One of the principal tenets of AEPi membership is learned early in the new member program: one of the points on the pin stands for mutual helpfulness. How that gets demonstrated and implemented can vary widely.
In Hebrew, Tzedakah means charity and justice and helping others is seen as an act of generosity and justice in Judaism. The Rabbis teach us, though, that giving to charity is more than a righteous act. Tzedakah is an obligation that Jewish people have with G-d to help bring fairness to the world.
Since October 7, finding fairness in the world has become more difficult than it once was. But, the lessons and values of AEPi – of mutual helpfulness and Tzedakah – are more apparent than ever.
Brother Benjamin Alfon (Reichman, 2024) is living proof of these values. Originally from London, Brother Alfon moved to Israel when he was 19. After serving three years in the Israeli Air Force, he enrolled at Bar-Ilan University just outside of Tel Aviv. After a year, he transferred to Reichman (formerly known as IDC) in the Herzliya district of Tel Aviv. It was there that he got involved with AEPi, joining the chapter in the spring of 2022 and initiated in June. “We have a small chapter, so everyone holds multiple positions. I was elected Brother-At-Large and New Member Coordinator, but I’ve also helped with rush and social. We all have to work hard to get our chapter back up.”
“I was in Jerusalem on October 7 for Shabbat with my family. Sirens don’t really go off in Jerusalem and even Tel Aviv. All of the sudden, I heard sirens and opened my phone and saw rocket alerts. Rockets don’t come to Jerusalem. It’s been 20-25 years since rockets reached Jerusalem. I knew right away how big this thing really was,” said Brother Alfon. “Shabbat in Jerusalem is usually very quiet and that day there were jets and squadrons of helicopters overhead.”
Israel has never seen anything like what happened next. “For 75 years, usually when people get called up for reserve duty, you get some people who say that they are busy with this and that. This time was different. Even faster than the Yom Kippur war. Everyone said, ‘Yes, I am coming. Where do I need to go?’ Within 18 hours, there was like 360,000 people ready to go to war.”
Brother Alfon immediately knew that it was his time to help make a difference. “A group of our AEPi Brothers got together and immediately started trying to compile lists of our Brothers who are in armed services. We think that there are about 300 AEPi Brothers in the reserves or active duty. And, right now, about 77 or 78 of our Brothers are serving in active duty (as of late October). We started thinking about how we could use our AEPi network to get our Brothers and others the equipment they needed.”
In the immediate aftermath of October 7, many diaspora Jews did everything possible to get needed tactical gear, including things like body armor, night vision goggles and clothing, to IDF soldiers preparing to go to war with Hamas. Brother Alfon helped lead the initiative for AEPi. “I might be the only AEPi Brother who was in multiple talks with multiple arms dealers around the world.” Chuckling, he added, “At least I hope so!”
The Brothers also started working on getting simpler things to the troops. “We started buying things like nuts, dried fruit and candies…things that the guys on the front lines can bring with them in the field and eat. The guys go crazy for that (stuff)!”
At times like these in Israel, Brotherhood looms large. “What’s happening in Israel today wouldn’t happen anywhere else in the world. The level of unity that is here…it’s like our Brotherhood and taking it to a nationwide level. It’s not just saying that you are a part of this nation or this brotherhood. It’s a part of you. If I say I’m going to help you, I will and that’s just it.”
Helping people – especially those on the front lines and most especially AEPi Brothers on the front lines – has become Brother Alfon’s passion since October 7. “I spend most of my days on the phone with Brothers and others, trying to get support for different programs to help our soldiers. I go to bed on American time and wake up on Israeli time. The rest of the time I am working to help.”
To support this initiative, please click here to help provide support to AEPi Brothers in the IDF.
“I joke with my friends that I’m burning out and ready to have a breakdown but none of us have time for a breakdown. We are needed to help support those on the front lines. I’ll have to have my breakdown when the war is over.”