AEPi on Campus: Fact or Fiction?
Like many others, I always equated a college social life with Greek life on campus. I assumed that my weekends would be filled with over-the-top parties and beer pong competitions. I had imagined myself rushing for a sorority and becoming a part of a smaller community within my university, sharing a house with my fellow sisters. Binging every season of “Blue Mountain State” and “Greek” on Netflix only strengthened my association between the two. Coming to Stern, however, extinguished my frat life fantasies.
Before entering college, recent Stern graduates raved to me about the AEPi events that were held almost weekly in the Heights. They explained that, though the fraternity’s presence wasn’t like that on state college campuses, it was strong nonetheless. However, having spent two years on campus, I have yet to deduce whether or not AEPi exists at all. Rumors about the fraternity can be found on almost every YU social media page, with incoming freshman inquiring about joining the fraternity or attending events. Most serious questions are met with vague responses only adding to the mythical quality of YU’s supposed fraternity.
Although it has undergone some changes, AEPi’s leadership assured The Commentator that the fraternity is, in fact, active on the Wilf Campus and isn’t going anywhere. Sebastian Finkerrera, the fraternity’s president, described AEPi’s founding and current standing at YU: “AEPi itself was created well over 100 years ago at NYU, where President Richard Joel was an active member. Our chapter at Yeshiva has been around since 2006 and today we are proud to say that we are bigger than we were the year before.” The frat currently has 28 active members, and Finkerrera is hopeful that the group will continue to grow.
Maxwell Goldstein, current VP of AEPi and active member since his freshman year on campus, said that although President Joel was a member himself, he withheld his approval of AEPi at YU while he was president. “Yeshiva University AEPi is registered on a national level, just not recognized by the university,” he said. He believes that the hesitation to approve the club comes from the stigma of fraternities in general. However, Goldstein argues that AEPi stands for more than an excuse to party and meet people. “AEPi focuses on building a community of Jewish people with a specific focus on charity and Israel. We want AEPi to serve as an outlet for guys to escape from school for a couple of hours a week and do something different.”
Like any frat, AEPi has its new members pledge and rush in order to learn the values of the fraternity. Pledging, as defined by Goldstein, is a process that shows your dedication to the chapter through secret and specified events and discussions led by the members — known as “brothers” in the frat world — for inductees. One of the requirements is the memorization of the fraternity’s core values, something that differentiates AEPi from other fraternities. “As a Jewish frat, it is more than just a fraternity. It is a group of men who will grow into great Jewish leaders one day to spread the light of Torah into the world,” said Goldstein. “[We emphasize] values of Jewish life [like] charity, midos, Torah and brotherhood.”
Though both Finkerrera and Goldstein agree that AEPi is a staple on campus, they recognize that their presence comes with some challenges. “Since we are in NYC, it is quite hard to copy what a chapter would be like at a state school,” said Finkerrera, pointing to AEPi’s lack of a house and general space. Goldstein emphasized the deficit of not having a house on campus: “My Freshman year, AEPi had a house on 186th and St. Nicholas. We were always holding events there. But after more and more members graduated, the fraternity could no longer afford to pay the rent and we had to give up the house.”
With the loss of a homebase, AEPi became less active on campus as they had nowhere to host parties and events. Goldstein, who will become AEPi president next semester, said that he hopes to buy back the house with all of the incoming AEPi brothers. “I would love to get a house to throw events for the school, but since relinquishing the house to YU, it has become a dorm for special needs YU students,” said Goldstein, referring to YU’s Makor College Experience. “Without a house, it will only become harder to get members to join the frat,” concluded Goldstein.
Furthermore, as an unregistered and unofficial club, it is difficult to get the word out about AEPi. You will not find the fraternity advertising on y/sstuds or any official YU communications. Rather, AEPi recruits its members by word of mouth. “We recruit by posting flyers around campus and reaching out to kids we think would be ideal to join the fraternity,” reported Goldstein.
In addition to not having a designated space for the fraternity, AEPi has also struggled to fight the stigma associated with fraternity life. “To date and from my knowledge,” said Goldstein, “we have never had a problem with the administration. However, we certainly feel unwelcome at times. It’s hard to create and maintain a successful fraternity at YU because the idea of frat life is so frowned upon.”
The stigma attached to the fraternity frustrates Goldstein, who sees many selling points and positive aspects of fraternity life, including study groups, developing philanthropic contacts and connecting with other AEPi chapter across the state. “The main goal is to lean on each other [and] to have people around you that won’t let you down, said Goldstein.” Still, with all of the good the fraternity tries to do, there is still an underlying sense of resistance because of the stigma.
One of AEPi’s most successful events is their annual charity event which was held earlier this year. “Every semester we have a philanthropic event,” explained Finkererra. “The gains are given to charity groups affiliated with AEPi.” AEPi brothers spend hours in the library, calling donors to help achieve their monetary goal. “AEPi has a ‘Repair the World’ fund that we use for our charity. It consists of ten different charities ranging from aid to Africa to the protection of Israel,” said Goldstein. “Every year, AEPis around the world attempt to raise $1 million in charity. In the past two semesters, YU AEPi has raised around $1,700 for charity.”
While AEPi at YU is still smaller than its presence on almost every other campus, Finkerrera and Goldstein have high hopes for the future. “I definitely would like to see the chapter expand and potentially have a stronger impact on campus,” said Finkerrera. “Fraternities seem to have a stigma of partying, but that is not our mission on YU campus. We are here to grow and shape future leaders of the Jewish community.” Goldstein stressed the diversity of AEPi on campus. “We are looking for guys who are chilled out and cool. We don’t look for people from any specific background. We just want people who vibe with us and agree with our mission.”
Finkerrera hopes to have a large, YU event in the near future to expand campus recognition of the fraternity. “We are starting rush week in the upcoming weeks,” said Finkerrera. “Please come down and check out AEPi.”
Photo Caption: AEPi Shield
Photo Credit: AEPi