As an attendee of the UJS Conference last Sunday, a member of the Upsilon Kappa Alpha chapter of Zeta Beta Tau fraternity in Nottingham and a committee member for Nottingham JSoc, I was appalled to see a motion go through that was not in the spirit of the conference; and was merely a vendetta.
The motion that was voted stated: "UJS condemns the existence of fraternities and sororities which do not share the same values as our organisation."
My issue with this motion is three-fold. Firstly, I have a problem with the wording: "condemns the existence" - it’s almost as if this came straight off of the lips of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad when talking about Israel.
It is extremely vociferous in its denunciation of fraternities. As one prominent member of Nottingham JSoc said at the conference: "We should not vote to condemn any Jewish organisation, they all do good work in one way or another, and they are clearly filling a gap."
The charge against the fraternities was that they were elitist, sexist and had no similar Jewish values to UJS. I will debunk this myth now. Yes, fraternities are selective in that we seek out the best and brightest students on campus, but I find this fairly hypocritical coming from a UJS conference where only the president is elected (and the rest of the UJS Tsevet selected). Moreover, it is not sexist in the slightest, in that there are opportunities for female students to form sororities.
Finally, the charge was that fraternities have no Jewish values comparable with UJS. UJS says they believe in cross-communalism, yet I don’t remember there being a motion to denounce organisations like Chabad, JLE and Aish, all of whom work with UJS but certainly don’t subscribe to this cross-communalism.
ZBT, founded as the world's first Jewish fraternity, incorporates Jewish values into everything it does. We have strong partnerships with Jewish organisations across the world and would welcome that same opportunity with UJS. We are all here to strengthen the Jewish community.
The Jewish faith encourages opportunities for Jews to connect in a way that works best for them. Jewish fraternities provide an atmosphere for Jewish men to connect socially while creating a network that builds stronger leaders for our campuses and communities.
The membership of UJS failed to comprehend it was not a national matter to vote on, but clearly depends on the campus. Nottingham JSoc has a healthy relationship with our chapter of ZBT. This culminated with hosting "Booze 4 Jews" this year jointly with ZBT, which was a huge success.
It's evident from the conference that other JSocs have had different experiences dealing with fraternities, and that, on that basis, individual JSocs should have the autonomy to decide how they interact with their local fraternities. At the conference it seemed as though certain JSocs had a personal vendetta against their local fraternities and were not putting the best interests of UJS first when voting.
This conflict is not the case for the majority of the Nottingham JSoc membership and, quite frankly, it puts many of us who are members of both in a difficult position.
Max Sobell is a politics and American studies student at Nottingham University. Follow him on Twitter here.
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