22 Oct, 2021

Rob Derdiger: We Move Forward

22 Oct, 2021

It may sound strange, but I think that one of the things that Jewish tradition gets right is how we mourn when someone passes away. We are forced to internalize the permanence of our loss and then given guidelines for acting differently during Shiva (the seven days of mourning) and Shloshim (30 days following burial). The traditions recognize the cyclical nature of life and the fact that the living will realize their loss over the course of the week, month, and entire year. It also gives the mourners a roadmap for healing.

Our fraternity suffered a tremendous loss when Jim Fleischer, our CEO, passed away. It is ok for us to mourn, and it is inevitable that AEPi follows Jewish tradition. Shiva ended just a few days ago but during shiva there has been a palpable feeling of despair and sadness within AEPi. Countless AEPi’s missed their daily and weekly rituals that involved Jim. In one such instance I caught myself waiting for the phone to ring. Jim would normally be signing checks in the office on Sunday mornings and would always call to ask me a question or just to confirm the task got done. Last Sunday my phone did not ring, and the silence was unbearable. During shiva Brothers have come together to talk, to cry, to laugh, and to embrace one another. We have marveled at the strength of Jim’s wife and children.

Now AEPi enters the period of Shloshim. We will continue to mourn our great loss over the coming month and year, but we will also resume the work that we do Developing Leadership for the Jewish Community. The Supreme Board of Governors has tasked me to act in the CEO’s stead and lead AEPi’s operations through this period in our history so that we maintain operational continuity.

When he became CEO of Alpha Epsilon Pi in 2018 Jim immediately asked me to help him manage the organization’s finances and named me CFO shortly thereafter. I had worked for AEPi and Esponda Associates (AEPi’s housing division) since 2008 and closely with Jim since he returned to our staff as Assistant Executive Director in 2012.  Jim clearly held the lead executive role, but we managed our organization as a team with strengths and weaknesses that complemented one another well. We would often laugh after arguing with one another for some time before realizing that we agreed and had simply approached the issue from very different perspectives.  When Jim was diagnosed with Cancer several years ago our partnership gained even greater importance. We formed organizational strategy together, managed staff in tandem, and each worked closely with volunteer leadership.  The course ahead for AEPi has been clearly charted and we will continue to navigate successfully despite our profound loss.

It should be no surprise that AEPi has a talented group of individuals filling key roles across the organization. Board members and executive staff are experienced and steady leaders, our chapter e-board members and committee chairs are of good character and learning leadership skills every day, and our volunteers are committed mentors. No one brother carries the whole weight of the fraternity on their shoulders.

Over the coming year we will continue to communicate to our stakeholders any important updates about leadership and staffing. We will also find opportunities to celebrate Jim’s life and legacy in meaningful ways. We move forward but we will never forget.

Please visit the Jim Fleischer Memorial page and leave the family a memory of Jim and support them through the AEPi Foundation.