Memory — in its varied forms — is the beating heart of the Jewish tradition, the fruitful phenomenon from which an entire people was born. In Hebrew, the word for “remember” derives from the word “zakar,” directly translating to “root.” The Hebrew language is deliberate in its derivations: to remember is not simply to recall an event, but rather to establish a foundation upon which meaning is cultivated and morphed into growth. In the Old Testament, G-d’s sudden flashes of memory always precede sweeping action. For example, when G-d “remembers” Noah and his ark, he engulfs the earth with a flood-drying wind. Remembrance is not merely the retention of a mental image, but rather the retrieval of meaning which promptly elicits action.
On Friday, Sept. 2, 2016, tragedy struck the Northwestern community and the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity. Scott Boorstein, a bright-eyed, easy-going guy from Riverwoods, Illinois, departed the physical world for the great beyond. Given who Scott was, his death was particularly jarring for all who knew him. Those closest to him and those on the periphery of his social circle share a strangely similar narrative: Scott was one of the most genuine, selfless and kind-hearted people they had known.
A Fall Quarter freshman at the time of his death, I was never blessed with the opportunity to meet Scott. But now, as the president of the fraternity to which he once belonged and loved, his impact on myself, my fraternity and this campus extends far beyond what the written word is capable of expressing.
Though our grief remains as fresh as morning dew and our fond memories still as vivid as an abruptly disrupted dream, we refuse to plainly remember Scott by dwelling on the past. Instead, we actively remember him by letting his “zakar” — his “root” — nourish and fuel the spirit of AEPi’s annual philanthropy event, Dog Days. In Scott’s memory, AEPi has pledged action: For the second year in a row, the primary beneficiary of Dog Days will be the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, an organization committed to the prevention of mental health tragedies and the support for affected individuals and communities.
Throughout this week, brothers of AEPi, many of whom will be donning hot dog suits, will be stationed at three grills situated throughout campus. Our enthusiasm for hot dogs is rooted in Scott’s memory, and we strive to act on behalf of the graciousness with which he lived his life.
I’m imbued with a profound sense of gratitude knowing that I represent a group of people who have chosen to remember Scott by harvesting the foundational roots for which he stood. In the process, we hope to bring a little bit more light unto this world. May Scott’s memory be forever a blessing.
זכר צדיק לברכה
President, Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity