Rob’s Report: Reflections on Founders Day

Happy Founders Day! 

For those who do not know, today — November 7 —  is the day that AEPi celebrates our founding by the “Immortal 11” men who came together in 1913 at NYU. Today, AEPi men celebrate both our founding and the men who took this step.

Founders Day is also a reminder about the impact that we can have on our community. I recently read the obituary of Charles Moskowitz which mentioned a litany of accomplishments in business and civic organizations but was surprised to find no mention of his involvement in founding AEPi. Brother Moskowitz was accomplished in many ways. Most Brothers know that he was a fine basketball player but may not know that he worked in a movie theater as a bookkeeper even at the time of AEPi’s founding. That theater was Loews in New York. He continued to work for them and eventually became Vice President of Loews Theaters and a director of Loews MetroGoldwyn-Mayer pictures. Moskowitz was also President of a related company called Leo Feist, Inc. that produced the iconic and academy award winning song “Over the Rainbow” sung by Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz in 1939.  Many speculate that the song, written by by Edgar “Yip” Harburg and Harold Arlen was a ballad about the zionist dream for a place where “troubles melt like lemon drops”  maybe “a land that I heard of, once in a lullaby”.

Despite his incredible and yiddishkeit life, I am saddened to think that Moskowitz and the other founders may not have internalized what they created when they formed AEPi.  Brother Moskowitz may not have realized that his investment in time, energy, and funds would eventually impact over 125,000 alumni and the communities they live in. He may not have realized that AEPi would operate on over 150 college campuses. Today we know more about the impact of AEPi and we know that we continue to build on their idea with investment in young Jewish leaders. We also know that AEPi is in need of more support dollars than any time in our history. Our expanded membership and the increasingly complex campus environment makes our mission more challenging to pursue and more critical to accomplish. In the spirit of Founders Day, I am asking you to join me in investing in AEPi by donating to the Founders Day campaign and to commit to giving back to AEPi and other Jewish organizations by signing The Jewish Future Pledge.

A friend once told me that a bet may pay off once but an investment pays off over and over again. Over the last 15 years I have been fortunate to have had a front row seat watching our investment dollars put to use and I am more and more convinced of the impact of those dollars every day. I have seen many of our undergraduates connect to Israel for the first time or in new ways that are particularly meaningful to them. I have witnessed AEPi’s maintain and strengthen their Jewish identity during the toughest time in their lives to stay connected. I have seen thousands of men come through AEPi gaining leadership skills, defining their character, building aptitude and gaining their independence. All of these outcomes play prominent roles in our educational philosophy and in our strategic planning.

Simply helping our Brothers to develop and grow may be enough for some but it is not for me. My personal philanthropic priority is to impact people in a way that enables them to impact others and AEPi is an investment that pays off for our community again and again. I have come to know that the impact our investment has on our undergraduates ensures that they go on to impact others. During the 2021-2022 school year, our undergraduates raised over $500,000 for philanthropic causes. They performed countless hours of community service, registered over 1,000 people to be bone marrow donors (10 new bone marrow donations were made last year resulting from AEPi’s efforts), advocated for campus safety and health, and they even rescued families from the Ukraine. I invest in a fraternity that inspires young men to connect to their Judaism and become the next generation of engaged, knowledgeable, philanthropic, and civically minded community leaders. I have also seen this impact continue after graduation. Alumni take prominent roles in the Jewish professional world, lead as volunteers with Jewish organizations, and are engaged in broader communal work. Some go into local or national politics, hold prominent roles in business or medicine, or are artists that add beauty to our world. Our alumni do great things that have a positive impact far beyond what would be expected from our little fraternity. Each alum that I meet seems to have an amazing story to tell and most of them begin with skills that they honed in their AEPi chapter during their college years.

One alum — Mike Leven (Tufts 1959) — particularly embodies much of this. After an illustrious career in business, Mike has invested substantially in AEPi and is working to spread his message of the importance of Jewish Philanthropy through The Jewish Future Pledge. Mike recently inspired me to sign The Jewish Future Pledge and I hope you will join me. The Jewish Future Pledge is a movement that calls on all Jews to sign a declaration that half or more of the portion dedicated to charity in their will/estate plan will be gifted to organizations that support the Jewish people and/or the State of Israel. When I first heard of the Jewish Future pledge, I thought it was a nice idea but I admit that I also wondered why I would need to take a pledge. After all, I am clearly dedicated to the future of the Jewish community through my work with AEPi and other Jewish organizations. My family already gives primarily to Jewish causes. Over the last few years, and after talking with Brother Leven, I have come to see that it is not only a pledge to myself and my community, it is a chance to start a conversation with others about why philanthropy — specifically Jewish philanthropy — is an important part of my life and why it should be a part of yours.  To me, the answer starts with a question: “If not us, who?” If we, a people dedicated to Tikkun Olam as part of our very essence, do not provide resources that solve the problems of the world, nobody else will.

If we do not invest in creating Jewish leadership that solves the world’s problems, who will? Who else has created over 125,000 Tikkun Olam warriors like AEPi has?

Although it is not my only philanthropic commitment, my favorite philanthropic cause for the reasons I listed above is The Alpha Epsilon Pi Foundation. I have found that when my dollars go to AEPi it is an unparalleled investment in the future of the Jewish people and in the creation of a better world. Please join me and my family in taking the Jewish Future Pledge and in giving generously to the AEPi Foundation in honor of our fraternity’s founding.

My best to all of my Brothers as AEPi goes from strength to strength.