Students start Alpha Epsilon Pi colony at GV
GVL / Courtesy - Zack Kirshner The 11 founding members of AEPi meet at GVSU Friday, Oct. 14, 2016.
In a quest for brotherhood and community, 11 Grand Valley State University students set out on a mission this fall to form the first official Jewish fraternity on campus known as Alpha Epsilon Pi.
Founded in 1913 at New York University, Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) aims to provide educational opportunities for Jewish college men.
The GVSU colony of AEPi was founded Friday, Oct. 14 by AEPi’s President, Zack Kirshner, along with 10 other current members. In July, Kirshner met with international representatives who were interested in starting a chapter in West Michigan.
Before attending GVSU, Kirshner knew he wanted to start a Jewish fraternity on campus. After partnering with AEPi, Kirshner said the first challenge was finding members who would join his cause.
"One of my goals, regardless of which college I went to, was to start a Jewish fraternity," Kirshner said.
While reaching out to other groups on campus, Kirshner met with Andrew Feuerstein, the director of expansion for AEPi, to create a plan for recruitment. The GVSU student organization Hillel was a strong contributor to the process.
Other founding members, Kirshner said, were met by pure chance and a common bond.
"We started from the ground up," he said. "First I met with Andrew (Feuerstein) and we talked about the guys we already knew were interested, and from there we went to Hillel, the Jewish group on campus, and they gave us a list. We just starting messaging people from there."
As eight out of the 11 founding members are freshmen, Kirshner said new student leadership indicates the growing number of students on campus want a Jewish fraternity at GVSU.
“I think it speaks a lot to people who are coming to Western Michigan, GVSU is getting more Jewish students each year and this year was a big surge,” he said. “The freshmen and founding class are definitely leading the way. Next year we are all expecting a big push in terms of pledges.”
As the group is not discriminatory toward membership, AEPi is not solely a religious outlet but acts as a social and educational opportunity as well. Kirshner said students interested are not required to be Jewish or religious.
“I want to increase an active Jewish presence on campus, but I also want the fraternity to thrive,” he said. “I want people to check us out and not think of it as just a religious fraternity, but a fraternity of guys who just happen to be Jewish.”
As many students might be hesitant to join a fraternity, Kirshner said as merely a colony, AEPi has already provided brotherhood and lifelong connections among the current members.
“The bonding that I’ve had in the last month of being a colony is unlike anything I have experienced in my life,” he said. “The connections and relationships that are made with these ten other guys are relationships I know I’m going to have for a long time.”
By the end of the semester, AEPi will be reviewed as a potential official student organization. If approved, Kirshner said the group will move toward the GVSU Interfraternity Council for review.