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Thursday, April 10, 2014 | return to: views, editorial


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Adding college perspective to national Jewish scene — cool!

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With all the hand wringing over Jewish institutions struggling to attract younger Jews, some younger Jews are attracting the country’s leading Jewish institution.

The Jewish college fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi for short) is now part of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, the umbrella for the country’s most influential Jewish groups.

While there are several youth organizations that are adjunct members of the Conference of Presidents, AEPi is only the second full member of the Conference specifically made up of Jewish young adults. (Hillel was the first.)

It’s a coup for AEPi and a smart move on the part of the Conference of Presidents.

Consider the reach of the 100-year-old fraternity. With 180 chapters and 10,000 members on campuses throughout North America, Europe and Israel (plus many alumni-turned-community-leaders), AEPi is a real young adult powerhouse.

Although one does not have to be Jewish to join AEPi, the fraternity is steeped in Jewish identity; even its slogan, which is part of its logo, is “Developing Leadership for the Jewish Community.”

Members not only bond deeply as friends and fellow Jews, they commit to community service and Israel advocacy. As our story on page 12 relates, AEPi members are often among the vanguard fighting BDS (boycotts, divestments and sanctions against Israel) efforts on campus. Their Shabbat and holiday celebrations help all Jewish college students stay rooted in their traditions.

These traditions do not end at graduation. Many AEPi alumni remain active throughout their lives, a cadre of Jewish community leaders.

Malcolm Hoenlein, the Conference’s longtime executive vice president, told J. that the committee reviewing AEPi’s application was impressed by the fraternity’s  “magnificent advocacy and educational programs on Israel, in addition to their alumni who are leaders in their communities.”

A long list of notable alumni listed on the AEPi website includes Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, actor Gene Wilder and Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.)

By joining the Conference of Presidents, AEPi has a seat at a very big, very important table, one that marshals the collective clout of the nation’s most significant Jewish institutions. Its voice when it comes to speaking up for Israel and the Jewish community rings loud and clear.

Now AEPi is part of this national conversation.

Because the greater Bay Area is home to several AEPi chapters — at U.C. Berkeley, Stanford, U.C. Santa Cruz, U.C. Davis, San Jose State, San Francisco State and Sonoma State — our region is a big part of that conversation, as well.

Our story includes interviews with exemplary AEPi members. By their words and actions it’s clear that the next generation of Jews cares deeply about Israel, Judaism and the Jewish community.

We congratulate AEPi on this proud achievement.


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