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History of AZA

    The organization that was to become the Aleph Zadik Aleph was brought together early in 1923. A group of Jewish boys in Omaha, Nebraska, organized a fraternity and named it "Aleph Zadik Aleph," using the Hebrew letters as a protest against Greek societies, many of which were exclusive of Jews. The group elected Abe Baboir as their first president and chose a local chemist, Nathan Mnookin, as their advisor. At this point in time AZA was mainly a social group and it existed in this fashion until a few months later when Mnookin suddenly moved to Kansas City where he founded a similar group. The boys were without an advisor until they approached Sam Beber with a proposal.

    Beber accepted the post under one condition. He told the young men that it was his vision to create an organization of Jewish fraternities that would stretch beyond even the United States to encompass the entire world. Beber said that this Omaha Jewish fraternity might well be the starting point of such an organization.

    It was with this intent that Beber called a meeting on May 3, 1924. On this day the International Order of the Aleph Zadik Aleph came into existence. The original constitution and by-laws were drawn up, and a Supreme Advisory Council was established as the policy making body of the new group. Sam Beber was to be the Grand President of the Council and Nathan Mnookin was the Grand First Vice President. This council was to be the guiding force over the next year. As tribute to these men's genius, the organization began to grow immediately. At the first national convention held in Omaha on July 4-6, 1924, there were ninety-four members -- two-thirds of the membership -- representing four chapters. The brotherhood and fraternity exhibited at this convention was to become the single greatest driving force in the success of AZA.

    Grand Officers were elected for the first time. Charles Shane of Des Moines and William Horowitz of Kansas City were deadlocked for Grand Aleph Godol. The impasse was broken when it was discovered that Shane was 20 while Horowitz was only 17. Thus, Shane became the first Grand Aleph Godol and Horwitz the first Grand Aleph S'gan.

    By April 1925, there were seven groups, all within a radius of 100 miles of Omaha. At this time Sam Beber went to the national convention of B'nai B'rith to seek sponsorship of that great organization for the Aleph Zadik Aleph. It was not until a stirring speech by Henry Monsky (who later became president of B'nai B'rith) that the report was adopted over vigorous opposition, and AZA became a part of B'nai B'rith.

    It is interesting to note that B'nai B'rith had no self-serving motive in adopting AZA.

    Membership, from the very beginning, was open to any Jewish boy whether or not his parents were affiliated with B'nai B'rith. It was natural, however, that a close relationship resulted in many members of AZA becoming leaders in B'nai B'rith.

    Later the second International Convention was scheduled. Perhaps the most important event that was to take place at the second International Convention was the election of Philip Klutznick as Grand Aleph Godol. After his term, Klutznick was hired as the first International Director of AZA. Klutznick was one of the single most important contributors to the AZA program. He was the man who brought it prestige and sent it down the road to success. It is interesting to note that Klutznick was influential inside and outside of B'nai B'rith. He served as President of B'nai B'rith, US Ambassador to the United Nations, Chairman of the World Jewish Congress, and US Secretary of Commerce under the Carter administration.

    Another important development in his second year was the creation of the Shofar, the official newspaper of the AZA. It is still in circulation today.

    By the third year of its existence, AZA had grown enormously. Twenty-three chapters were represented at the third annual convention held in St. Paul, Minnesota. Since that time, the AZA has grown into a powerful, international youth movement. In just twenty- five years AZA grew from the seven chapters around Omaha in 1925 to approximately 420 chapters and 12,000 members by 1950.

    A few months after Klutznick's appointment in 1926, the national organization of AZA became international when a chapter was installed in Calgary, Alberta. The organization continued to grow when in 1928 Dr. Boris D. Bogen presented his Five-Fold- and-Full Plan to the Supreme Advisory Council. The early development of a well-rounded program that included athletic, social, educational, community service/social action and Judaic programming proved invaluable and near ingenious.

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