Last spring, a new Jewish chapter, the fraternity Sigma Alpha Mu, colonized at the University of Oregon. It is aiming towards a charter for fall 2018.
Jewish Greek life has the ability to bring members closer together — their similar backgrounds give the members an opportunity to relate to each other, according to junior Brett Hoskins, a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi.
UO currently has three Jewish-affiliated Greek life groups: the sorority Sigma Mu Omega, which was founded in 2003; the fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi, which was founded in 2001; and Sigma Alpha Mu, a colony that started as an idea at a ski retreat last year and that is aiming towards being a chartered fraternity next fall.
Alpha Epsilon Pi and Sigma Alpha Mu are nationally recognized, while Sigma Mu Omega and is local- and UO-based.
In total, there about 140 students in Jewish Greek life. Alpha Epsilon Pi has 78 active members, but the most recent pledge class will raise the total amount to around 96, Hoskins said.
Sigma Mu Omega only had 13 members going into the year but has since recruited two more.
“The majority of guys have this common bond,” Hoskins said. “Yes, it is religious, but a lot of it is a cultural type of thing. There’s just something about having Jewish parents and the way they go about things and certain traditions that we all have in common.”
Junior Montana Thorner, the president of Sigma Mu Omega, joined because she wanted the opportunity to learn more about the Jewish part of her identity on her father’s side of the family.
“I wanted to learn more about [Jewish culture] so I could learn more about him and what he went through when he was younger,” Thorner said.
“You don’t have to be Jewish to join our sorority,” Thorner said. “It’s just to learn about another culture. It gives you an opportunity to expand your horizons [and] meet new people.”
Justin Asarch, a junior at UO and the president of Sigma Alpha Mu, said that by adding another Jewish-affiliated fraternity, it creates another opportunity for students.
“Some people prefer to have something more Judaism-centered,” Asarch said. “And some people want something that […] has that background, but maybe [they] aren’t focused entirely toward it.”
Each Greek life organization has individual goals for the near future. Sigma Alpha Mu will be looking to raise their budget and numbers, and Sigma Mu Omega would like to help build the multicultural Greek community.
But according to Asarch, the three groups are looking to work together in the future.
“We want to host events during Jewish holidays together, or maybe programs where we do community service together,” Asarch said.
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Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Sigma Alpha Mu is local, when in fact it is national.