Don’t Call Me an AZA

February 1, 2022
Jack Elice

Rehoboth, Massachusetts, United States

Class of 2023

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The Grand Order of the Aleph Zadik Aleph has survived for over ninety-seven years, enduring the World Wars, injustice, raging anti-semitism, and so much more. Regardless, AZA has continued to thrive, providing a safe haven for our Jewish siblings to join together as a fraternity, shaping the world we live in currently. The Order’s principles of stewardship, as well as civic engagement, have inspired us and previous generations to leave our mark on this world, demonstrating the power of this very order.

At the time of its founding, AZA was created as a place for Jewish people seeking fraternity–a concept barred from Jewish people at the time. What started as a group of fourteen young people has grown to be nearly eight thousand. AZA has had its times of hardship, but it has pioneered through. Since its founding, AZA has progressed as a movement, maintaining the same values that were there nearly a century ago. We still follow the same rituals, sing the same songs, and go by the same title that they went by ninety-seven years ago: Alephs.

Along the extensive journey that is the progression of the Grand Order, Alephs have been here the entire time. Trusting our siblings, we have been able to accomplish unspeakable feats. Alephs have triumphed in the face of hardships. Alephs have become beacons of light in the darkness. Alephs have not only progressed our movement but changed the world. Claiming this title now for myself, I feel gratitude for those who held it before me, and a desire to follow in their footsteps in order to give back and make my community a better place. This is what it means to be an Aleph. Alephs live by the cardinal principles set forth. Alephs learn to love their siblings no matter if they are best friends or if this is their first time meeting each other. Alephs devote themselves to something greater than themselves when they decide to wear that pin and their letters proud.

This is why it is frustrating when we are mislabeled as “AZAs”. I have no idea how that term came to be, or how it spread. All rituals and procedures within this order open up with “My Brother Alephs”. We call each other Alephs. So how is it, even with all of this, that an incorrect term has spread?

I cannot get through a regional event without being called an “AZA” at least a handful of times, and hearing stories from my friends in other communities, they share the same experiences. When correcting friends on their errors, they tell me that they were unaware of their mistakes. While there was no intent for it to be harmful, I return to the point, how has this been so engraved into BBYO culture? Why is there such a large population that does not know that we are Alephs even though it is the name we have always been called?

In a poll done by the NER BBG Regional Board about a month ago, in a small sample size of about seventy-five BBGs, over 45% thought that we were called AZAs when asked which of the two terms was correct. I do not expect that high of a percentage to go throughout the movement, but I would say about 30% would be a reasonable estimate. There are a lot of people who do not know that we are called Alephs. This is frightening news.

Being an Aleph is who we are, it is our identity. I am honored to be called an Aleph, bearing the civic responsibilities that it entails. I am proud to be following in the footsteps of so many great individuals who have done fantastic things in their lives. I am grateful that this one title is what connects me to thousands of siblings worldwide. This title is powerful, and it is a title that must be not only preserved but celebrated front and center as we progress as a movement.

The best solution to the problem is to listen and share, the same way this likely started and grew to become such a prevalent issue. A small number of people likely messed up and called us “AZAs” around those who did not know what the right title was. Those people ended up using the incorrect terminology and passing it down, on and on, until we are where we are right now. It needs to be fixed the same way it started, with grassroots participation. If you trip up and use the wrong term, listen when someone corrects you. If you hear someone use the term “AZAs”, explain to them why it is incorrect, and share with them what the correct term is. It takes all of us to set things back in order, not just those of us who pride ourselves in being Alephs.

By calling each other Alephs, we are preserving the legacy and the message of Sam Beber. We are celebrating our long history of persistence, even in times of difficulty. This simple word holds so much power and so much meaning to tens of thousands of us who have been impacted by this order. This is why it is essential that we must preserve the term and make sure that future generations know who we are. Aleph is not only a title, it is a part of our identity. This is why I tell everyone “don’t call me an AZA”. This is why I care.

Jack Elice is an Aleph from New England Region and loves to watch the Great British Baking Show.

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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