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!
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • BREAKING: Was an Israeli soldier just kidnapped in Gaza? Hamas' military wing says yes.
  • 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.