In the fall of 1991 when I returned to Detroit from Boston, Mass., I found myself looking for a connection back to the Jewish community. Fortunately for me, a good family friend, David Bittker advised me to contact Bobbie Levine, then the director of the local B’nai B’rith office. I scheduled a meeting with Bobbie and she invited me to attend the next board meeting, which I did and met John Rofel, the president. This was the start of my involvement with B’nai B’rith.
I began to learn about this international organization and what an impact it had on the Jewish people in every community. Then I was told there was a need to get more young people involved, so I agreed to help form a new unit of young adults. After awhile we successfully chartered a new unit , called Leadership Network and I became the first president.
The group focused on not just social activity, but also community service, sporting events and Jewish identity. Many of the young people in the unit met, dated, fell in love, got married and had families. Most of the new friendships I cultivated at that time are still alive and well today. Sadly, however, as time passed, the group itself dissolved, but the friendships remained intact. And, because I truly believed in the good work of B’nai B’rith I remained involved. I held many positions on the regional board, and just this year accepted the position of president. B’nai B’rith Great Lakes Region has a long history of leadership and doing for the community. I am committed and excited to follow in the footsteps of great leaders.
AEPi brothers on 112 campuses around the world walk to remember the Holocaust
By Adam Maslia, Howard M. Lorber Director of Jewish and Philanthropy Programming
Last Monday, I found myself standing underneath the Washington Square Arch in New York City. I was joined by over 40 NYU students, most of whom were brothers of Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi). We dressed in black shirts bearing signs that read “Never Forget.” Standing under that arch, something strange happened. The bustling city of New York fell silent.
So maybe it wasn’t pin-drop silent for all of the bystanders and lunch-breakers watching us gather under the arch, but for my brothers and me, it was. This silence induced a type of reflective moment within my mind that doesn’t happen very often. I thought back to nearly 100 years ago when a group of 11 young men stood under that same arch and officially founded the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity. While these men undoubtedly experienced anti-semitism, at that point in time, they had no way of predicting the horror that would befall the Jewish people only a two decades later. They simply wished to establish group where Jewish men could feel pride in being Jewish on campus and develop the leadership abilities that the much younger, and smaller American Jewish community so desperately needed.
By founding AEPi with this positive purpose, the “Immortal Eleven” created a framework by which Jewish college men could make an impact on the world through their Judaism. That is exactly what my brothers and I at NYU and on 111 other campuses in the U.S., Israel, Canada, U.K., and France were doing by participating in AEPi’s annual We Walk to Remember. We Walk to Remember was founded by AEPi’s Alpha Chapter at NYU in 2007, and is the largest on-campus Holocaust remembrance event in existence. B’nai B’rith International cosponsors the program in coordination with their Unto Every Person There Is A Name Holocaust Remembrance program.
Unified in memorializing silence, we walked around NYU’s city campus and handed out leaflets to those who looked puzzled or asked, “Never forget what?” At one point we circled up outside the business school and read the stories of individuals who perished in the Holocaust. You see, this event is more than just a way to inform the public; it gives the participants time to reflect on the Holocaust in a way that would only happen if they were viewing a documentary or visiting a museum. As Jews, we are semi-frequently reminded of the Holocaust, but as I explained to our group at the end of the walk, for the people we passed on the street, that fleeting moment may have been the only time all year they ever stopped to remember what happened. This event could have even created an opportunity for a parent to explain the Holocaust to their curious child. To me, there is no event that more quintessentially sums up what in means to be a brother of AEPi.
As I head back to New York City in August to celebrate AEPi’s Centennial Convention at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, I, along with 1200 brothers will once again stand underneath that very arch. The fraternity is now a global entity and the largest membership based organization for Jewish college students in the world. Similarly, perspectives on fraternities and Greek life in general have also changed dramatically. But through all of the changes that have taken place over the past 100 years, it has been AEPi’s positive purpose that has remained constant and will continue to propel AEPi through the next 100 years.
Over the past 20 years, Harold Miller, a Principal in the Accounting and Tax Group at Meyers, Harrison & Pia, LLC, has helped to organize and coordinate Project H.O.P.E., an annual program sponsored by B'nai B'rith. Project H.O.P.E. (Help Our People Everywhere) is a community action project whose major goal is the collection and distribution of food packages to poor and elderly Jews during Passover.
Many families who cannot afford special holiday foods depend on B'nai B'rith members to provide Passover staples. Project H.O.P.E. works with various local Jewish Family Services organizations, B'nai B'rith members, and local volunteers. The organizations provide the number of packages needed, and then volunteers assemble the packages which are picked up and delivered to the families in need.
Each year Harold Miller coordinates the effort in Connecticut, handling everything from mailings, collecting food donations, acting as the contact for all of the agencies, and organizing the logistics of packing and delivery. On March 17, 2013, volunteers gathered to put together 320 packages for families, which were then picked up by the various local Jewish Family Services organizations and distributed to needy families in Connecticut.
"Obviously people need food at all times of the year," Miller said. "At least for now, we can help people celebrate the holiday. With all good kosher for Passover food, the food is even more expensive during Passover as far as what people can afford. We have a tremendous Russian immigrant population here and around the state, who really can't afford the holiday or have a very difficult time. So the event has proven to be tremendously successful."
Harold Miller has been involved with B'nai B'rith for more than 40 years. He is active with the organization in several positions, including as a Member of the International Board of Governors, President Elect of the MetroNorth Region, and President of B'nai B'rith Housing of New Haven, Inc.
The get to know your 2013 B'nai B'rith Perlman Camp
staff leadership series:What position are you holding this summer?
Senior Boys Unit LeaderHow many summers have you been at Perlman Camp?
This will be my second summer.What are you most excited about for 2013?
Putting together a great team of counselors that will give the campers an unforgettable summer.What is your favorite memory from BBPC?
Filming the Apache Relay on golf carts with the rest of the media team last summer.
What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
Cookies & Cream.What is your favorite Tie-Dye color combination?
It's no Tie-Dye without purple spirals.What is your favorite color?
Purple.What will the song of the summer be?
Something we can get up and dance to in the middle of mealtimes.
The get to know your 2013 B'nai B'rith Perlman Camp
staff leadership series:What is your job this summer?
Head of Girls SideHow many summers have you been at Perlman?
8 Summers!What are you most excited about for 2013?
Getting to work with all the different ages on girls side and seeing old and new faces!What is your favorite memory from camp?
Winning the Apache Relay as Maccabiah general in 2008! And watching my G1 girls win Putting on the Hits in 2010!What is your favorite Ice Cream Flavor?
Nutella Ice CreamWhat is your favorite color?
PinkWhat is the song of the summer going to be?
Don't know about that one but we're definitely doing the Harlem Shake
B'nai B'rith and Sixth & I Historic Synagogue trivia night Emcee Aaron Weintraub discusses the monthly program that brings 100-200 young professionals together in Washington, D.C.
My wife, Rosalie, and I went on an eight day B'nai B'rith International mission to Cuba in early December. It was an amazing and enlightening trip to say the least. Our primary goal was to meet with the tiny Cuban-Jewish community and to provide them with medicine, personal clothing, comfort items, Chanukah and other religious items. The group brought 1,100 pounds of goods with us.
Cuba has a population of about 11 million. There are only an estimated 1,500 Jews left in Cuba, a far cry from the 15,000 in 1959 when Fidel Castro came to power. There are five synagogues on the island: three in Havana, one in Santiago and one in Guantanamo. Throughout our week in Cuba, we visited all five and met with their leaders and members.
From what we could see, there seems to be minimal anti-Semitism in Cuba and there is a memorial to the Holocaust in the center of Havana.
I encourage you to consider joining a mission and see Cuba for yourself.
Participants of the December 2012 B'nai B'rith Cuba Jewish Relief Mission