Jewish Fraternity Celebrates Milestone Anniversary

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Sigma Alpha Rho celebrated its 100th anniversary on Oct. 15. | Photos provided

Jerry Segal and Stuart Discount planned for three years to bring together alumni of Sigma Alpha Rho (SAR) to celebrate the Jewish high school fraternity’s 100th anniversary.

And over the weekend of Oct. 13, culminating with a program on Oct. 15 at the Marriott Hotel, the bonds of brotherhood prevailed as about 600 SAR brothers gathered to reunite and reminisce.

In 1917, 11 Jewish high school students were excluded from joining extracurricular and after-school activities of their West Philadelphia school, so they decided to form their own club. They chose SAR to represent social, athletic and religious values and, from there, it expanded.

As the fraternity grew into a formal organization, chapters sprouted in schools across the city, state and, eventually, the country.

Brothers came to the reunion, which they hold every five years, everywhere from New Orleans to the Cayman Islands.

They remembered traveling to other cities to visit other chapters and boarding buses to conventions.

“It was an opportunity to go places that I’d never been to, like Levittown,” joked Segal, who was a member of the Tau Xi chapter when he was a student at Northeast High School, one of four chapters at the school. He traveled to such places as New Orleans and other cities to meet other brothers.

Segal and Discount served as co-chairs of an alumni affair committee to plan the weekend, which Discount, who was a member of SAR as a student at Lincoln High School, said went off “without a hitch.”

“Sunday was a flash for me,” Segal added. “It came, the program took place and then everybody left with smiles on their faces.”

For Segal, being a part of SAR — which he joked that he joined more for social and athletic reasons than religious — taught him life lessons, such as being able to sign contracts when he was just 15 years old. He recalled planning a Parents Day affair and signing comedian Henny Youngman to perform for $750 — and he only performed for 15 minutes.

They planned fundraisers, sporting events, socials and other functions without any adult supervision, which led to many failures but also many successes.

“That was the experience the fraternity gave us all, which I believe was the key to having so many successful people move on and do good things in their lives,” he said, pointing to some notable SAR alumni, such as the late Flyers founder Ed Snider.

“What I gained the most was, at 15 and 16 years old, running dances and affairs and planning budgets,” echoed SAR Alumni Association President Steven Greenberg. “You knew how to do things and organize things that most people didn’t do until they were adults, and you did this all without adult supervision. I think back and say, ‘I can’t believe we did these things when we were 16.’”

For Greenberg, who didn’t become involved in the Alumni Association until he saw Segal at a Bar Mitzvah a few years ago and was encouraged to go to a meeting, the reunion was a chance to “relive our youth.”

“The stories seem to get better over the years as people tell them,” he laughed.

A member of the Omega chapter at Northeast High School, Goldberg said the bond the brothers form is what set SAR apart from other youth organizations.

“The camaraderie and the bond of brotherhood was just amazing,” he said. “You haven’t seen someone in 30 or 40 years, and it’s like you saw them yesterday.”

Discount also pointed to the feeling of enduring brotherhood.

“Leadership and organization was really what I learned,” he said. “Plus a whole bunch of good friends.”

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