Zeta Beta Tau — the world’s first Jewish fraternity and a part of the U.Va. Greek Community since 1915 — reopened this spring at the University after a two-year hiatus. The Phi Epsilon chapter of ZBT is presently in the rechartering process to establish itself on Grounds become a full member of the Interfraternity Council at U.Va.
Second-year Commerce student Alex Kash, president of the University’s ZBT chapter, said the initial dissolution was driven by a failure in recruitment, which led to a joint decision between the Phi Epsilon chapter and the international headquarters to shutter the chapter.
“The decision process of closure was more of a fizzling out of the Phi Epsilon Chapter,” Kash said. “Consultants were sent in the past to assist the Chapter and they failed to successfully recruit more members.”
While ZBT did not participate in the IFC’s spring 2018 formal recruitment, the organization’s new leaders received permission from the University’s Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life to pursue an “open recruitment process” for the rest of the semester.
In open recruitment, ZBT is allowed to recruit members outside the formal recruitment period, where potential members of the Greek community visit houses and participate in events throughout the first two weeks of the Spring semester. Presently, Kash said the chapter has 12 members, and they’ve already confirmed one new recruit with others in the pipeline.
“Right now we have one new guy committed. He said yes … he’s accepted a bid and we’re going to initiate him at the end of the semester along with any potential recruits,” Kash said. “I have a meeting on Friday with one more guy who’s interested, and we have one more guy who thinks he has six or seven interested.”
Joshua Holtzman, a second-year Engineering student and a member of ZBT, said in an interview with The Cavalier Daily that ZBT tends to get new interests every two days.
“In recent weeks, we have been looking at a number of guys … The process from there is to speak with a couple brothers internally,” Holtzman said. “Once we are at the community council, if that person would be a good addition to our brotherhood, we move straightly to the initiation process.”
Holtzman said he joined ZBT because of its inclusivity, where members share brotherhood while celebrating diversity.
“It is a safe community where people can come and enjoy themselves without worrying about many issues that are associated with fraternity life, both at U.Va and nationally,” Holtzman said. “ZBT is looking to be a fraternity that evolves very quickly inside different communities. We are also looking to double our size in the Fall as a well-established fraternity.”
ZBT has been given “colony,” or probationary, status by its international headquarters and provisional status by IFC at the University. ZBT’s international headquarters manages activities surrounding the 94 ZBT chapters nationwide.
Over the summer, its house on Rugby Road will be renovated. If the group meets standards set by the international headquarters, including a minimum number of organization members and attendance to the mandatory annual conference in Los Angeles, it will be granted chapter status and authorization to use its house in the fall.
“They don’t want to hand the house over to a bunch of random people. They want to see another hundred years out of this, they don’t want to see this for one or two,” Kash said. “And that’s why some other colonies fail — they’re getting the chapter status … without proving they can function or work for it.”
IFC president Ashwanth Samuel said in an email to The Cavalier Daily that the reopening of ZBT at the University will allow more students to join the long-standing tradition of Greek life on Grounds, especially given the high demand for membership and the limited number of fraternities.
“Over the past couple of years, a little over 50 percent of those who have rushed actually receive bids and join fraternities. That means there are around 400-500 kids every year who do not get the opportunity to join a fraternity,” Samuel said. “Simply put, ZBT has the opportunity to give more students the U.Va. Greek life experience.”