Above: Banners honoring the three centennial chapters are on display at the 2016 ZBT International Convention.
By Jerry Cohen
Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity celebrated the 100th anniversary of three local chapters – the University of Alabama, the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech – July 23 as part of ZBT’s International Convention at the Hyatt Regency in Buckhead.
The three chapters were founded less than a year after the Leo Frank lynching in 1915. From the beginning, Jewish fraternities provided the only chance at Greek life for their members as Jews were not welcome at the other fraternities until years later.
At the national level, ZBT strongly maintains its Jewish identity with a Jewish membership of about 85 percent. Jewish values and heritage are a central part of the ZBT creed and guidelines. But of the three centennial chapters, only Alabama maintains a Jewish majority.
The Emory ZBT chapter, founded in 1996, also has a mostly Jewish membership.
The decrease in Jewish membership at Georgia Tech and Georgia is not a new trend. The Georgia Tech chapter has been made up of mostly non-Jewish members since the 1970s.
ZBT maintains partnerships with Hillel and the Anti-Defamation League to further its goals of promoting Jewish heritage and education on campuses. The fraternity is active as a source for anti-BDS information as well as anti-Semitism prevention.
Said Bruce Weinstein, the ZBT Foundation president, “ZBT does a very good job providing benefits and services to its members through mentoring, scholarships, leadership training and career networking activities.”
According to Weinstein, ZBT is so well recognized for its values and services, including community service, leadership development and Israel advocacy, that the fraternity often is invited to start a chapter even on a campus with a sparse Jewish population.
Weinstein said that at the University of Georgia, where ZBT has far fewer Jewish members than AEPi or TEP, the chapter boasts the strongest participation in Hillel activities on campus.
It may have taken the better part of 100 years, but students of all backgrounds are seeking out Jewish fraternities for their values and principles, a far cry from Jewish students forming their own fraternities because they weren’t allowed anywhere else.
Photos by David R. Cohen