Aleph Zadik Aleph

Aleph Zadik Aleph

The International Order of the Aleph Zadik Aleph (AZA) is an international youth-led fraternal organization for Jewish teenagers, founded in 1924 and currently existing as the male wing of the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization (BBYO, Inc.), an independent non-profit organization. AZA's sister organization, for teenage girls, is the B'nai B'rith Girls.


The first chapters

AZA was founded in June, 1922 in Omaha, Nebraska by a group of 14 Jewish teenagers between the ages of 15 and 17. Although the exact circumstances surrounding the formation of the group have never been settled, it is believed that it arose as a response to the other Jewish youth groups in Omaha at the time, which did not suit all the needs of the growing and varied Jewish population. The letters bore no significance, other than the popularity of Greek-style fraternities at the time, and the teenagers' desire to parallel them with a Hebrew slant. [cite book
last = Baer
first = Max F.
title = Dealing in Futures: The Story of a Jewish Youth Movement
publisher = B'nai B'rith International
date = 1983
location = Washington, D.C.
pages = 13

Abe Babior, the new group's first president, said that it was started "as a social and Zionist youth group." The group's meetings would usually feature speakers on a number of Judaic and non-Judaic topics. The group held social events, including parties and dances. The group's first advisor, Nathan Mnookin, an accomplished chemist, moved back to his hometown of Kansas City in November 1923, and immediately started a similar organization of the same name. Mnookin's departure paved the way for the next AZA advisor in Omaha, Sam Beber. [Baer, 15]

A national organization

As Beber continued to serve as an advisor for the local Omaha group, he also began planning for a much larger undertaking: an international Jewish youth group. Beber called a meeting of friends and associates in the area on May 3, 1924, reaching an understanding of goals and forming the first Supreme Advisory Committee (SAC) consisting of seven men, and officially founding the Aleph Zadik Aleph for Young Men. The new organization's first chapter charter was granted to the existing AZA group in Omaha, dubbed "Mother Chapter" with Mnookin's second chapter in Kansas City receiving a charter a week later. By the end of the month, new chapters had been launched in Lincoln, Nebraska and Des Moines, Iowa. [Baer, 22]

The first AZA convention was held that summer at the Jewish Community Center in Omaha, July 4-6, 1924. Over two-thirds of the new organization's membership was present to elect their first ever Grand Aleph Godol (international president). In a tight race which required a referral to the SAC to break a tie vote, Charles Shane emerged victorious. In other business conducted, the boys chose to commit a third of their membership dues (at that time $3) to charity. [Baer, 27]

By the second annual convention, held in Kansas City, AZA membership had ballooned to 250 and new chapters were inaugurated in eight more cities. Philip Klutznick, among AZA's most accomplished alumni, was elected as the 2nd Grand Aleph Godol. During his term, he installed 10 chapters in the eastern part of the country and oversaw the creation of The Shofar, the organization's international newsletter. Following his term in office, the organization rewarded him by making him, at the age of 19, their first executive director. [Baer, 28]

Involvement with B'nai B'rith

The connection between AZA and B'nai B'rith dates back to AZA's earliest days, when its founder, Sam Beber, was simultaneously serving as the AZA advisor and as the vice president of the B'nai B'rith lodge in Omaha. Soon thereafter, the new organization was able to secure funding from the regional B'nai B'rith lodge. At the first AZA international convention in 1924, it was resolved that the organization should seek affiliation with B'nai B'rith. Sam Beber commenced communication, and at the executive committee meeting in January, 1925, President Adolf Kraus appointed a committee to explore the matter, headed by Henry Monsky. A fellow Omaha resident, Monsky brought the issue of adopting "junior auxiliaries" for the forefront for the organization. Following B'nai B'rith's international convention, in which Monsky's committee recommended the adoption of AZA as the official youth organization of B'nai B'rith, the executive committee met and immediately adopted the recommendation. [Baer, pp. 34-38]

AZA enjoyed a long and prosperous relationship with B'nai B'rith, and countless youth leaders in AZA went on to hold leadership roles in B'nai B'rith as adults. B'nai B'rith lodges often adopted AZA chapters, collaborated on joint programming and served in an advisory capacity. AZA was eventually combined with the B'nai B'rith Girls (BBG) into what would become known as the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization (BBYO). As the male wing of BBYO, AZA continued to maintain its unique character, traditions and rituals, even though it was administered jointly with BBG under the BBYO umbrella. Although BBYO split from B'nai B'rith in 2002 and was re-formed as an independent non-profit organization, it has kept the name "B'nai B'rith Youth Organization".

Common misconceptions

Many modern AZA publications tell an incorrect history of the organization. According to the false histories, the organization was formed as a protest against Greek fraternities which were supposedly exclusive of Jews. [cite web
title = "History and Development of the Aleph Zadik Aleph"
publisher = BBYO, Inc.
url =
] In a more extreme version, it is believed that there was a specific fraternity in Omaha using the letters Alpha Zeta Alpha which refused membership to the young Jewish men who eventually formed AZA. [cite web
title = "AZA History"
publisher = Greater Toronto Area BBYO
url =
format = Microsoft Word
] There is no known evidence to directly support either of these stories, and, to the contrary, conversations with the founding members reveal that the organization's name was specifically in an attempt to mimic Greek fraternities--not to protest them. [Baer, 13]


AZA logo

The AZA logo is a "menorah", a seven-branched candelabrum, which is one of the central symbols of Judaism. The "menorah" has a hexagonal shape in its center, with each side of the hexagon and the base of the "menorah" containing one of the 7 Cardinal Principles. In the center of the hexagon is a "Magen david" (Star of David), and inside it are the Hebrew letters Aleph Zadik Aleph.


The password to enter an AZA meeting is "ami" (עמי), the Hebrew word meaning "my people". Although this was once a secret, it is now widely-known information and is for ceremonial and traditional purposes only.


Every finger has significance in the AZA handshake. The forefinger extends forward to feel the other person's pulse, to symbolize our blood relation. The three middle fingers grasp the other person's hand, as in a normal handshake, symbolizing the three tenets of the AZA motto (benevolence, brotherly love and harmony). The thumb extends upwards, pointing towards God and symbolizing the monotheistic ideal that is the contribution of the Jewish people.

Aleph pin

When members ("Alephs") are inducted into the organization, they receive a pin containing the AZA logo. This pin is to be worn at all AZA functions (including meetings, programs and conventions) as a way of visually displaying ones membership in the organization. It is supposed to be worn on one's shirt, over the heart, to symbolize that the principles (which are inscribed on the AZA logo on the pin) are being kept close to one's heart.

ongs and cheers

Many of the AZA spirit songs date back to the earliest days of the organization. The most commonly sung song is "Up You Men", the official pep song of the organization which dates to 1931, when it was the winning entry in a song contest. It was composed by Heinie Krinsky and Wes Bercovich from Oakland, and in modern times is sung both at fast pace as a rally song, and sometimes in a slow and somber tone as a brotherhood song. "Come Join Us In Our Song" is a popular song to be sung conventions and summer programs, and is the longest of the AZA songs. "Sweetheart of AZA", also composed by Krinsky and Bercovich, is traditionally recited when the sweetheart (a well-liked BBG member chosen to serve in the role at various levels) enters the room, although its use in modern times varies from region to region. [Baer, 23] Other popular cheers include "Stand Together," "Tomorrow and Today," [The Blue Book, Revised: 2003] "Put Your Hands Together," "The Wizard," and "Achiim."

Guiding principles

There are "Seven Cardinal Principles" through which all AZA members (Alephs) are expected to conduct their life. These principles underline the intent and character of the organization. They are patriotism, Judaism, filial love, charity, conduct, purity, and fraternity. These principles can be found inscribed on the AZA logo, and are often recited during opening rituals of business meetings.


Five programming folds are used as the basis for all program planning. In 1928, Dr. Boris D. Bogen, one of the founders of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, presented his ideas for a "Five-Fold-and-Full Plan" to AZA's governing body, the Supreme Advisory Council. To this day, the five folds are social, athletic, community service/social action, educational, and Judaic. It is expected that all AZA events fall into at least one of these folds, and it is encouraged that programs span multiple folds. A program that incorporates every fold, a "five-fold program", is considered a significant undertaking and is particularly special.



AZA is administered internationally by BBYO, Inc.'s professional staff in the international office in Washington, D.C. Organizational units outside of North America are affiliated with BBYO, Inc. but are operated independently. In North America, the organization is broken down into 43 geographic regions, each of which has professional staff that report to the international office. Some regions may be further split into councils and cities depending on their size and geography, and each of these may also employ staff. The final level is the chapter, which employs volunteer advisors, and reports to their local staff. All members belong to a single chapter, although some BBYO programs (such as summer programs in Israel) do not require BBYO membership.


The organization is steered by a democratically elected board of officers on the international, regional, council and chapter levels. The officers elected may vary from one level to the other and between different chapters and regions. A group of elected officers is often referred to as the "executive board" or just simply the "board". Elections are typically held annually or semi-annually.

The executive board positions that are universally elected are:

*"Aleph Godol" (President)
*"Aleph S'gan" (Programming Vice-President)
*"Aleph Moreh" (Membership Vice-President)
*"Aleph Mazkir" (Secretary)
*"Aleph Gizbor" (Treasurer)
*"Aleph Shaliach" (Judaic, Community Service/ Social Action Vice-President)
*"Aleph Sopher" (Newspaper Editor)
*"Aleph Shotare Godol" (Sergeant-at-arms)
*"Aleph Shotare Katone" (Assistant Sergeant-at-arms)
*"Aleph Kohen Godol" (Parliamentarian, traditionally the past Aleph Godol) [The Blue Book, Revised: 2003]

In some places, additional officers may be elected based on need. Each region, council and chapter may have its own constitution detailing the positions to be elected and their specific responsibilities, so long as it does not conflict with the international constitution.


See also

*B'nai B'rith Youth Organization
*List of Aleph Zadik Aleph chapters
*B'nai B'rith Girls

External links

* [ B'nai B'rith Youth Organization] , official website
* [ Aleph Zadik Aleph] , official wesbite
* [ B-Linked] , BBYO's teen networking site
* [ AZA Begins: Before B'nai B'rith]

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