Alumni & Chapter News

Champions of Our Heritage

By Jason A. Horowitz —

Pictured above:  Brother Tal Brody, Rho (University of Illinois) 1965, presents the Heritage Award to the Iota Chapter at the University of Denver at the 2017 International Convention.


ZBT recognizes the importance of connecting to our history and Credo and celebrates those brothers and chapters that do the same.

This holds very true during our annual International Convention. ZBT was honored to host Brother Tal Brody, a 1965 graduate of the Rho Chapter at the University of Illinois, as a special guest in Indianapolis in July. Among his many appearances at the International Convention, Brother Brody presented the Heritage Award to philanthropist Brother Alfred (Al) K. Berg, Omicron (Syracuse University) 1973.

“It was very exciting for my wife (Tirtza) and I to be a part of the amazing ZBT Convention,” Brother Brody said. “The honor given to Al Berg was well deserving. I was especially happy to participate in the sessions seeing that ZBT brothers are now standing up and not afraid of making their voices heard against anti-Semitism, hate and anti-Israel campaigns that are on campuses promoted by hate organizations.”

Brother Brody made Aliya to Israel after the 1965 seventh Maccabiah Games and became one the most honored new immigrants in Israel’s history. At age 34, he received the country’s highest civilian honor, the Israel Prize. He was selected to light the torch on Independence Day and ran with the torch opening up the ninth Maccabiah Games. Additionally, he captained Maccabi Tel-Aviv as they won Israel’s first European Basketball Championship. Today, he serves as Israel’s Ambassador of Goodwill.

Brothers attending International Convention had many opportunities to meet and learn from Brother Brody, who attended several sessions and emceed the annual Heritage Lunch.

Brother Tal Brody, Rho (University of Illinois) 1965, second from left, with the StandWithUs delegation.


“Tal’s inspiring story of how he brought his passion for basketball and his love of Israel together shows that there are many different ways to connect with Israel. Meeting him personally and listening to his story was an experience I will always cherish,” said Brother Ben Brownstein, Mid-Atlantic Campus Director for StandWithUs, which is a partner organization of ZBT.

Brother Brody is the subject of the new film, ON THE MAP, which chronicles Maccabi Tel Aviv’s run to their first European Basketball Championship. ZBT brothers were able to screen the movie introduced by Brother Brody.

As emcee of the Heritage Lunch, he presented two prestigious awards.

The chapter heritage programming award honors the chapter or colony that maintains an active connection to all entities of the history, heritage and the Mission of ZBT.

The 2017 recipient was the Iota Chapter at the University of Denver, who continued to grow the group’s connection to ZBT’s Mission and Credo, thus earning the award for the second consecutive year. The chapter’s leadership says establishing a Jewish identity in their chapter and on their campus will continue to be one of their biggest goals. They recognize ZBT’s heritage is an intricate part of the Ritual and what makes ZBT unique among all fraternities.

“Meeting Tal at convention was great and his enthusiasm was contagious. Receiving the Undergraduate Heritage Award from him was a true honor,” said Nicholas J. Sarnelli, Iota (University of Denver) 2018, the chapter’s Heritage Chairman.

Iota has continued to develop its relationship with both Hillel and Chabad, attending Shabbat dinners and meeting with the rabbis to discuss what it means to be Jewish. They planned and hosted a speech by a Holocaust survivor, and brothers engaged in educational discussions about how to help keep the Holocaust conversation going in today’s America. This group created a task force within the chapter specifically to address hate issues on campus. In the spring, they hosted the Anti-Defamation League’s regional director for a program called No Place for Hate. They have followed up with these anti-hate programs by building relationships with other multicultural groups on campus, including the Black Student Alliance, Muslim Student Association and other fraternities and sororities. They also hosted ZBT’s signature Green Light: Go! program.

ZBT also announced a change to the undergraduate heritage award in conjunction with the presentation of the alumnus award. Brother Al Berg was honored by the re-naming of the Al Berg Undergraduate Heritage Award alongside his acceptance of the alumnus award this summer.

The alumnus Heritage Award was created in 2005 to be presented occasionally, but no more than once per year, to a member of the Jewish community who distinguishes himself or herself in a communal, philanthropic, artistic or professional endeavor.

This year’s recipient was Brother Al Berg.  Brother Berg is the co-founder, and former President, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Marchon Eyewear, one of the largest eyeglass and sunglass manufacturers and distributors. Throughout the years, he has served on a variety of boards and been involved with many organizations such as Orbis, Chabad’s Children of Chernobyl, The Vision Council, the Israel Air Force Center Foundation, Syracuse University and the Harvard Business School Alumni Association.

Brother Berg is a great supporter of Zeta Beta Tau, recently committing $275,000 to the Heritage Initiative and in particular, the Combatting Campus Anti-Semitism Program. At the time of this commitment, he showed his support for the Fraternity’s work by saying, “The accomplishments of the Jewish people are remarkable and extremely positive but the history of persecution and anti-Semitism is also unfortunately remarkable in its negativity. Therefore, even in a country as great as America, it is important to always stay vigilant against bias, racism and other forms of hatred.”

In honor of Brother Berg’s commitment to combatting anti-Semitism and strengthening ZBT, Brother Brody shared with the Convention delegation the renaming of the Undergraduate Heritage Award in Brother Berg’s name. The award will from now on be known as the Al Berg Undergraduate Heritage Award.  ZBT looks forward to presenting the award in his honor to chapters who embody the Credo and our heritage for years to come.

Thank you to Brothers Brody and Berg for their continued dedication and support to ZBT, the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Their philanthropic work and commitment to activism has made the world a better place. It’s great to be a ZBT!