35 years of Fraternity without pledging

In the same year that the Berlin Wall fell and President George H. W. Bush was inaugurated, Zeta Beta Tau took steps that changed its brotherhood and the interfraternity community forever.

1989 International Convention was in Baltimore. The Alpha Omicron Chapter at University of Arizona was celebrated as Brummer Cup winner by International President Richard (Dick) S. Simon, Phi (University of Michigan) 1943.

In 1989, ZBT eliminated pledging as a tradition, and so for the past 35 years, ZBT used our non-pledging stance as a point of great pride and a recruitment tool.

Brotherly Love is the most important of our tenets. Each year, close to 1,500 men join ZBT to become part of a community of equals. Nowhere in our Credo, Mission or Ritual does our organization state that a two-tier membership creates a stronger brotherhood. Instead, we talk about serving our communities, excelling academically, preserving and cultivating our relationships within the Jewish community and so much more.

Practically, being a fraternity without pledging means that all new brothers are initiated within days after receiving a bid, instead of going through a six- or eight-week pledge period. Education about being a member of ZBT and a fraternity brother comes alongside the returning brothers in the chapter over the course of the brother’s time as an undergraduate (and beyond). This program is called THE JOURNEY and it’s publicly available for any brother or ZBT supporter to see at

There’s also a Frequently Asked Questions about being a non-pledging fraternity here.

While ZBT has faced challenges gaining universal acceptance from all chapters, ZBT is clearly a safer and better brotherhood because of this courageous choice. Other fraternities have now followed our lead, and in today’s post-pandemic college campus environment, the need for this experience rooted in equity remains vitally important. We are proud of our brothers who learn about ZBT’s Brotherhood for a Lifetime through a full development program after they choose to join.

More on the history of the decision

  • NBC Nightly News report from 1990 about ZBT’s decision to end the practice of pledging and all two-tier membership practices. Featuring Past International President Ronald J. Taylor, Gamma Alpha (Washington & Jefferson) 1966. Watch:
  • Past International President Stephen P. Ehrlich, Esq., Iota (University of Denver) 1970, responds to pledging, hazing and deaths at college campuses across the country in a November 22, 2017, interview broadcasted on NBC Denver 9 News. Watch:
  • The Digital Deltan archives cover article from 2014 when ZBT marked 25 years as a fraternity without pledging: Winter 2014 edition.