A registered charity in New Zealand, Auckland was established in 1961.
Auckland Lodge’s charitable work is varied, supporting Jewish Youth Movements, the Jewish Day School, Junior Maccabi (by raising funds for children to attend the summer games), the Auckland Hebrew Congregation, the Beth Shalom Progressive Congregation, New Zealand Anti-Defamation, and supporting the elderly through Shalom Court and Senior Outreach Services.
Magen David Adom is also a key focus of the Israel Committee.
Auckland Lodge’s achievements include raising significant funds at the Bridge Luncheon, establishing AUJS on the Auckland University campus (which subsequently contributed to valuable antisemitism prevention on campus), and supporting Jewish Young Adults.
B’NAI B’RITH AUCKLAND 50TH ANNIVERSARY (DECEMBER 4TH 2011)AT BETH SHALOM, MANlJKAU ROAD, AUCKLAND.
Your Excellency, the Ambassador, etc.
It is my honour and privilege today to talk about B’nai B’rith as it was at the beginning, and I know this particular honour is mine only by dint of the fact that I have just managed to outlive all the other foundation members of the original BB Chapter!
That is quite a sobering fact, and that status is one which I intend keeping for a while yet, all going well.
I was born in Germany, as most of you know, and from very early memories, I watched my dear late parents, Phillip and Margarete Adler, get ready for their monthly B’nai B’rith Lodge meetings in all their finery in Hildesheim, the town in which we lived.
One of their projects at that time, in the middle 30’s, was to give some needy Jewish children a holiday in the country, and because my father was President at the time, he naturally had to set an example by sending his own two daughters.
I remember that as one of the most miserable weeks of my life, because we were sent to the farmhouse of some very anti-Jewish Nazi’s, and food, lodging and general care was pretty terrible. The other children came from homes where the parents were struggling, and they didn’t appreciate the gesture one bit!
We were lucky enough to escape Germany and came to lovely New Zealand in 1938, where my parents had a hard struggle to provide for us all in a country, in 1939, at war with Germany, which made us Enemy Aliens.
However, in the post-war years, my father busied himself with the idea of setting up a B’nai B’rith Lodge in Auckland, and he had the ready co-operation of Ernest Rowan, another “refugee” to New Zealand. This plan came to fruition 50 years ago and as you can see from the photo of the original Installation, taken in 1961, a very large number of Auckland’s leading Jewish citizens were members of the foundation B’nai B’rith Lodge.
I think it was Leo Manning who was the first President, and he was a very suitable person for the job. My father and my husband were active members and all the wives of the Brothers of the Lodge helped as much as we could, especially when it came to providing food, hospitality, etc.
The Ladies’Chapter ofB’nai B’rith was founded in 1970, and suitably again, Olive Manning, Leo’s wife, was the first President, with me being the secretary, and then 2 years later, I became President for the first time as well. I say “for the first time” because I have lost count of the very many years I served as President, on and off, with others capably doing the same in between-
Our Chapter finally amalgamated with the Lodge, in order to strengthen the organization, and things are still going strong, I am happy to say, although I have virtually retired from any duties now.
Going back to the early days of BB, our annual Initiation and Installation ceremonies were very solemn and dignified – the men wore dinner suits, black bow ties, with their black yarmulkes bearing the gold BB menorah symbol, and the women would buy lovely evening dresses for these great occasions, which were a highlight in our BB calendar.
We would decorate the tables for the dinner which followed with fine white linen tablecloths, silver candlesticks, flowers, etc., and the whole thing had a very impressive and elegant look. There were a majority of brothers and sisters from Europe, and they brought the customs, good food, good taste, and solemn celebration of the occasion with them.
We women organized wonderful fund-raising events, such as a Mock Wedding, where the “kalla” was one of my aunts, in her 70′ s, who was hidden under a thick veil, and took out her teeth, showing a terrible grin when she was “uncovered.” The “chosen” was a very funny man, who pretended to faint when he saw his bride, and the “Rabbi” was my daughter Deb Filler, who has become a very renowned comedienne, dressed up in a beard and robe. Flower girl was my mother, Margarete Adler, a very, very corpulent short lady, also in her late 70″s, who had a “dirndl” on, which happened to open in the back, exposing my mum’s long bloomers and bra, whilst she was strewing flower petals out of a basket. We tried recording the proceedings, but the screams of laughter were so loud, it was impossible to hear any of the proceedings. Another time we had a “Beauty Contest” and the very elderly ladies of the Chapter paraded in various costumes, even bathing suits. Again, this was an occasion of huge fun and laughter.
As you can see, people were able to let their hair down and take “the mickey” out of themselves, as well as doing the philanthropic and important work of B’nai B’rith.
When we bought the building in Victoria A venue, comer of Ingham Street, and converted it into our permanent BB House, we could use the premises for any occasion, and quite a number of other Jewish organizations also wanted to hold their meetings and functions there. So what happened to this vital, hard-working, wonderful and important organization over the years? With the modem world encroaching into everyone’s lives, people didn’t have the time or inclination any more, and enthusiasm waned. There were many calls on finances, and the need for charity in our community became less. Families wanted to spend time together, pomp and ceremony were old-fashioned, dress became much more casual and we went through “the doldrums.” At this stage, I want to pay a great tribute to Brother Stephen Scher, and also to Sister Veronica Meltzer, who have remained steadfast and hard-working members throughout these many years, and I wish to thank them and congratulate them for all they have done for B’ nai B ‘rith in Auckland. You and people like you are the true back-bone of the organization, and I hope all of you here today, as well as international B’nai B’rith recognize your contribution.
In closing, I want to wish Auckland B’nai B’rith and the new President and Council all the very, very best – you have large shoes to fill, and I know you will meet the challenge very capably.