By Shira Kipnees || Senior Staff Writer
Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT) Fraternity, a historically Jewish fraternity, is working towards recolonizing its Alpha Tau Chapter at F&M. According to Stuart Umberger, director of Fraternity and Sorority Life, tentative plans for the reactivation of the local chapter of ZBT have been discussed, but nothing—including a timeline — has been finalized as of now.
ZBT, founded in 1898 as the world’s first Jewish fraternity at a time when people of Jewish descent were not welcome at other fraternities, has a long history at F&M.
“In the late 1920s, Jewish students at [F&M] formed The Towers eating club, which, in 1931, became the Alpha Tau chapter of Zeta Beta Tau fraternity,” Umberger said. “The group went dormant in the late 60s and then returned and became a strong chapter in the late 70s. In 1975, the College housed the Alpha Tau Chapter of Zeta Beta Tau at 611 College Ave.”
Recolonization efforts began recently when the national organization and several F&M alumni reached out to the College about rebuilding the Alpha Tau Chapter; the College then provided them a copy of the Men’s Fraternity Expansion Policy and Process for their consideration.
According to Umberger, the national headquarters for ZBT then submitted a return proposal and provided the College with confirmation that they would agree to the Men’s Fraternities’ standards and those of the College. Umberger also noted the Office of the Dean of the College, faculty, and Interfraternity Council (IFC) were also involved in the process of recolonizing.
While ZBT was originally a Jewish fraternity, in 1954 the National Fraternity decided the Jewish exclusivity was contrary to their founding value of equality, and thereafter the fraternity became open to all men of good character.
“ZBT promotes brotherly values such as trust, respect, and equality,” Umberger said. “One way it fulfills these values is through their abolishment of pledging. The pledging process is not a brotherly value; a pledge is a second-class citizen. The line between pledging and hazing is hard to define, but easy to cross for fraternities. ZBT has overcome the challenges of hazing by abolishing pledging completely in 1989. When a man is initiated into the organization, he is a brother, not a pledge or a second-class citizen. He is equal to each and every brother that has been initiated before him.”
Senior Shira Kipnees is a senior staff writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.