Brother Daniel Conway (UC Berkeley, 2025), along with other Brothers from across the country, had an opportunity to see the prospects for peace in the Middle East when they went on the Israel on Campus Coalitions (ICC) Geller Fellowship to Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at the beginning of January.
Even before he arrived on campus, Morgan Mattler, an AEPi Education Leadership Consultant (ELC) at the time, reached out to him about restarting the chapter at the University of California – Berkeley. “We had our coffee chat. I really enjoyed the ideas of building something from the ground up. I’ve never been this involved with something or a Jewish institution. I thought it was just something interesting and a leadership opportunity.” Never really considering Greek Life before that, he also saw it as a great way to meet new people. When he got to school, he met up with Morgan and met with the other people interested in starting the chapter.
“Learning what AEPi is and what it could offer…I don’t think I could have ever expected how much I’ve gained from my time in AEPi. I’m proud that my best friends are a part of AEPi and that the house is going to thrive and be a positive place for Jewish guys on campus. For me, being someone who didn’t necessarily do Jewish things with my Jewish friends back home,it is special that the highlights of my week are going to Shabbat dinner and putting on events for Jewish holidays. I’ve become very involved with the Jewish community at Cal. Sometimes I joke with my friends that I’m here to be Jewish not to be a student. I’ve very much enjoyed the balance that I’ve found.”
Brother Conway has served his chapter as Lieutenant Master and has enjoyed working with every committee and seeing people work. He was in charge of programming and electing minor board positions to make sure that the programs happened. “It really opened my eyes to how to build a team and how to have this common goal of growth. I’ve been really proud of what we’ve done so far.” This year he will be the new member educator. He’s been working on Rush and is excited to put all his effort into the classes coming in. He wants to make sure that they’re motivated and looking to build what was started and are ready to continue this legacy. This year, Brother Conway is also helping out with Jewish identity and Israel programs. “Much of my own Judaism and Israel connection can be linked directly to AEPi.”
When he got to campus, a goal for Brother Conway was to learn about Israel – its history, its politics, and understand why it’s so important. He had conversations with Berkeley AEPi Brothers from South Africa, learning about their perspectives on Israel. “It’s been over the past two years that I’ve really started to learn more and try to find what my relationship is with Israel.”
Over lunch with Morgan last spring, he heard of an August ICC (Israel on Campus Coalition) leadership conference in DC in August. ICC wanted two people from Berkeley to go, so Brother Conway attended with his fraternal little Brother.
At the ICC conference, Brother Conway met 80 AEPi Brothers from across the country and stayed in touch with them. “This confirms that this (AEPi) is for a lifetime and these are gonna be my best friends. I know that wherever I’m going to be, if I’m anywhere near any of these guys, it’s gonna feel like home.” At the conference, Brother Conway also learned about and applied for the Geller Fellowship. He learned that some of the same AEPi Brothers who were at that conference were going to be on that trip to Israel and the UAE.
In January, Brother Conway and 39 other students flew to Israel for the trip. They toured around Israel to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Bethlehem, the Gaza border, the Egypt border, and a kibbutz. The purpose of this trip was to teach about the conflict and then about the Abraham Accords. After exploring and learning about Israel they flew to the UAE. “I woke up and was like how is this happening? This is unreal, just knowing what we’re gonna do that day. It was all really fun and meaningful.” The first day they heard from two speakers, getting nuanced perspectives on Israel. “It was great to be with other students who were all doing really cool things on their own campuses and getting to have conversations with them after hearing ethese speakers. I don’t know how I’ll experience anything like it again. I’m gonna be riding that high for a while.”
In the UAE, Brother Conway and the group did touristy activities like going to museums, seeing architecture and sand boarding in the desert. They had lunch in the old city of Dubai and talked with two Emirati men who taught them about Emirati culture. They talked about religion, their relation to Israel and how people can coexist. They talked about how there are barriers that are felt within society but gave hope of what a future could look like of coexistence of Arabs and Jews. They said peace is going to come from experiences of people just getting to know each other as people. “I was walking by with some of my friends and some of the local vendors saw our magen david necklaces,and they started speaking Hebrew to us, which was crazy. I have no clue what their connection to Hebrew is. It was just really refreshing to be out there and then feel very welcomed. Those experiences on the ground and getting to talk to people about their experiences and how they feel about the political changes…it was really nice to learn about the cultures. I think that, if that is the motivating force behind these political changes, that’s going to be the way to peace. Hatred of some from either side is never going to be a solution.”
“It’s very powerful for thinking of a future where there is peace between Israelis and Palestinians. If we can find peace in some places, hopefully we can find a solution to other issues that are preventing that peace. We spoke and had dinner with the Chief Rabbi of the UAE on our last night which was really cool. He told us about his experiences and starting the first Jewish schools. I’m hopeful to see which other countries end up having similar deals to what’s happening with UAE. I hope to see a new Middle East that is filled with peace and not hate.”
Brother Conway also found a connection with his studies at Berkeley. Currently, he is studying environmental economics and policy in the College of Natural Resources. He wants to do something highly impactful in the fight for climate change and looking at it through an economic lens, looking into policy and working within the private and public sector. He wants to help make agricultural and food systems more efficient while preserving land. At the Museum of the Future in Dubai, Brother Conway found it interesting to learn of UAE’s future plans given their heavy economic dependence on oil. “They’re aware that the future is not oil and are going to find other sources of economic revenue and ways to support their grid. They had a lot of really cool aspiring models for their renewables with wind and solar. Now that I’ve been there and I’ve how amazing of a country it is, I’m really intrigued to see how they’re going to make this large transition.”
The UAE will also host the UN climate conference in November. “I actually asked a question to the Israeli Ambassador to the UAE regarding a large oil state hosting a climate conference and what they are going to do to make it feel real and make it feel like they’re going to put on something meaningful. I don’t believe I got the best answer but it’s not his expertise so I didn’t really expect that much. I was the only person in the cohort who had studied environmental issues. It was cool getting to hear everyone’s different backgrounds and perspectives on this.”
Brother Conway connected with other AEPi Brothers on the trip and shared a connection with Brother Josh May (Michigan State, 2024) who was his chapter’s Lieutenant Master. They connected about their shared experiences in AEPi. “It was really cool to hear from him because he also won Delegate of the Year at AEPi International Convention.We had a very similar experience in that AEPi has meant a lot to us in our time in college. As we were leaving, it was a really sad departure, but I’m confident that I will be seeing these people again.”