoma cenili zvanični krugovi u Srbiji i novonastaloj Jugoslaviji.
This article is based on the data from archive documents, history books, historical tributes, and various accompanying texts. The paper begins chronologically with description and analysis of the history of B’nai B'rith Lodges in Serbia and Yugoslavia according to the testimonies of the participants. The first B'nai B'rith Lodge named Srbija (Serbia) was established in Belgrade in 1911, and the organization was active until 1940 when under Nazi Germany's pressure its Lodges were prohibited together with actual and pseudo-Masonic organizations. Following this historical report based on the founders' testimonies from the Memorials is the summary of the work and mission of these Lodges according to the interpretations of their advocates and opponents. The concluding part of this paper includes the reconstruction of the B’nai B’rith activities by the indirect method, from documents and archives. The B’nai B'rith Lodges in Yugoslavia were primarily organized on a humanitarian and charitabl...e basis, same as in other countries. Being a purely Jewish organization whose purpose was regulated by their Constitution, their aim was also to resolve all misunderstandings, disputes, and conflicts. First, there were those specific for Yugoslavia and Serbia, like a division between Sephardim, the older settlers and Ashkenazim, who came to these parts of Europe later. The other disagreements were the usual ones, as the antagonism which arises between the wealthy and the poor, the different attitudes of the orthodox and unorthodox, Zionists and nonzionists, liberals and conservatives... Thus we can conclude that the general concept of the B’nai B'rith Lodges was the same as everywhere: they were patriotically national and universal. These attributes were evident in their names: Belgrade B’nai B’rith Lodge was named Serbia, the Croatian one: Zagreb, the one in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Sarajevo. All B’nai B'rith Lodges in Serbia and Yugoslavia were under the jurisdiction of the Regional Grand Lodge of the XI district in Istanbul. On October 27, 1935, was established the Jugoslovenska Velika Loža Nezavisnog Ordena B’nai B'rith XVIII distrikta (Yugoslav Grand Lodge of the Independent Medal of B’nai B'rith of the XVIII District), or N.O.B.B. For the constitution of the Grand Lodge in one country were required at least four Lodges; besides the above-mentioned ones there were six of them that year, respectively in Novi Sad, Subotica and Osijek. On the constitutive conference of the Yugoslav Grand Lodge of B’nai B'rith the world-known physician Bukić Pijade, M.D was elected for its president. The most noted achievements of B’nai B’rith were: the domain of charity, the establishment of the Jewish School for Girls, Jewish Library and Reading Room and the Jewish Gymnastic Society (all in Belgrade), and the building of the Jewish Hospital in Subotica. Monetary donations to Zionist Keren Hayesod, for victims of the anti-Jewish pogroms in Smyrna, Damascus, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Palestine... were the largest. The investments and endeavors of B’nai B'rith Lodges in the fields of culture and arts were most adequate. The first big exhibition of the great Jewish painter Leon Koen in Belgrade was made possible primarily because of the B’nai B'rith donations. The monument to the dead Jewish soldiers, erected on the Jewish cemetery, could not have been made without the financial aid of the rich B’nai B'rith members. In Zagreb, it was also mostly the B’nai B’rith financial aid which facilitated the building of the Jewish Hospital and expansion of the Svarc Jewish Home for the Elderly. As the international Jewish organization connected worldwide, during World War I B’nai B’rith from the allied states helped Serbia in its arduous fight during those harsh 70 years, and this was greatly appreciated by official circles in Serbia and newly formed Yugoslavia. This paper also examines the inadequately documented connections of B'nai B’rith and Masonic Lodges and problems originating from such conjectures. The state authorities in Serbia and Yugoslavia treated B’nai B’rith Lodges as the Masonic ones, with all positive and negative connotations. Positive attitude considered both organizations as charitable and humanitarian; the negative approach viewed both as clandestine with conspiratorial motives, so under Nazi Germany’s pressure Lodges were finally prohibited by the legislation of 1940. Actually, Masonic organizations kept their distance, treating at best B'nai B’rith Lodges according to the criteria applied to the various organizations of semi Masonic type. In Serbia and Yugoslavia, B'nai B’rith activities were public, its membership list was also open to the public, it was purely nationalistic organization, while its goals and tasks were the results of the specific Jewish situation in diaspora and only some of its rituals and symbols could be connected with Masonic organizations. B’nai B’rith by extraordinary patriotic, nationalist, humanitarian and charitable contributions affirmed in every way its commitment to the needs of Jews and Jewry, being also in harmony with the interests and striving of the state in which it was working freely without restrictions. This history is well documented in this paper through the analytical interpretation of the available data, explained from the opponents' and advocates' standpoints and clarified by direct and indirect exploration.
Keywords:Bene Berit loža - Srbija / B’nai B'rith Lodge - Serbia / Bne Brit loža - Srbija / Jugoslovenska Velika Loža Nezavisnog Ordena B’nai B'rith XVIII distrikta / Yugoslav Grand Lodge of the Independent Medal of B’nai B'rith of the XVIII District / Nezavisni Orden Bene Berit ( N.O.B.B.) - Srbija (1911) / Independent Medal of B’nai B'rith (N.O.B.B.) - Serbia (1911)
Source:Zbornik 7 : Studije, arhivska i memoarska građa o Jevrejima Jugoslavije, Jevrejski istorijski muzej - Beograd = Jewish studies 7 : Studies, archival and memorial materials (about Yugoslav Jews), Jewish historical museum - Belgrade, 1997, 7, 3-71
- Beograd : Savez jevrejskih opština Jugoslavije [Federation of Jewish Communitues in Jugoslavia]