B'nai B'rith Disaster Aid Is 95% Donated Drug Handouts to Latin America

Actual Crisis Relief Is Tiny Share of Venerable Group's Budget


By Paul Berger

Published January 07, 2014, issue of January 10, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

B’nai B’rith International, the first and oldest Jewish organization in America, has long cited its humanitarian and disaster relief efforts around the world as one of the four “pillars” of its historic identity. Indeed, the group’s home page describes B’nai B’rith as “a leader in disaster relief.”

But a review by the Forward of B’nai B’rith’s public tax records indicates that over the past five years, the overwhelming majority of its expenditures on humanitarian relief — about 95% of its aid budget — consisted of pharmaceutical supplies that it received from another charity and shipped on to hospitals and medical centers in Latin America. Half of those donations went to Argentina.

Out of some $41.4 million that B’nai B’rith has spent on humanitarian relief since 2008, only some $2.1 million appears to have gone to actual disaster relief in areas of emergency or urgent need, such as Haiti, Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina and Fukushima, Japan, in the wake of the 2011 tsunami and nuclear plant disaster there.

B’nai B’rith receives the pharmaceutical supplies it ships to Latin America from Brother’s Brother Foundation, a Pittsburgh-based charity. B’nai B’rith spokeswoman Sharon Bender said that her group started working with Brother’s Brother in 2002, when a B’nai B’rith leader — Bender declined to say who — served as chairman of the foundation.

“He had a contact involved in B’nai B’rith Argentina, and they talked about needs of the Argentina community due to the extreme inflation at the time,” Bender said.

According to B’nai B’rith International’s Latin American director, Eduardo Kohn, the group has since donated $100 million in pharmaceutical supplies to Latin America. A review of B’nai B’rith’s tax forms by the Forward was able to identify half of that, about $48 million, during that period.

B’nai B’rith says that’s because for the first four years of the organizations’ relationship, the Jewish group did not list the value of the pharmaceutical supplies as either revenue or as an expenditure in its financial statements. The organization started listing the drugs’ in-kind value in both columns only in 2006, said Bender.

“Some of our leaders — proud of our efforts — had suggested we show it to gain recognition for the good work we do,” she wrote in an email.

Luke Hingson, president of Brother’s Brother, confirmed that the $100 million figure is correct.

Hingson said the majority of pharmaceutical supplies it provides to B’nai B’rith to ship to Latin America are generic antibiotics, anti-diabetic products and medicine for high blood pressure.

He said that Brother’s Brother works with B’nai B’rith in Latin America because the latter has a good network of contacts through its local lodge system, and also because of the group’s integrity. “Not every group everywhere offers integrity,” Hingson said. “B’nai B’rith does.”

The pharmaceutical supplies, which B’nai B’rith receives as a bulk donation from Brother’s Brother and then donates to Latin American governments, can account for as much as 59% and as little as 17% of B’nai B’rith’s total revenues in any given year.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • It's really, really, really hard to get kicked out of Hebrew school these days.
  • "If Netanyahu re-opens the settlement floodgates, he will recklessly bolster the argument of Hamas that the only language Israel understands is violence."
  • Would an ultra-Orthodox leader do a better job of running the Met Council?
  • So, who won the war — Israel or Hamas?
  • 300 Holocaust survivors spoke out against Israel. Did they play right into Hitler's hands?
  • Ari Folman's new movie 'The Congress' is a brilliant spectacle, an exhilarating visual extravaganza and a slapdash thought experiment. It's also unlike anything Forward critic Ezra Glinter has ever seen. http://jd.fo/d4unE
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.