FREE SONS OF ISRAEL, U.S. Jewish fraternal order. The organization was founded by nine men in New York City on January 18, 1849. Its purpose was to seek the deletion of clauses in the New York City charter that restricted the appropriation of land for burial purposes, in order to obtain ground for a Jewish cemetery. The order long consisted primarily of German Jews. By 1970 the Free Sons of Israel consisted of 46 self-governing lodges throughout the U.S., with approximately 10,000 men and women members. Each lodge provided membership benefits, which usually included burial, medical, and other benefits. The order consisted of an Insurance Fund and Fraternal Division and was headquartered in New York City. The order maintained a toy distribution program for handicapped children; a scholarship fund for the benefit of members and their families; a Federal Credit Union, which by September 1969, had disbursed $2,000,000 in loans; an insurance fund; travel service; blood bank; athletic association; and a newspaper, The Free Sons of Israel Reporter. Since that time it was the first organization of its kind to donate money to the Holocaust Museum in Washington., D.C., and has also contributed thousands of toys during the holidays to needy childrenin hospitals and care centers. On its 150th anniversary in 1999 it was commended by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of New York in the House of Representatives.

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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