Jewish fraternity comes to campus


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Referencing “horror stories” resulting from fraternity pledging and hazing practices, University of Iowa freshman Jared Bohlmann had no intentions of joining a fraternity when he first arrived on campus this fall.

However, when he heard about one national chapter that debunks those notions, his interest was sparked.

Now, after three years of applying for a spot, a new traditionally Jewish fraternity has joined the University of Iowa’s growing greek population, and Bohlmann said the colony changed his views on “going greek.”

“The opportunity of being a founding father, an influential part on campus, and having a chance to really get involved was what won me over,” he said.

Zeta Beta Tau arrived on campus at the start of the fall semester, following a trend of more UI students choosing to “go greek.”

The fraternity is currently considered a colony and will become a full chapter on campus as soon as academic and member quota requirements are met.

And while the chapter, whose national roots date back to 1898, gained five members through the formal recruitment process, many more got involved by way of a simple phone call from Mike Pollack-Twomey. Pollack-Twomey serves as an expansion consultant for Zeta Beta Tau headquarters, located in Indianapolis.

“It is a unique and special opportunity to help establish a new ZBT colony of quality individuals to this great campus at the University of Iowa,” he said in an email. “I have been so impressed by these men and confident in their abilities to bring a very positive impact to Iowa City.”

As of the spring 2013 academic semester, the Interfraternity Council, which oversees Zeta Beta Tau, had 917 registered members.

During the most recent round of recruitment this semester, approximately 344 new members were welcomed this fall.

This Sunday, the Zeta Beta Tau chapter will initiate between 15 and 20 new members in the Old Capitol Senate Chamber.

The national chapter has initiated more than 140,000 men in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Instead of going through the pledging process, members can be initiated in 72 hours of accepting their invitation by becoming educated about Zeta Beta Tau ideals and beliefs.

Only one other Interfraternity Council house, the UI’s Lamda Chi Alpha chapter, has similar practices.

UI sophomore Zachary Zwierz, the Zeta Beta Tau president, said the idea of changing views of fraternities campus-wide is one of the group’s goals for the year.

“We want everyone to feel equal from the day they’re initiated, and that really spoke to a lot of the freshmen,” he said. “I think as a whole [pledging is] not really needed.”

Zwierz said the fraternity will seek a house in the future, but the members are not sure when. He also said they have plans to work with a philanthropy group called Get on the Ball, which benefits the Children’s Miracle Network.

The members will also create a fundraiser where they will bring a 6-foot inflatable ball to campus, roll it around, and gain student signatures. For each signature, Get on the Ball will donate 10 cents to the Children’s Miracle Network.

Zwierz said the chapter hopes to pursue this fundraiser in the late fall or early spring of this academic year.

Dan Wrona, the interim associate director at the Center for Student Involvement & Leadership, said it is important for greek life at the UI to continue to expand.

“It’s a good sign that the [greek] community is doing what it should be doing and making good progress,” he said.

David Lerner, director of expansion at Zeta Beta Tau headquarters, said Zeta Beta Tau stands for intellectual awareness, social responsibility, integrity, and brotherly love.

And even though the fraternity was founded to be Jewish, not all members have to practice Judaism. As of now, only one person in the UI Zeta Beta Tau colony is Jewish.

“[Zeta Beta Tau] will recruit and initiate men of good character, regardless of religion, race or creed who are accepting of these principles,” Lerner said in an email.

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