When the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation announced its first-ever innovation competition for $15,000, Brother Alec Deer (Iowa, 2018) knew he wanted Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity to compete. The rules were simple: create a pro-Israel initiative that can be implemented on five to 15 campuses across the nation. Brother Deer worked with AEPi staff members to create the ‘Israel at 70’ project, to celebrate Israel’s 70th birthday on 70 U.S. college campuses. After submitting a 90-second pitch, summary and budget, he was pleasantly surprised when the Foundation called to say he was one of five finalists. The next round required him to create a four-minute presentation video, which he credits Brother Brendan Sigale (2020) for helping him make. He received word that his pitch had made it to the final round and that he would be one of three finalists competing for the grant money at the 2018 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference.
“We were thinking much bigger than five to 15 campuses and wanted this to include non-Jewish students who don’t interact with Israel or understand its benefits. The goal was to engage more students, both Jewish and non-Jewish, with Israel.”
Earlier this month, at AIPAC, he presented to more than 400 spectators in the reception hall. Pitching the “Israel at 70” campaign with ease, Brother Deer was awarded $1,000 for being the crowd favorite. The judges were so pleased with the delivery of information that they awarded AEPi first place and the $15,000 grant. “The Milstein Family Foundation is an incredible organization. I was honored that I got to speak and thrilled they selected us. I look forward to this event making a larger impact across the country!”
Although it was his first AIPAC experience, he looks forward to attending next year. He enjoyed learning about the U.S.-Israel relationship and was happy to hear politicians assuring that this relationship is a stronghold. “It’s refreshing to see speakers from all parties talk about being pro-Israel. AIPAC is important because it’s one of the largest policy conferences in the country and we need to ensure that Israel stays strong as the only democracy in the Middle East.”
Brother Deer credits most of his collegiate experience to the influence of AEPi. The brothers of Iota Upsilon led him to his path to do non-profit work after he graduates. “After becoming philanthropy chair, we were raising more money than we ever had.” Now, as Master, he’s watched the chapter grow into something larger and more driven than he could have ever imagined. Through AEPi he found out about a 10-day Israel trip through Tikkun Olam Journeys where he met with 30 non-profits across Israel. “That trip was inspirational and left me more empowered as a Jewish leader and in love with the country than I had ever felt before.”
“There were a lot of moving parts in winning the grant money at AIPAC, but I can’t find the words to describe what it feels like. It can be overwhelming representing the entire international fraternity, but I found it to be a rewarding experience knowing I had the support of my brothers from the start.”