(JTA) — An executive at the national Jewish fraternity AEPi did not express regret about being affiliated with a campus organization that took part in the pro-Donald Trump rally that led to the insurrection at the Capitol.
The fraternity appears to take no issue with the affiliation either.
Andrew Borans, CEO of the Alpha Epsilon Pi Foundation, which helps fund the fraternity, is also on the advisory council of Turning Point USA, a conservative organization for college students. Borans has been on the council since at least 2017.
The group is headed by pro-Trump pundit Charlie Kirk, who boasted in a now-deleted tweet sent days before the Jan. 6 insurrection that Turning Point Action, the group’s political arm, was sending “80+ buses full of patriots to DC to fight for this president.” Turning Point later told The New York Times it sent seven buses to Washington, D.C. on the day Congress was stormed. Five people died as a result of the storming of the Capitol. A Turning Point Action spokesperson said that the organization’s buses left after Trump’s speech and that its students did not participate in the mob. The spokesperson added that the group’s “leadership condemns political violence.”
In a series of emails to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Borans, who is also the fraternity’s former executive director, said he had nothing to say about the insurrection and had not discussed the events of Jan. 6. with Turning Point.
“No and No,” Borans wrote Thursday, when asked if he had any comment on the events of Jan. 6 and Turning Point’s role in them, or if he had discussed the rally and the storming of the Capitol with Turning Point.
“My involvement in TP has nothing to do with my involvement and leadership of AEPi,” he wrote. Asked if, even so, he was concerned that his involvement with Turning Point may harm AEPi’s nonpartisan image, he responded, “Of course not.” He did not respond to a followup question asking for him to elaborate.
AEPi, perhaps the most well-known Jewish fraternity, was founded in 1913 and has a presence at around 180 campuses internationally, according to its website. Somewhere between 9,000 to 10,000 undergraduates are active in the fraternity every year, most but not all of them Jewish. The fraternity has more than 100,000 alumni.
At least some of those alumni are demanding that Borans be removed from his position. A petition to that end, started in recent days and written in the name of the “brothers of Alpha Epsilon Pi,” already has more than 100 signatures. It is unclear how many of the signers are affiliated with AEPi.
“TPUSA is antithetical to everything that AEPi stands for,” the petition reads. “To preserve the very ideals that have kept us united since our foundation in 1913, we demand accountability and new leadership.”
The fraternity has no official political affiliation, but in recent years, some of the most prominent names in right-wing Jewish philanthropy have also been major donors to AEPi. A 2018 list of donors shows that those who gave the most — $25,000 or more — included the casino mogul and Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson, the right-wing pro-Israel donor Adam Milstein, the Republican pollster Frank Luntz and Michael Leven, the former COO of Adelson’s company.
Jonathan Pierce, a spokesperson for the fraternity and its past international president, said AEPi is “apolitical.” He said he did not know whether other leaders of the fraternity were involved in liberal groups because he had never asked. Regarding the donors, he said AEPi doesn’t “ask people their politics if they want to give us money to help us promote our mission.”
“Our concerns are Jewish leadership, fighting anti-Semitism and supporting Israel,” he said. “We don’t have a political bent on any side of the aisle.”
The fraternity is backing Borans’ stance on Turning Point. In a statement that also “strongly deplore[d]” the Capitol violence, it said “Mr. Borans has a right to exercise his constitutionally protected freedom of speech and opinion and right to associate with TPUSA despite it not having an official relationship with AEPi in any way.” The statement said AEPi hasn’t “ever had any kind of relationship with Turning Point USA.”
Borans also seemed unbothered by concerns about Turning Point raised by an AEPi alumnus, Josh Freeman, who was a member of AEPi for four years at Penn State University, from which he graduated in 2018. When Freeman sent the AEPi Foundation an email on Tuesday objecting to Borans’ involvement with AEPi, Borans responded in a personal email, writing, “I call on you to leave every organization I’m not happy with.”
Freeman, who told JTA that he wouldn’t characterize AEPi as pro-Trump based on his campus experience, said he was very troubled when he saw anti-Semites among the mob that stormed the Capitol.
“I’m really disappointed that the leader of AEPi could be so closely associated with an organization that’s not necessarily overtly racist or overtly anti-Semitic, but definitely has tended to associate themselves with those kinds of people,” Freeman said. “I was outraged after watching the events of last week. I was really disappointed.”