Historically Jewish fraternity plans return to campus

After a 13-year hiatus from the UW, Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT), the nation’s oldest and largest historically Jewish fraternity plans to commence re-colonization efforts at the start of winter quarter.

Zeta Beta Tau had originally maintained a chapter at the UW from 1922 until 1993, but poor leadership eventually led to the chapter’s departure.

Earlier this year, the UW selected ZBT as the leading candidate to re-colonize on campus. Along with alumni support, this has made ZBT’s return to the Jewish Greek scene possible in early 2007.

“We have a very large alumni base in the area, which is very interested in helping the new chapter,” said Laurence Bolotin, ZBT’s director of chapter affairs. “With the combination of [the UW’s] support and the alumni’s support, we thought [now] would be a good time.”

ZBT became a non-sectarian organization in 1954 to remain in accordance with various Interfraternity Council laws. That means that anyone can join regardless of his religious beliefs.

“When we became a non-sectarian fraternity, that did not mean that we lost our heritage,” Bolotin said. “We remain a largely Jewish organization today, and will always be one.”

What separates ZBT from other fraternities is their anti-pledging policy; it became the first and only fraternity in the nation to eliminate pledging all together, Bolotin said. Instead, ZBT created the Brotherhood Program, encouraging members to earn their spot each and every day instead of during a semester-long trial period.

Established in 1903, ZBT chapters can be found at over 80 locations around the country with an estimated 110,000 brothers.

It is always difficult to get such an establishment on campus, but with the right help, many are confident that it can be done.

“I think just getting [a Jewish fraternity] going has been a struggle,” said Will Berkovitz, Greenstein family executive director at Hillel. “It’s taken the other fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi, years to get up and running, and they now have a great group of guys, . . . [which] shows that there’s a lot of interest in the idea of expanding Jewish life for sure.”

While welcoming ZBT to campus, Alpha Epsilon Pi President Neal Mulnick said, "We are the only Jewish fraternity at the University of Washington."

Contributing writer Maks Goldenshteyn: news@thedaily.washington.edu

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