Rob’s Report: High Holidays

Just as I began to ask myself what I could write about this week as we head into the high holy days Past Supreme Master Rabbi Stanley Davids posted his weekly torah study on his YouTube channel. (Stanley Davids – YouTube) I regularly listen to his weekly post and find inspiration in the words of this amazing Jewish leader; who happens to also be an amazing AEPi brother.  Last week, Rabbi Davids discussed how easy it can be to stray from our values and how our perception of T’shuva, is a perception of our own creation. T’shuvah is in fact accessible to all of us.

This month also happens to be National Campus Safety Awareness Month and although one may believe that the high holidays and campus safety are unrelated, I recently referred to T’shuvah, Tsedakah, and Tfillah twice recently in the context of campus safety (or as we call it “Health and Safety”). The first was during my address to our Supreme Counsil at convention and I think that the message is important enough to share with all of you.

In a few weeks we will all be reminded in our yom kippur liturgy that teshuvah, t’filah, and tzedakah are required in order for us to be written in the book of life. Just as we all turn to this practice each year so too must AEPi practice Teshuvah-turning from any faults misdeeds, Tfilah-reconnecting with what is right and what is important, and Tzedakah- giving of ourselves by doing good over the course of the coming year. I am taking this chance to speak to you, our chapter and fraternity leaders, because I need you to ensure that our chapters do teshuvah, tfilah, and tzedakah. Reflect on what you can do to be better and safer.  Everyone can be proactive and take an additional step. Stand up to your chapter Brothers and make sure that they know that there are consequences for bad behavior. Educate that there is no longer room for error when it comes to safety. Brothers-There is no longer a question about if serving hard alcohol or drugs to guests at parties can be done safely. It can’t. There is no longer room to debate if hazing works or not.  It doesn’t. There is no grey area when it comes to our sexual relationships. You need 100% clear and 100% sober consent. And, finally, there is no longer an excuse for creating an environment where negative behaviors are accepted or encouraged nor environments where people are placed in socially compromised or unsafe positions.

Today, just as it has been for the last 100 plus years, we must act in accordance with our values and account for a changing world. As Brothers of AEPi we all share a responsibility to provide for the well-being of our Brothers, guests, neighbors, campus and community. Caring for each other and for our community is an important part of our shared values.

This past week I sent an email to all of our undergraduates and again referred to these concepts:

I ask that you take a moment during the days of awe; this time of reflection between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur to think about the things that you can do to ensure that your chapter and your campus community reflect AEPi’s values. As a Jewish fraternity, our highest priority is the same as the highest value of the Jewish People: Chai (Life). This is why AEPi has a robust Health and Safety Policy that we have all agreed to comply with as part of our member oath. It is critical that we all remember that we are all our Brothers’ Keepers and have a responsibility for the safety of each other, our guests and our community. We are also accountable to one another for the reputation of our fraternity and the need to exhibit our values in all that we do.

Please reflect on what you can do to promote an even better and safer AEPi through adherence to policy and through promotion of their intent. Everyone can do their part to make your chapter a safer and healthier environment for yourself, for your Brothers, for your friends, and for your campus community. Making change starts with one individual leader. Will you institute better safeguards for social events? Will you stand up against hazing? Will you make sure that all members are better educated about drugs, alcohol, assault, sexual misconduct, premises safety, mental health, and security? Will you encourage bystander intervention? Will you and your Brothers take the I Am My Brothers Keeper Pledge?

Although these messages were directed primarily toward our undergraduates; Rabbi Davids reminds me that this is accessible to all of us. All of us have the power to influence our fraternity and our society. All of us have the ability to be better. Only by connecting our values to our actions are we able to ensure that we repair our world. If you are part of campus faculty, a parent who visits campus, an alum who attends football tailgates, or anyone who interacts with our college students, exhibiting behavior and expectations that are consistent with AEPi guidelines helps us to connect the Tshuvah, Tfillah, and Tzedakah done at the high holidays with the campus safety that we so desperately advocate for.

Shanah tovah umetukah and G’mar chatima tovah to all of you from AEPi.