Moving Mountains at the 2019 International Convention

By Risa Morris —

The 2019 International Convention in Denver, Colorado truly “moved mountains” with 370 brothers, partners and friends of ZBT in attendance.

International Convention is the premier education and leadership program in Zeta Beta Tau. Held annually, it is a time for brothers to come together to share in the truest sense of brotherhood while learning skills that will benefit them far beyond their college years. Undergraduates and volunteer faculty gather in our host city for this memorable and highly regarded event that is made possible by the generous support of the Zeta Beta Tau Foundation. While the Fraternity provides other forms of face-to-face education for brothers, this is one of our only events which brings undergraduate and alumni brothers alike together for meaningful interactions. This program allows undergraduates and alumni to play a key role in the development and future of the International Fraternity. Through educational programs, operational training and organizational management, brothers can gain a deeper understanding of the Fraternity and gain and exchange best practices while learning valuable skills regardless of their geographical location.

It serves as the single largest gathering of brothers and provides a wide lens from which to see the Fraternity. At International Convention, the Fraternity recognizes individuals (undergraduate, alumni and friends of ZBT) for achievements in the interfraternal world and greater community.

This year’s highlights included our Heritage Lunch, Partner Lunch, night at the Rockies Game, educational sessions and Grand Awards Banquet.


Heritage Lunch

The 2019 Heritage Lunch honored our Heritage Award winner, Rabbi Hazzan Dr. Jeffrey Myers and the greater Pittsburgh Jewish community. The 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.

Rabbi Hazzan Myers received a BA from Rutgers, an MA in Jewish Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary, and studied privately with Cantor Zvi Aroni before graduating from the Cantorial School of The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS).  He holds Rabbinic Ordination from Mesivta Adat Wolkowisk and an honorary doctorate in music from JTS.  He organized the June 1998 gathering of nearly 1,000 children from the NJ, PA, NY area to celebrate Israel’s 50th Anniversary in Central Park under the auspices of the 50th anniversary gathering of the Cantors Assembly. He has served the Tree of Life – Or L’Simcha Congregation in Pittsburgh, PA since 2017.

Hazzan Myers currently serves as a trustee on the Executive Board of the Jewish Educators Assembly. He has also served on the National Education Commission of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the National Deliberation Team for Project Etgar, the new curriculum for the middle school that is a joint project of the United Synagogue and the Melton Institute. He received a Schechter Award for his interfaith Evening of Harmony that commemorates the Holocaust and awards for synagogue and family programming. He is married to Janice, a special educator at Coastal Learning School, and they are past recipients of the Ben Gurion Award from Israel Bonds. They have two children, Rachel and Aaron.

Rabbi Hazzan Myers currently serves as the rabbi of Tree of Life – Or L’Simcha synagogue in Pittsburgh, the site of the horrific anti-Semitic attack of October 27, 2018.  Eleven members of the Pittsburgh Jewish community were killed on that day – congregants of the 3 synagogues housed at Tree of Life/Or L’Simcha.  In addition to those killed, 6 others were injured including several first responders. On that fateful day, Rabbi Myers’s heroic actions were a key to saving lives and he has committed himself to making sure that not only the Pittsburgh Jewish community but the Greater Pittsburgh community is able to heal and move on from this tragedy with strength, perseverance, compassion and hope for the future. As you know, Pittsburgh is best known for Steel – and it is that steely resolve that is leading Rabbi Myers, his congregation, and our entire community to make sure that in the future Pittsburgh will not be known as the place where a tragedy happened – but as a shining example of the idea that Neighbor is not just a geographic term but a moral concept.

Rabbi Myers sent us this video to share at Convention. In his video, Rabbi Myers talks about the “h-word” which is a cause close to us at ZBT. The Zeta Beta Tau Foundation’s Heritage Initiative helps undergraduate brothers gain a better understanding of our Credo, of Brotherhood and of the saying, “Never Again!”. This support helps educate our brothers in part about Israel, the Holocaust and the importance of ZBT’s heritage.

Partner Lunch

At our 2019 partner lunch, we heard from our 4 educational and philanthropic partners: Zeta Beta Tau Foundation, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, Gift of Life and Jewish Women International. During the Gift of Life presentation, we saw first-hand how swab drives hosted by our chapters save lives. Watch the video here.

Grand Awards Banquet

Our Grand Awards Banquet recognizes the work of our chapters, alumni brothers and friends of ZBT. Each year the Fraternity recognizes individuals (undergraduate, alumni and friends of ZBT) and chapters/colonies for achievement in programming, recruitment, philanthropy and many more areas. It is our pleasure to honor those who commit to the success and stability of ZBT. The dedication of these individuals and groups helps promote our Mission and Credo.

At the 2019 International Convention, ZBT honored Deborah Lipstadt with the Gottheil Award. The Gottheil Award, named in honor of the founder of Zeta Beta Tau, was created to honor a person or organization that exhibits great service to mankind. The honor is awarded to individuals and organizations for humanitarian services and activities that best promote better understanding in relationships among all people. Past recipients include Felix Warburg, Franklin Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, Morris Abram, Doctors Without Borders, Special Olympics International, Coca-Cola Foundation, Jewish Federations of North America, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and the USO.

Dr. Lipstadt is the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University in Atlanta and has published and taught about the Holocaust for close to 40 years. However, she is probably most widely known because of the libel lawsuit brought against her by David Irving for having called him a Holocaust denier. Irving was then arguably the world’s leading denier. After a ten-week trial in London, in an overwhelming victory for Lipstadt, the judge found Irving to be a “neo-Nazi polemicist” who “perverts” history and engages in “racist” and “anti-Semitic” discourse. The Daily Telegraph described the trial as having “done for the new century what the Nuremberg tribunals or the Eichmann trial did for earlier generations.” The Times described it as “history has had its day in court and scored a crushing victory.” According to the New York Times, the trial “put an end to the pretense that Mr. Irving is anything but a self-promoting apologist for Hitler.”

Dr. Lipstadt’s TED Talk, Behind the Lies of Holocaust Denial, has received well over 1.3 million hits. The movie Denial tells the story of this legal battle, based on one of her books.

She is a world-renowned author of many books. At Emory, Lipstadt has won the Emery Williams Teaching Award.  She was selected for the award by alumni as the teacher who had most influenced them. Dr. Lipstadt was a historical consultant to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and helped design the section of the Museum dedicated to the American Response to the Holocaust. She has held Presidential appointment to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council (from Presidents Clinton and Obama) and was asked by President George W. Bush to represent the White House at the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.  She was part of a committee that advised Secretary of State Madeline Albright on matters of religious freedom abroad. She has a B.A. from the City College of New York and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Brandeis University.

ZBT also honored alumnus Marc B. Nathanson, Iota (University of Denver) 1967 with the 2019 Man of the Year Award.

The Man of the Year Award, also called the International President’s Plaque, was created to honor those brothers who reach the apex of their various involvements. These men, through their life’s work, exemplify the teachings of Zeta Beta Tau’s Ritual and the commitment brothers of ZBT make to better the communities in which they live.

Nathanson is chairman of Mapleton Investments, a diversified real estate and family investment company. He founded Falcon Cable TV in 1975 after receiving his master’s degree from University of California/Santa Barbara. He sold Falcon in 1999 and he became Vice Chairman of Charter Communications, the nation’s second largest cable tv company. Shortly thereafter, President Clinton appointed him, and the US Senate confirmed him as head of the US Broadcasting Board of Governors, an independent Federal agency in charge of all US non-military communications including Voice of America and Radio Free Europe. President Bush reappointed him as head of the BBG.

Nathanson then left government service after 18 months in the Bush administration and founded the non-profit, Homeland Security Advisory Council in Los Angeles. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appointed him as her representative to the Board of Governors of the East West Center in Honolulu.

Today, Nathanson is vice chairman of the National Democratic Institute in Washington, DC and he is co-chair of the Pacific Council on International Policy. He is also on the Board of the Aspen Institute and the USC Center for Public Diplomacy. He is a member of the Council of Foreign Relations and many other philanthropic organizations. He lives in both California and Colorado.

Nathanson also spoke at the 2019 Mankoff Alumni Panel with Michael (Mike) Epstein, Alpha Eta (University of California – Berkeley) 1965 and William (Bill) Sullivan, Omicron (Tufts University) 1997. The Ronald M. Mankoff Alumni Panel is a leadership program set in a talk show-style format which engages both ZBT undergraduate and alumni attendees as the panelists share career and life stories and advice. Attendees at the Zeta Beta Tau 2019 International Convention interacted with the panelists through a question and answer dialogue. The panel was moderated by Barry M. Aarons, Gamma Tau (Arizona State University) 1971.

Our highest chapter honor, the Brummer Cup, was given to the Delta Iota Chapter at the University of Central Florida. To see all award winners, click here.

We are so thankful to all who attended our 2019 Convention and can’t wait to see everyone at the 2020 Convention from July 23-26, 2020 in Washington D.C.!