Zeta Beta Tau

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Zeta Beta Tau
Zbt crest.jpg
Founded December 29, 1898
City College of New York, New York, NY
Type Social
Scope International
Motto "A Powerhouse of Excellence"
Colors  Medium Blue   White   Gold 
Flower Gold Carnation (adopted 2004)
Chapters 90
Fraternity Song "Here's to Our Fraternity"
Headquarters 3905 Vincennes Rd. Suite 300
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
Homepage www.zbt.org

Zeta Beta Tau (ΖΒΤ) is a Greek letter social fraternity. Today the merged Zeta Beta Tau Brotherhood is one of the largest, numbering over 140,000 initiated brothers, and over 90 chapter locations.



Zeta Beta Tau was founded in 1898 as the nation's first Jewish fraternity, although it is no longer sectarian.1

The Zeta Beta Tau fraternity was inspired by Dr. Richard J. H. Gottheil, a professor of languages at Columbia University and a Zionist. On December 29, 1898, he formed a Zionist youth society with a group of students from several New York City universities.

The society was called Z.B.T., the meaning of which is revealed in the fraternity's ritual. The meaning of Z.B.T. was listed in the American Jewish Committee's annual report as early as 1900-1901.2 In 1903 Z.B.T. formally became Zeta Beta Tau, and its purpose shifted away from that of a Zionist youth organization as other Zionist organizations grew in prominence. The original Hebrew meaning of Z.B.T. is not esoteric. However, it was more publicly revealed in the official written history of Zeta Beta Tau, Here's to Our Fraternity: One Hundred Years of Zeta Beta Tau, 1898–1998, by Marianne Rachel Sanua.3 Z.B.T. referred to the first letters in the Hebrew phrase "Zion Bemishpat Tipadeh", which translated means "Zion shall be redeemed with justice". This is taken from Isaiah 1:27 - "Zion shall be redeemed with justice, and her converts with righteousness. The word "judgment" is sometimes translated as "justice".4

Zeta Beta Tau expanded rapidly. By 1909, it had established 13 chapters throughout the Northeast and a 14th at Tulane University in New Orleans, thereby taking on a truly national dimension. In 1913, it established its first Canadian chapter at McGill University in Montreal. Five years later, it founded its first West Coast chapter at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. At the 1954 National Convention, the delegates amended Zeta Beta Tau's constitution, ritual and internal procedures both in theory and in practice to eliminate sectarianism as a qualification for membership.5

Today, the merged Zeta Beta Tau Brotherhood is some 140,000 brothers strong, and ZBT chapters and colonies are established at over 90 campus locations. Through good times and bad, ZBT has been in the forefront in pioneering new concepts – as evidenced by its very founding, its elimination of sectarian membership practices, its acceptance of mergers, and its elimination of pledging.

Merging of the Five Brotherhoods

The Zeta Beta Tau of today is the result of a merger with four other national Jewish fraternities, more than any other North-American Interfraternity Conference fraternity. In 1959, Phi Alpha merged into Phi Sigma Delta. In 1961 Kappa Nu merged into Phi Epsilon Pi. In 1969–70, Phi Sigma Delta and Phi Epsilon Pi merged into Zeta Beta Tau.6

Pledging abolished

Zeta Beta Tau was also one of the first national fraternities to abolish the institution of pledging in 1989 as a way to combat and eliminate hazing.6 This change was not new to the world of fraternities, as in 1971 Lambda Chi Alpha became the first North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC) fraternity to eliminate pledging, by replacing the process with an "Associated Membership" process. Lambda Chi Alpha paved the way for Zeta Beta Tau in taking the first steps to offer a completely equal brotherhood experience. Zeta Beta Tau's decision to get rid of pledging did not involve an associate membership process however. Once a brother joins the fraternity he will receive all rights and responsibilities as the rest of the chapter, and shall be eligible for any position within the chapter regardless of how long he has been a brother. Sigma Phi Epsilon would soon follow with a somewhat similar plan in 1991.

Semi-annual brotherhood review vote

In conjunction with the 1989 abolition of pledging, ZBT National instituted a very progressive concept in fraternities, even now, the S.B.R.V. (Semi-Annual Brotherhood Review Vote). All ZBT chapters twice a year (once a semester) have a vote to see who, if anyone, should be removed from membership within a chapter. The ballots are counted by the president and an executive member of his choice. The criteria for voting during the SBRV are the Chapter Standards, which all chapters must make known to their membership. If a brother receives a simple majority of Nay votes, he is expelled from the fraternity.

The Journey Brotherhood Program

Twenty years after ZBT eliminated pledging, the Supreme Council, based on feedback from undergraduates and alumni, voted to continue the evolution and development of what was initially called the Membership Development Program, then became the Brotherhood Program. The newest evolution is called the Journey.7 The Journey implements a number of significant changes. It is a structured, user-friendly program that develops college students into ZBT men. The Journey adds the position of Provost, in addition to the Brotherhood Development Director (BDD). In the past, the BDD was responsible for all education in the chapter. Now, the Provost guides brothers along their Journey by teaching them about the history, values, and traditions of ZBT. The BDD oversees the Provost, and still is responsible for brotherhood bonding, Big/Little programming, and the overall Journey program.

Through the first eight weeks of the Journey, newly initiated ZBT men learn the history of the fraternity, delve into the credo, mission statement, and ritual, the skills needed to succeed in college, and how to make wise life decisions.8 Upon initiation, all ZBT brothers are given full rights and privileges, within days of accepting their bids. This is true for all versions of the Journey.

The Journey then continues to develop brothers for the next four years, offering education on building a better brotherhood and strong leadership skills. The Journey also offers a leadership track.9

The Supreme Council also approved two variations on the Journey that certain chapters can implement, contingent upon approval from the Supreme Council. The Pilgrimage and Journey (P&J) offers chapters the option of deferring some esoteric material until after the eight-week initial education program. However, P&J chapters are subject to tight oversight by the National Fraternity, to ensure they do not slip into pledging.

The most ambitious iteration is the Journey Challenges Program, currently implemented by some of ZBT's top chapters. The Journey Challenges Program is identical to the Journey for the initial period, then offers challenges that brothers may choose to embark upon, with incentives and privileges offered to those brothers who pass the Challenges. The Zeta, Beta, and Tau Challenges consist of a blend of education, community service, involvement with the National Office and the Jewish community, and leadership.


Chapter house of Zeta Beta Tau's Zeta Alpha Chapter at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida.

Since 2000, ZBT has been focused on expansion. This includes the revival of dormant chapters and the colonization of new ones. Groups of young men on campuses across the country contact ZBT to colonize at their schools for two primary reasons: the non-pledging policy and ZBT's inclusive Jewish heritage.10 The Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity Strategic Plan calls for the establishment of 63 new ZBT colonies by the conclusion of the 2015–2016 academic year. In order for the Fraternity to achieve this goal, it is ZBT's intention to utilize alumni, undergraduates, parents and friends of ZBT to identify schools and students that want to be a part of Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity’s future. 10

Notable alumni


Zeta Beta Tau currently recognizes 90 chapters and colonies across the United States. The state with the most chapters is New York. Currently, the oldest active chapter is Gamma at New York University. The current Best Chapter Winner (Brummer Cup) is the Delta Iota chapter at the University of Central Florida. As of 2012, the largest ZBT chapter is Lambda at The University of Texas at Austin.


External links

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