AEPi is Coming to YU; What Does That Mean? 

By: Gabriella Gomperts  |  December 18, 2023

By Gabriella Gomperts, Staff Writer

Yeshiva University is starting to react to the possibility of a fraternity on its campus. There currently isn’t one, but if student Robert Okun (SSSB ’26) gets his way, YU will soon be home to a chapter of AEPi. The news first broke in the October 2023 edition of the YU Observer, in which an article written by Aytan Waxman, Staff Writer, entitled, “AEPi is Coming to Yeshiva University” was published. 

The reactions were mixed. Some students on campus were and continue to be concerned about the implications of AEPi possibly coming to YU, while others see it as just another club. 

Robert Okun, who is piloting the addition of the AEPi chapter for YU, addresses the concerns some in the YU community may have about bringing a Jewish fraternity to an already Jewish university. 

Many would already describe Yeshiva College as a type of fraternity, with an all male campus and small undergraduate population. A question multiple students have is: What purpose would a fraternity at YU serve? 

One reason for establishing the fraternity would be to foster a community within YU. In an email interview, Okun stated, “Our goal is to bring students with all different Jewish backgrounds [together] as one. We want to help continue to build and improve Jewish life on campus.”

Stern student Yita Khanin (SCW ’25) is against fraternities overall, but understands that there might be a desire to create a space for socializing. “If the purpose of this fraternity is to help form friendships without hazing and abuse and is solely for the purpose of forming a group of like-minded people to live in a larger context than an apartment, but more intimate than a dorm, then this is a great idea.” 

However, Khanin is still uneasy about practices and beliefs fraternities may encourage, like hazing, exclusivity, encouraging sexism, and hyper masculinity. She said, “I think fraternities in general are not beneficial and cause a lot of harm and psychological damage. It’s intended to be a brotherhood but involves a lot of manipulation.”

These elements and stereotypes associated with fraternity culture are at odds with YU’s values and Jewish principles, which pose concerns for some students. A Stern student, who wished to remain anonymous, said she doesn’t mind the addition of a fraternity, but is concerned that certain acts and behavior might ensue and reflect badly on the school.

Okun responds to these worries by emphasizing the fraternity’s dedication to upholding Jewish values. “I understand when it comes to a fraternity people have this view that all a fraternity does is drinking, hazing, partying etc. We are not that fraternity. We are not looking to bring that type of atmosphere to the University at any point.” 

Okun also believes the fraternity’s values coincide with YU’s, saying “I don’t think the fraternity culture is at odds with the values that YU offers since our goal is to enhance Jewish life within the University. We do not encourage sexism and we do not promote hyper masculinity.” 

Okun reiterated his own dedication to fostering a community with Jewish values. “There are many viewpoints people have on fraternities, obviously I understand that those viewpoints can be validated, but as the President I will ensure that AEPi of Yeshiva University will only help enhance Jewish life on campus.” 

Another aspect of fraternity culture, one that YU seems to lack, is partying. A major feature of universities across the country are the parties, which could include excessive drinking and drug use, and often lead to a variety of other issues. Fraternity houses are notable hosts of such gatherings, but according to Okun, “As of right now partying is not in my sight. The goal of the fraternity is not to bring a party element to YU by any means.”

The Lieutenant Master, the second in command of the chapter, who wishes to remain anonymous, declined to comment for this article. 

YU’s AEPi chapter has seventeen founding brothers, with multiple people already having reached out to join the fraternity. A rush for the fraternity is planned for the spring semester. AEPi won’t consider a potential member’s religious beliefs when deciding if they are a good fit for the fraternity, and Jews of all backgrounds are encouraged to rush. 

As of now, there is no home base for the fraternity, but a location for a potential fraternity house in Washington Heights has been found two blocks away from campus.