Greek Life at a Jewish College?
According to Michael Lenett, a senior at YU and the current President of AEPi, the answer is yes. Not only is there nothing contradictory about being in Yeshiva University and being a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi, but in fact the two go hand in hand. “Our slogan is that AEPi breeds Jewish gentlemen -- that's the most important part of all,” Lenett says.
AEPi is not like any other fraternity -- from the moment it was founded by Charles C. Moskowitz in 1913, its goal was to give young Jewish college men a sense of brotherhood and connection. What drove Moskowitz to change history by creating this fraternity was his experience with a New York University fraternity’s blatant anti-semitism; the frat rushed (for those who don't know much about frats in general, “rushing” is a process which involves the interested student visiting various fraternities, meeting current members, and being interviewed) him because of his athletic success, but when he proposed that the fraternity consider some of his other Jewish friends, the brothers of the frat flatly refused.
AEPi began with less than ten men, including Moskowitz and several friends, who organized the first meetings in the basement of a local eatery. The official website of Alpha Epsilon Pi, aepi.org, asks concerning Moskowitz’s endeavor, “Could this non-affluent group of young students, busy with their daytime jobs and nighttime studies, successfully launch a new fraternity when there were already seven well established groups at the School of Commerce, three of them nationals?” It could, and it did -- the young men had a point to prove and a heritage to stand up for.
Since then, AEPi has grown and spread unbelievably. Today, branches exist across the U.S. as well as in Canada, the UK, France, and Israel, and countless inspiring individuals have had the honor to say they were members -- among them Gene Wilder, Paul Simon, Mark Zuckerberg, and our current YU President Richard Joel.
Any brother at Yeshiva University’s AEPi, or at any branch for that matter, would be able to provide all of AEPi’s historical information plus countless other details with ease. Much about the Pledge and Brotherhood periods remains confidential, but knowing the roots of, and reasons for, Alpha Epsilon Pi’s establishment is an integral part of becoming a brother.
And if you thought that AEPi was only about hospitality and making connections with other brothers or other students at YU, you're wrong. Alpha Epsilon Pi’s mission is to breed leaders who contribute to whichever community they find themselves in, even long after their college days are over. Even during their time as undergraduates, AEPi members are concerned with creating Jewish programming, and donating to Jewish organizations (resulting in a yearly total of more than $1,000,000 in donations), all with the goal of creating a sense of community. One of the most striking examples is an event called “We Walk to Remember,” an AEPi tradition in in which brothers meet at their chapter house and walk through the campus in a yearly march commemorating those who perished in the Holocaust.
But if you're not a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi, don't worry -- its doors are open and its members welcoming to everyone. Ezra Weinberger, who only found out about Alpha Epsilon Pi in his senior year at YU and is himself not a brother, says “AEPi is one of the best things that I've discovered since coming to YU.” When describing his experience with the fraternity, he jokes “this place is our treehouse” -- it's a chilled-out, close-knit, home-like environment, where the connections made are real and long-lasting. AEPi President Lenett and all of AEPi invite you, whether as a member or just a student at Yeshiva University, to experience what this unique fraternity has to offer.