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Students take steps toward establishing Jewish fraternity on campus

by Kellye Coleman,
  • Alpha Epsilon Pi, a national Jewish fraternity, was established in 1913 at New York University. Photo courtesy of aepi.org.

As the number of Jewish students attending Elon University grows, two freshmen are determined to play a role in the expansion of Jewish life on campus.

Mason Sklut and Garret Mann, from Charlotte, N.C., are in the beginning stages of establishing a Jewish fraternity on Elon's campus.

"We figured if Elon is going to have a Hillel House in the next year and a Jewish studies minor, why not have a Jewish fraternity?" Sklut said.

Sklut and Mann are currently recruiting students to join a chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi, AEPi, a global Jewish fraternity founded in 1913. They are working closely with Nancy Luberoff, Hillel director, who believes the fraternity will benefit the Jewish community at Elon and the campus as a whole.

"I think that, for me, the important concept around the Jewish fraternity is not that there is going to be another fraternity at Elon," Luberoff said. "It has to do with enriching and broadening Jewish life on campus."

Sklut agreed the addition of AEPi would help to enhance the sense of community among Jewish students.

"Jews will have a way to connect with one another outside of Hillel," Sklut said. "It is a brotherhood."

A growing group

Since her arrival on campus as the director of Hillel, Luberoff said she has seen Jewish life expand.

"There's a lot that has happened in two years," she said. "The population and infrastructure are growing."

Some of the changes Elon has experienced include the decision to open a Hillel House and the establishment of a study abroad program in Israel.

With the guidance of Luberoff, Sklut and Mann are taking their first steps to further enhance the opportunities available to the Jewish community.

"We're actually in the process of doing a proposal letter, which will include a strategic plan for how we're going to get this fraternity here," Sklut said.

The proposal will then be given to Smith Jackson, vice president and dean of student life.

Sklut and Mann said the next phase requires recruiting students, because at least 15 students must be interested in order to continue the process.

To inform students of the opportunity to join AEPi, the pair posted an ad on E-net and has used Facebook, but simply asking friends to spread the news has been most effective.

Junior Noah Sohne responded to the E-net ad and wants to help.

"I have a lot of friends in Alpha Epsilon Pi at other colleges and think it would be great to have (a chapter) here," he said. "I hope to play an important role in recruiting members."

Creating interest

Incoming freshmen students will be a strong focus for Sklut and Mann.

"Even though we won't be an established frat, having a table at the org fair next semester would be very helpful," Mann said. 

Luberoff agreed. 

"I probably talk to four or five parents of prospective students a week," she said. "Parents want to know that there's Jewish life here."

This is not the first time students have tried to establish a Jewish fraternity on campus. In spring 2008, several students attempted to establish a chapter of Zeta Beta Tau but were unsuccessful.

Sklut and Mann said they hope things will be different this time.

"That was three and a half years ago, and the number of Jewish students has significantly increased," Sklut said. "We have a higher confidence level with our attempt."

According to Luberoff, Jewish students were banned from fraternities for decades, making the establishment of AEPi that much more significant.

"In terms of genuinely building diversity on campus, I think it's a great force for education and multi-faith understanding and dialogue," she said. 

Elon students, Jewish or non-Jewish, interested in joining Alpha Epsilon Pi should contact Mason Sklut or Garret Mann.