The Founding of the Aleph Zadik Aleph and B’nai B’rith Girls
Like the BBYO of today, the founding of AZA and later BBG was a teen-led effort.
In 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. The startup fraternity was mostly a local social group until Mnookin moved to Kansas City bringing AZA with him, and leaving Omaha without an advisor.
Like the BBYO of today, the founders of AZA and BBG were leaders with vision.
Without an advisor in place, the Omaha chapter asked Sam Beber to join them. He 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. On May 3, 1924, Mother Chapter AZA #1 was chartered, a Supreme Advisory Council was established naming Sam Beber as the Grand President and Nathan Mnookin as the Grand Vice President, and the Grand Order of the Aleph Zadik Aleph came into existence. This milestone is our fraternity’s Founders Day and is celebrated around the world.
The early years of AZA established much of the foundation that BBYO members around the world know today.
In 1925, under Sam Beber and Henry Monsky’s leadership, B’nai B’rith adopted AZA as it’s primary youth program, and then quickly set out to launch a sister program for young women. By 1927, AZA became a truly international Order with the establishment of First International AZA #31 in Calgary, Alberta and in December, Rose Mauser organized the first permanent chapter of what would become the B’nai B’rith Girls in San Francisco, CA. Mattie Olcovich and Essie Solomon served as the first advisors.
As BBG programming grew in popularity, they gained support from the B’nai B’rith Women (then also known as B’nai B’rith Auxiliaries). But, the BBG we know (and love) today came to be because of the dedication and hard work of Anita Perlman, the Chairwoman of the B’nai B’rith Girls. In Perlman’s first year she developed invaluable program resources, introduced a formal structure, and chartered the first official B’nai B’rith Girls chapters.
The B’nai B’rith Girls - with chapters San Francisco BBG #1, Oakland, CA #2, Linda Strauss, Los Angeles #3, Harrisburg, PA #4, Highland Park, LA #5, Worcester, MA #6, Lancaster, PA #7, Ramah, Chicago #8, Potsville #9, and Homestead, PA #10 - was officially established as an international Order on April 22, 1944. This milestone is our sorority’s Founders Day; it was also nearly twenty years in the making.
Generations of young men and women have called themselves “brother Alephs” and “proud BBGs” and it is all because of our founders, Sam Beber, Henry Monsky, Abe Baboir, and Nathan Mnookin, Anita Perlman, Rose Mauser, Mattie Olcovich, and Essie Solomon. These proud Jewish leaders had a dream and worked tirelessly to realize it. Our Order is their legacy.