Why Should I Care?

By Andrea (Smithson) Benek —

ZBT has made waves in the past two years with our Hate Against One is Hate Against All campaign. You may have heard the name, but do you know what it’s actually accomplishing?

Simply put, we are trying to make the world a better place. And we need your help.

As Fraternity men who value justice, truth and wisdom, we recognize that we must stand up for our communities and ourselves. We must protect those around us from violence by working to end all forms of racism and bigotry.

Hate Against One is Hate Against All strives to end hate. The over-arching goal of this campaign is as basic as that. Particularly, as a Jewish fraternity, we understand that anti-Semitism and violent bias still exist in the modern world — in fact, in some parts of society, these types of prejudice are prevalent.

Why does hate culture matter so much to ZBT, a social fraternity?

Our tenet of brotherly love extends beyond our own brotherhood. Every ZBT is a citizen of the world and his unique communities. As brothers of Zeta Beta Tau, we are committed to being responsible, mature members of society, and creating and maintaining a safe environment for all — no matter one’s religion, culture, race, status, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. — is one of the key principles in line with our founding as a Jewish fraternity.

“The beliefs that our organization was founded upon are being attacked at an alarming rate,” said ZBT Executive Director Laurence A. Bolotin, M.Ed., CAE, Alpha Zeta (University of Florida) 2001. “Whether it be the drawing of a swastika on a residence hall door, a student walking through campus with anti-Semitic rhetoric written on their clothing or physical violence simply because of someone’s Jewish identity, this form of hate is growing. We firmly believe that one type of hate breeds more hate and can eventually turn a college campus into a hostile environment where students of all backgrounds feel unsafe.”

What is anti-Semitism?

Anti-Semitism is hostility and prejudice against Jewish people. It’s important to know ZBT was founded by Jewish men who weren’t allowed to join the existing social fraternities in the 1890s due to the prevalence of anti-Semitism in those times. Our founders wanted to join a fraternity the same as any young man. Since they weren’t able to do so, they founded their own.

Founder Bernhard Bloch, an attorney in Brooklyn, served as Supreme President of the Fraternity, taking office in the Fraternity’s sixth year, 1904. During his inaugural address, he eloquently explained what the founders encountered on campuses in their era:

“The Jewish college man, like his Christian colleagues, seeks an outlet for social recreation. He looks about him and sees college fraternities. He knocks for admission, but admission is denied him. … We have banded together because we have recognized that a fraternity is a necessity,” Brother Bloch said.

It is a sad reality that these anti-Semitic sentiments faced by our founders continue today. ZBT has continued to work to dispel these attitudes for more than a century.

“The accomplishments of the Jewish people is remarkable and extremely positive but the history of persecution and anti-Semitism is also unfortunately remarkable in its negativity,” said Brother Alfred (Al) K. Berg, Omicron (Syracuse University) 1973, who is a key supporter of Zeta Beta Tau’s efforts to fight anti-Semitism and hate through his financial support of the Zeta Beta Tau Foundation. “Even in a country as great as America, it is important to always stay vigilant against bias, racism and other forms of hatred.”

I’m not Jewish, why should I care?

For those brothers who aren’t Jewish, it’s important to connect the history of the founding to your experience today. How would you feel if you weren’t able to join a student group because of your ethnic background or religion? ZBT welcomes all men of good character and wants the rest of the world to show the same sense of welcome. The Ritual you took part in at the time of your initiation is rooted in these Jewish values. Racism creates an unequal and unsafe society.

“Coming from the rural South, I am very aware of the cost of hate and the forms that it can take. Prejudice is wrong and abhorrent in whatever form it takes,” said James (Dru) C. Branch, Delta (Columbia University) 2020. “But I was never consciously aware of anti-Semitism until I moved to New York. And now, as a brother of ZBT, being witness to the rich heritage of community of the Jewish people and how that has directly and positively impacted my life, it deeply troubles me to see the effect that ignorant hate has on my brothers and their friends and families. There should be no tolerance for intolerance, and whether or not you are a Zeeb, you should stand up for your brothers when they are in need.”

I am Jewish, why should I care?

The Hebrew phrase of tikkun olam translates roughly to “repair the world.” It is clear that violence and discrimination, particularly against the Jewish people, exist today. In accordance with ZBT’s Jewish beliefs, this is an issue brothers should be working to repair. ZBT works to empower brothers to be advocates for the Jewish community and leaders in supporting religious freedom on their campuses and in their communities.

As Jews, we understand the heavy price of sitting idly by as injustice occurs. We know that violence against one targeted group does not end there. That is why ZBT is working with its chapters to build alliances with other marginalized and targeted groups on campus.

“Being in a non-discriminatory identifiably Jewish Fraternity means that all of our brothers, Jew and non-Jew alike, have the benefit of learning and relating to each other,” said Supreme Councilor and Past International President Ronald A. Pardo, Alpha Omicron (University of Arizona) 1988. “Our Fraternity is a true ‘laboratory for life,’ where brothers are challenged to seek out other men of goodwill to talk about and embrace their different backgrounds and experiences. What a wonderful experience that is for a Jewish brother, to relate to non-Jews in a safe and comfortable environment where he knows that all of his brothers regardless of faith have accepted ZBT’s Mission and Credo.”

I don’t consider myself religious at all, why should I care?

Ask yourself what type of community you want to live in, what the values of the people near you would be.

Part of the Hate Against One is Hate Against All campaign is modeled after a famous poem named “First they came for the Socialists.” It was written in the 1940s by Martin Niemöller, a German Lutheran pastor who was an outspoken adversary of Adolph Hitler.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.

This verse speaks to the societal aspect of hate culture and why tolerance is essential. All ZBT brothers committed to our Credo can agree that integrity and brotherly love are qualities to be vetted.

So what can I do?

We know this isn’t an easy task. We want to you to be equipped to answer questions, as a brother, a friend or a family member.

We see our thousands of engaged, intelligent brothers on college campuses around North America as a resource in fighting this battle.

The campaign has three main components in which all brothers can participate.

Words to Action

ZBT collaborated with the Anti-Defamation League to bring its signature campus program, Words to Action: Empowering Students to Address Anti-Semitism, to brothers and other Greek students over the past two years. Words to Action a workshop centered around the language and iconography of anti-Semitism, how innocent remarks play on negative stereotypes and feed into anti-Israel activity. It’s intended to give brothers tools to have open conversations about hate on campus and how to take action.

ZBT will bring this program to any campus.

For information, contact ZBT’s Assistant Director of Hate Prevention David S. Dworkin, Alpha Beta (Greater Philadelphia Area) 2017, at ddworkin@zbtnational.org.

ZBT programming

Innovation is an important part of the campaign, and ZBT is committed to offering a variety of opportunities for our alumni, undergraduates and communities. For example, in summer 2016 our Southern California area brothers took part in a community forum on hate prevention, hosted by the Alpha Delta Chapter at the University of Southern California.

The international headquarters staff recently planned a Summit Against Hate for campus professionals and staff of other Greek organizations. Participants of the Summit Against Hate heard from changemakers in the Jewish and campus communities as well as Greek students who have dealt with discrimination on campus. Discussion centered around ways to improve campus environments.

“The Summit Against Hate helped me to see the overall picture of hate prevention, and how my Greek organization can support chapters and campuses across the country. It provided me the language and tools to use in my everyday work,” said Becky Gleason, Director of Education and Curriculum Design for Zeta Tau Alpha Fraternity.

A second Summit Against Hate is planned for December 3 in Atlanta. For more information, contact Brother Dworkin.

Social media

The social media component using #whyshouldIcare is an easy way for brothers and friends to continue the conversation. Simply utilize your favorite medium and share your ZBT pride. Tell your network why you care about ending hate culture and racism by posting using the #whyshouldIcare hashtag. Your words can be a call to action for your community or campus.

For any questions about these issues or to get involved, contact ZBT International Headquarters at (317) 334-1898 or email us at zbt@zbtnational.org.