Bringing back history
The Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT) fraternity is returning to Carnegie Mellon with high hopes of strong bonds, networking, and fun. “We’re social.... We want to throw parties,” said junior self-defined major and ZBT co-founder Max Lerner.
Devoted to building ZBT anew, Lerner, along with sophomore computer science major Andrew Warshaver and sophomore business major Josh Mann, want to do things their way. “We fell through the cracks of Greek life at CMU,” said Warshaver. “This is catered toward us.”
Starting a fraternity began as a joke, according to Mann, but now it’s budding into reality. Mann was looking to begin his own fraternity at the same time that ZBT was talking about re-starting their CMU chapter. Meetings with the Pittsburgh chapter of ZBT and the past president of the national chapter were very positive, Mann said.
The previous ZBT chapter of CMU ended its nine-year stint in 1983 after a close call with alcohol poisioning and an incident of fighting with another student organization. University administration expelled ZBT from campus, and its then-members formed what is now Sigma Tau Gamma.
For Warshaver, Mann, and Lerner, this is a new endeavor, and the possibilities seem endless. From campus involvement to the kinds of meals served, the input of new members matters to them. “We’re pioneers, basically,” said Mann.
Unlike other fraternities that have already established their politics and leadership, members of the emerging ZBT chapter have freedom to pursue what they wish, said Lerner. “We’re on the same level,” he said.
Before becoming a chapter, the group must form a colony of 15 members. Mann hopes to accomplish this goal by the end of the year. If fall rush goes well next semester, Mann looks to rent out a house. Until then, the brothers plan on holding meetings and planning activities to attract members.
Even though existing fraternities have the advantage of financial stability over ZBT, it’s not an uphill battle for Mann. “Once we get past the whole colony stage ... the benefit will be unbelievable,” he said. “In the end, it’ll definitely pay off.”
Mann emphasized ZBT’s tight alumni network as a major benefit for job-seekers fresh out of college.
ZBT is the oldest, largest historically Jewish national fraternity. Speaking of the integration of secular Jews into campus life, Mann feels ZBT means more than just future prospects. “It fills a void,” he said.
Warshaver explained that the bonding process of beginning a fraternity is greater than joining one already established. He also thought it important to make ZBT a fraternity that isn’t religiously exclusive.
First-year Justin Moidel is in the fraternity-browsing process. For Moidel, it is important to find a fraternity that embraces his Jewish heritage in such ways as serving kosher meals. At the same time, he’s looking for a fraternity that is welcoming of others. After attending ZBT’s meeting, Moidel thought ZBT might do just that. “[ZBT] would be a Jewish fraternity that would not be exclusive,” he said.
“As the founding fathers, we’re taking a risk,” said Mann. “[But] the benefit will far outweigh the risk.”