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Do you know which international Jewish youth organization began in Omaha, Nebraska?

In the 1920s, Jewish youth were often excluded from local clubs and organizations. When a group of Jewish teens in Omaha decided to create their own fraternity, they mimicked the Greek fraternities that had excluded them by naming their group Aleph Zadik Aleph (AZA). It started as a simple club of 14 or so Jewish teenage boys who organized social events. Originally featuring speakers and dances…it became much more.

On May 3, 1924, AZA’s second advisor, Sam Beber formalized the group into an international fraternal organization (a second chapter in Kansas City had already been started by Nathan Mnookin, formerly of Omaha). Within a year, 8 more cities chartered chapters. In 1925, at Beber’s instigation, AZA was “adopted” by B’nai Brith, the Jewish service organization. B’nai Brith gave the boys financial support as well as a path into the adult Jewish social network.

While there were many attempts to create a parallel organization for girls, a similar network was not fully established until 1944, with the inauguration of B’nai Brith Girls (BBG). B’nai Brith then brought the two networks together to form the B’nai Brith Youth Organization (BBYO). The affiliation with B’nai Brith lasted until 2002, when BBYO became an independent, non-profit organization.

Over the years, BBYO has touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of Jewish youths around the world. Not only has it proven to be a popular social outlet, but has given many Jewish youths a sense of great pride in their heritage, inspiring an involvement with the Jewish community for the rest of their lives.

Copyright © 2010 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

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