By Hailey Briggs
During their first semester at Emerson College, students Benjamin Zieper and Gabe Shapera co-founded a chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi. It is the first Jewish fraternity on campus.
AEPi is the world’s largest Jewish fraternity. According to its website, it has “chapters on more than 190 college campuses in seven countries.”
“I come from a pretty Jewish background, so I thought it would be nice to have an area where I can celebrate my culture with people who know it and understand it, you know?” said Zieper, who serves as president.
Currently, the only other Jewish Greek Life delegation on campus is Alpha Epsilon Phi, a nationally recognized sorority. Emerson College also has Hillel, the only national Jewish organization on campus that is not a fraternity or sorority. According to Emerson College’s website, “Emerson Hillel is dedicated to creating a pluralistic, welcoming, and inclusive environment for Jewish college students, where they are encouraged to grow intellectually, spiritually, and socially.”
Eric Shiffman, a first-year student and social chair for the fraternity, decided to be a part of AEPi when he noticed how well the members got along. “I knew we really had something special,” he said.
Harrison Blum, director for Religious and Spiritual Life at Emerson College, said religious representation on campus is important because it serves as an opportunity to educate. He also said, “Having a time and place to gather for religious observance, discussion, and celebration can be a valuable resource to our religious students.”
Emerson College has the 54th highest Jewish population of a private university in the United States, according to Hillel’s website.
AEPi currently has 11 brothers, but they are welcome to new members.
“It’s a group of people you can go to spend Hanukkah with and not have to worry, ‘What am I going to do for this?’ It’s a group of people who, if you want to go to service on Saturday, there’s always someone that’s gonna want to go with you,” said Zieper.
For their first community project, AEPi picked up trash in the Boston Common.
As president, Zieper is currently working with other delegations in Boston- like Boston University, which is has the highest Jewish population of a private university-to learn the ropes of running a fraternity while it awaits official recognition. Zieper also serves as the liaison between the fraternity’s headquarters, the Fraternity and Sorority Life council, and the chapter’s members.
Zieper said that his goal for AEPi is to build leaders while also creating bonding experiences. As a comedic arts major, Zieper opened for a member’s magic show, and also helped him write jokes in his script. “It’s expected that you’re gonna help your brother,” said Zieper.
Shiffman hopes that the organization will increase its membership in the future, and that it will be officially recognized by Emerson next year.
Zieper said that even if students cannot be in the fraternity, they are welcome to hang out and collaborate with members. “Even if you’re a Jewish woman, or you don’t identify as a man, there is a place where you can meet other Jewish people.” He added, “There’s always an open invitation to my dorm.”