When Leah Miller was an undergraduate at Arizona State University, she found that the price of admission to the Alpha Epsilon Phi Jewish sorority was reciting the Greek alphabet to the tune of camp song “Down by the Banks.”
Now 27 and newly married, Miller is the youth engagement and programming coordinator at Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Potomac. And if you ask her to, she can still sing the Greek alphabet to the tune of camp songs.
Why learn the Greek alphabet to music?
When I decided to join Alpha Epsilon Phi, one of the new member orientation things was that I had to recite the Greek alphabet. And so a couple of the girls and I decided to think of a song that we all knew that could help us summarize it, and “Down by the Banks” was a song that we all knew.
I don’t know that song.
It’s sung in a game where you sit in a circle, and you put your hand on top of the person next to you, and you slap the person’s hand next to you, and whoever ends the song slapping the person’s hand next to you, they’re out.
Did it take you a while to learn?
It took me months and months of preparation. I also had to learn everything about the sorority. The colors, what it means and all the other Greek stuff.
Why do sororities have these traditions?
I think it’s a bonding thing, especially when you’re in a new member class or you’re trying to do recruitment. There’s a group of girls that is trying to get into a sorority, and over that first couple of months you create a bond between the girls and the sisters of the sorority help you learn the rituals along the way. I don’t know why you have to memorize the Greek alphabet.
Did you study Greek in college?
No. But I did take modern Hebrew, and then when I got to grad school I took biblical Hebrew, because I wanted to learn more about what the actual Torah said. When you take modern, it’s more like, “Now I can go to Israel and speak and understand the Israelis.”
Do you know any other languages?
I took four years of French in high school, and in December I’m going on my honeymoon with my husband, Michael, to Europe. So I’ll finally get to use it.
How did you two meet?
We met at Hillel. We were both working as parking scholars. So you work at the Hillel for a couple hours a week, and you get free parking right across from campus. We weren’t fond of each other when we first met, and worked together for about a year before we began getting to know each other. We’ve been together for seven years.
I understand you’re also a wine connoisseur. How did you get into that?
I grew up in Northern California, so I love wine tasting. We went to Napa [Valley] all the time, even when I wasn’t old enough to drink. My parents would drive me there and make me sit while they tasted wine.
They didn’t give you a sip?
Only at my baby naming.
Is there a type of wine that you like?
I’m definitely a red wine drinker. When I moved to Arizona, I had to switch to white wine because it was too heavy to drink red wine in the hot, 120 degree weather. But now that I’m on the East Coast, red wine makes me feel nice and warm inside.
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