The organization that was to become the Aleph Zadik Aleph came together in early 1923. A group of Jewish boys in Omaha, Nebraska, organized a fraternity and named it the "Aleph Zadik Aleph," using Hebrew letters in the style of Greek fraternities, which often excluded Jews. The group elected Abe Baboir as their first president and chose a local chemist, Nathan Mnookin, to be their first advisor. AZA existed mainly as a local social group until Mnookin moved to Kansas City a few months later, where he founded a second chapter. The first chapter was without an advisor until it approached Sam Beber with a proposal.
Beber accepted the post under one condition: he told the young men that he envisioned the creation of an organization of Jewish fraternities that would stretch beyond the United States to encompass the entire world. Beber wanted the Omaha Jewish fraternity to be the starting point of his vision.
It was with this intention that Beber called a meeting on May 3, 1924. On this day, in the home of Harry Lapidus, the Grand Order of the Aleph Zadik Aleph came into existence. The original constitution and by-laws were drawn up, Mother Chapter AZA #1 was chartered, and a Supreme Advisory Council was established as the policy making body of the Order. Sam Beber became the Grand President of the Council and Nathan Mnookin became the Grand Vice President.
As a result of the hard work of this Council, the organization began to grow rapidly. Ninety-four members attended the first national convention in Omaha from July 4–6,1924. These 94 members constituted 2⁄3 of the total AZA membership, drawing from the first four chapters in Omaha, NE; Kansas City, KS; Lincoln, NE; and Des Moines, IO. The brotherhood exhibited between members at this convention became the single-greatest driving force in the success of the Order.
International officers were elected for the first time at this convention. Charles Shane of Des Moines and William Horowitz of Kansas City were deadlocked in the election for Grand Aleph Godol. The Supreme Advisory Council helped to break the impasse when they discovered that Shane was 20 while Horowitz was only 17. Shane became the first Grand Aleph Godol and Horowitz the first Grand Aleph S’gan.
By April 1925, there were seven chapters, all within 100 miles of Omaha. At this time, Sam Beber went to the B’nai B’rith National Convention to seek sponsorship of the Aleph Zadik Aleph. Henry Monsky (a future B’nai B’rith President) gave a stirring speech that swayed the body, and B’nai B’rith adopted AZA as its primary youth program. While membership in AZA was not restricted to those whose parents belonged to B’nai B’rith, many members of the Aleph Zadik Aleph went on to become leaders in B’nai B’rith.
At the second national convention, Philip Klutznick was elected Grand Aleph Godol. A dynamic leader and renowned orator, Klutznick was hired as the first International Director of AZA at the conclusion of his term as Grand Aleph Godol. He brought the Order great prestige and launched The Shofar, the Aleph Zadik Aleph’s official newspaper. Klutznick maitained a strong connection to AZA as he moved forward as a leader in both the Jewish and general communities. He later served as President of B’nai B’rith, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Chairman of the World Jewish Congress, and U.S. Secretary of Commerce during the Carter administration.
By 1927, AZA had grown enormously. Twenty-three chapters were represented at the third annual convention, held in St. Paul, Minnesota. Shortly afterward, AZA became a truly international Order with the establishment of First International AZA #31 in Calgary, Alberta. This rapid expansion led to the development of more thorough programming guidelines within the chapters.
In 1928, Dr. Boris D. Bogen presented his Five-Fold-and-Full Plan to the Supreme Advisory Council. A prominent leader in the American Jewish community, Bogen believed that AZA had a major role to play in preparing future generations for Jewish leadership and that this aim could best be met through a diverse and “full” program. His original plan consisted of religious, educational, social service, athletic, and social activities. While the five folds have been altered over time, the organization’s commitment to well-rounded programming has never wavered.
So many important events and occurrences have happened since 1924 that a timeline structure is perhaps the best way to understand the gradual development of the AZA program into what it is today.
1923: Fifteen boys in Omaha, Nebraska form the Aleph Zadik Aleph. Abe Baboir is elected as the first president and Nathan Mnookin is the first advisor.
1924: Mnookin moves to Kansas City. Sam Beber becomes advisor and the International Order of the Aleph Zadik Aleph comes into being. First Supreme Court Advisory Council is created. First International Convention is held.
1925: AZA is adopted by B’nai B’rith International. The Shofar Newsletter is established.
1926: First national headquarters opens in Omaha, Nebraska. AZA becomes a truly International Organization wtih the founding of the first Canadian Chapter in Calgary, Alberta.
1927: First district tournaments are held. These feature competition in oratory, debate and basketball.
1928: Dr. Boris D. Bogen presents his brilliant Five-Fold-and-Full program to the Supreme Advisory Council. AZA Shabbat, the first international simultaneous program is introduced. AZA Mother’s Day introduced.
1931: Temporary chapters inaugurated. Mother’s Day becomes AZA Parents’ Day. AZA’s work with the Boy Scouts of America is initiated. 1932: First International Convention in Canada is held. Scholarship Loan Fund is founded.
1933: Tenth Anniversary of the Aleph Zadik Aleph. 100 AZA chapters within America.
1935: A free, circulating library created. Lapidus Memorial Forest came into being. The minimum age requirement of an Aleph lowered to 15. 1936: Karmen Chapter formed in Bulgaria. This was the first chapter to exist outside of North America.
1938: Chapters installed in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Tel Aviv, Palestine.
1939: Order raised $3,091.50 for Lapidus Memorial Fund. Secrecy of rituals and password abolished. AZA instrumental in forming National Conference of Jewish Youth Groups.
1940: Successful campaign to raise $10,000 for Aleph Jerry Safur, infantile paralysis victim. First British chapter established in Leeds. 1942: AZA turned its efforts to an all-out “Help Win the War Campaign,” with scrap drives, bond sales, and hospitality for service men. William Suckle first Grand Aleph Godol to be re-elected. AZA and B’nai B’rith Women cooperation inaugurated.
1943: Minimum age requirement for membership reduced to 14 years. National convention elections and motions voted on by mail. Over $6,343,720 worth of bonds sold.
1944: B’nai B’rith officially recognized B’nai B’rith Girls and BBYO was born. Supreme Advisory Council becomes B’nai B’rith Youth Commission and is comprised of both men and women.
1948: AZA recognizes State of Israel ahead of independence.
1949: Silver Anniversary Ceremony for AZA. The organization reaches a 25-year milestone of service to the Jewish Community.
1955: International Kallah established at B’nai B’rith Perlman Camp.
1956: Israel Summer Institute established.
1961: Noar Lenoar, BBYO’s first counterpart in Israel, founded.
1974: AZA celebrates its Golden Anniversary. Fifty years of service to the Jewish community. Establishment of the International AZA Alumni Association. AZA and BBG members appointed to all B’nai B’rith Commissions.
1977: Chapter Leadership Training Conference established at B’nai B’rith Beber Camp. International Convention votes to disband the District level.
1981: District level completely phased out within North America to be replaced with the regional level.
1983: First office opened in continental Europe. Chapters begun in France, Spain, Holland, Germany, and Austria.
1989: Fifth Officer, Grand Aleph Shaliach added to the International Board.
1990: AZA and BBG send largest delegation on the March of the Living. First BBYO program held in Soviet Union with more than 200 Soviet Jewish teens in attendance.
1993: Israel Leadership Summer Institute (ILSI) established.
1994: The International basketball tournament of old revived under a new name, the AZAA (AZA Athletics). BBYO Cheres Forest is established outside of Jerusalem. International Spirit Award and Chapter of the Year awards established.
1995: The Aleph Zadik Aleph International Board vote to change the Five Folds to increase the folds’ usefulness in the chapters. First Hungarian Leadership Institute established.
2002: BBYO transitioned to independence from B’nai B’rith International to become a new and legally independent organization under the name of BBYO, Inc. It is no longer officially recognized by its former full name, “B’nai B’rith Youth Organization.”
2005: Final International Convention at Camp Perlman takes place.
2006: AZA and BBG deliver 10,000 signatures to the White House to end nuclear proliferation in Iran.
2008: At International Convention, the My 2 Cents for Change campaign encouraged teen involvement in the 2008 Presidential election. 2009: BBYO’s Stand UP Campaign was launched.
2010: At August International Executive’s Conference, the “Speak UP for Israel” and “Stand UP for Each Other” campaigns launched; the Degrees of Programming were introduced; The International Service Fund was redefined for Globalization; the Global Ambassadors Network was created and the Coalition of Jewish Teen Leaders (CJTL) was motioned into action.
BY THE DECADES
- 1920s The first chapter of the Aleph Zadik Aleph was formed in 1924 in Omaha, Nebraska. With guidance from advisor Sam Beber, AZA was declared an international organization on May 3, 1924. As chapters began to form throughout the United States and in Canada, International Conventions were held and International Officers elected. In 1925, AZA was adopted by B’nai B’rith International as its official youth program. Dr. Boris D. Bogen introduced the Five-Fold Program in 1928, outlining the diverse program that would come to define AZA.
- 1930s By the 10th anniversary of the Aleph Zadik Aleph, over one hundred chapters existed in North America. The first overseas chapter of AZA was founded in 1936 in Bulgaria, and chapters followed shortly after in England and in what was then Palestine. The first professional field staff members were hired to work with AZA chapters around North America.
- 1940s During World War II, the Aleph Zadik Aleph sold more than $6 million in war bonds and committed countless human resources to the war effort. Over 10,000 Alephs in good standing at the time and alumni fought for the Allies in World War II with approximately 290 sacrificing their lives. Because the war pulled so many AZA members away from their home communities, the minimum age for membership was lowered to fourteen. The B’nai B’rith Girls (BBG) was officially established in 1944 and the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO) was born as the umbrella over both groups. The B’nai B’rith Youth Commission was established as BBYO’s governing body.
- 1950s Camp B’nai B’rith opened in Starlight, Pennsylvania, in 1954 and became home to AZA International Convention and other BBYO summer programs. Many of BBYO’s International Programs were established during this time period, including the International Leadership Training Conference, Kallah, and the Israel Summer Institute.
- 1960s The 1960’s saw continued growth for the Aleph Zadik Aleph and the establishment of Noar L’Noar as BBYO’s first partner in Israel.
- 1970s The Aleph Zadik Aleph celebrated its Golden Anniversary in 1974. B’nai B’rith Beber Camp was opened in Mukwonago, Wisconsin, in 1977 and the first Chapter Leadership Training Conference was held there that summer. Camp B’nai B’rith in Pennsylvania was rededicated as Perlman Camp in honor of BBG’s organizer, Anita Perlman.
- 1980s BBYO’s international presence increased with the establishment of chapters in France, Spain, Belgium, Holland, Germany, and Austria. At the same time, districts (which had previously encompassed several regions) were disbanded in North America. Teen Connection (now BBYO Connect) was also established during this time to involve middle school-aged Jewish youth. BBYO partnered with the March of the Living upon its establishment in 1988, sending the largest delegation on the first trip.
- 1990s The Chapter Leadership Training Conference expanded significantly, becoming the foundation of the organization’s training program. The Max F. Baer Spirit Gavel was established as an annual award to the most spirited region at International Convention. The International Leadership Study in Israel was established, and the AZAA Basketball Tournament was renewed after years of dormancy. The organization’s international headquarters moved locations for the first time in nearly 50 years.
- 2002 & BEYOND
Just after the turn of the new millennium, many changes for the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization occurred. Our Order became a legally independent entity from B’nai B’rith International in 2002 and BBYO, Inc. was established as its official new name. Several leaders from the Jewish community, such as key Jewish philanthropists, BBYO alumni, Jewish Federation leadership, and BBYO’s International Teen Presidents (the Grand Aleph Godol and International N’siah), formed a new Board of Directors to assume governance over BBYO. While traditional summer programs such as CLTC, ILTC and Kallah continue to be offered, a new slate of Israel trips and community service programs grew extensively. In 2004, BBYO launched its international teen travel program, now called BBYO Passport, and restored its historical International Leadership Seminar in Israel (ILSI). The organization also created the BBYO Panim Institute, which offers premiere service learning opportunities open to members and non-members of BBYO. During this time, International Convention also left Camp Perlman for the first time in 50 years and convened at Camp Ramah Darom outside of Atlanta, GA in February 2006, and has been held in a different location every year since. Keeping with Aleph Zadik Aleph’s mission to provide a meaningful experience to Jewish teens of all ages, BBYO’s 6th-8th grade experience, now known as BBYO Connect, was reestablished in the 2007-2008 programming year. BBYO Connect positions BBYO as a ‘rite of passage’ for pre-high school teens, while promoting Jewish community involvement from pre-bar/bat mitzvah through the high school years.
In recent years, BBYO and the Aleph Zadik Aleph have encouraged our members to become involved with community service both in and out of the Jewish community. The 85th/65th (2008 – 2009) International Boards introduced Stand UP - BBYO’s service, philanthropy, and advocacy campaign. The 86th/66th (2010-2011) Executive Body ignited a renaissance of globalization – reconnecting BBYO worldwide and establishing new partnerships with twenty Jewish teen communities across the globe. The 2010-2011 programming year also yielded the introduction of “Speak UP for Israel”, BBYO’s campaign for Israel education and advocacy. The first decade of the twenty-first century redefined our Order. Sam Beber’s dream to provide a meaningful experience to Jewish teens has spread across the world and shows no signs of slowing down.