IFC gives official nod to Jewish fraternity

Rani Gupta

The Interfraternity Council voted on Thursday to grant associate membership to Alpha Epsilon Pi, a historically Jewish fraternity that has existed underground at Northwestern for five years and received on-campus housing in the spring.

“We’re thrilled,” said Ross Habif, AEPi president. “We’ve been hoping to get into IFC for a couple years now and we’re really excited about getting to participate in IFC events.”

As an IFC associate member, the fraternity can rush new members and vote in IFC decisions. However, it cannot vote on rush-related issues or nominate members for IFC board positions.

“It was a no-brainer to vote them in,” IFC President Phil Ordway said. “They wanted to be with us and we wanted them.”

AEPi has been operating as an underground fraternity since its original bid to join IFC was rejected in November 1996.

The fraternity’s national organization officially recognized the NU chapter in November, after it reached 25 members. Previously the chapter was recognized only as a colony.

Habif, a Speech junior, said that while acting as an underground fraternity, the members’ goal was to join IFC eventually. AEPi’s underground operation showed NU that the fraternity would be able to function as an IFC member, he said.

Habif said because AEPi had been assembling off campus, he did not expect significant problems transitioning into an official fraternity.

The fraternity has come under fire in the past for rushing members during the fall, which runs counter to IFC policy.

After their IFC bid was rejected in 1996, AEPi’s founding members decided they needed to rush members during Fall Quarter because they could not compete with the official fraternities during Winter Rush.

“It was a Catch-22,” said Dan Birnbaum, last year’s AEPi president. “We needed members to petition IFC to join, but we couldn’t get members without Fall Rush.”

Habif said the fraternity plans to change their rush policy to comply with IFC rules.

“We were more than willing to give up pledging in the fall because IFC is a better option,” Habif said.

AEPi members also are benefiting from their recently acquired house. In the spring, NU administrators gave AEPi use of the Greek House located at 562 Lincoln St. as a residence hall.

Birnbaum, a Speech senior, said the house is currently in between a fraternity house and a residence hall.

Sixteen members of AEPi live in the house with a resident assistant and must follow residence hall rules, but soon will put their Greek letters and paddles inside the house.

Ordway, an Education senior, said some IFC members weren’t comfortable with AEPi getting a house before joining IFC, but that didn’t factor into most members’ votes.

“People had raised concerns in spring about how they got their housing, but that didn’t have anything to do with IFC,” he said. “Regardless of where they were living, they were going to be part of IFC.”

Birnbaum said the fraternity’s reaction to IFC’s decision has been that of “relief and satisfaction.”

“It’s been exceptionally hard to have to explain to everyone why we were off-campus and why I didn’t join a fraternity that was on campus,” he said.

Habif said AEPi is looking forward to participating in IFC activities and co-sponsoring events with fraternities and sororities that were previously reluctant to hold activities with an underground fraternity.

AEPi has the added distinction of being NU’s only religiously affiliated fraternity.

The fraternity is non-exclusive, and Habif said there are non-Jewish members. But the national organization is founded on a Jewish mission statement, which says that AEPi was “founded to provide opportunities for the Jewish college man.”

Habif said AEPi co-sponsors events with Hillel but plans few religious activities.

“We don’t put a Jewish flavor – a religious one at least – on stuff we do,” Habif said. “If anything Jewish comes out of it, it’s more of a cultural thing.”