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Happy Founders Day!

December 29, 1898

A group of young men from New York City universities, mostly studying for rabbinical and academic careers, gathered 123 years ago this month to form a Zionist society with their mentor, Columbia University professor of Semitic languages, Richard J.H. Gottheil.

Taking “Zion bemishpat tipadeh” (“Zion shall be redeemed with justice”) as their motto, these 15 men formed the group that would in a few short years be re-named with the Greek letters Zeta Beta Tau.

As Jews, these men were excluded from joining existing fraternities because of the sectarian practices which prevailed at the end of the 19th Century.  These men saw the need for a Greek-letter fraternity open to Jewish students and pioneered the Brotherhood for a Lifetime experience.  ZBT’s Zionist roots remain strong in the organization today.

It is, as always, GREAT to be a ZBT!


ZBT’s Powerful History

Our Founders

Read more on these brothers who banded together to form Zeta Beta Tau on December 29, 1898.

  • Rabbi Herman Abramowitz
  • Bernhard Bloch
  • Isidore Delson
  • Aaron P. Drucker
  • Rabbi Bernard C. Ehrenreich
  • Rabbi Menachim M. Eichler
  • Rabbi Aaron Eiseman
  • Rabbi David Levine
  • Aaron W. Levy
  • David Liknaitz
  • Louis S. Posner
  • Bernhard D. Saxe
  • Dr. Herman B. Sheffield
  • Dr. David Swick
  • Maurice L. Zellermayer

Important Dates in ZBT History

1898Zeta Beta Tau was founded in New York City as a Zionist youth society called Z.B.T.
1903Zeta Beta Tau, still called Z.B.T., adopted its first Constitution and established a system of chapters at several universities in the New York City area. Its Alpha Chapter was established at the City College of New York.
1904Phi Epsilon Pi, founded first among Zeta Beta Tau’s antecedent fraternities, was established at the City College of New York.
1906Z.B.T. formally changed its name to Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity. At the same time, it changed its focus to that of a college-based social fraternity instead of a Zionist society.
1907Zeta Beta Tau was incorporated by the State of New York. The Fraternity also assembled members in New York City for its first Convention.
1909 Phi Sigma Delta, the second of Zeta Beta Tau’s antecedent fraternities to be founded, was established at Columbia University. ZBT took on a national dimension in founding Sigma Chapter at Tulane University as the Fraternity’s first chapter outside of the Northeast.
1910Zeta Beta Tau published its first formal membership directory. ZBT also adopted its Crest for use on all items that identify the Fraternity.
1911 Kappa Nu, the third antecedent fraternity of Zeta Beta Tau, was founded at the University of Rochester.
1912 Zeta Beta Tau helped found the National Interfraternity Conference, the first national interfraternity organization.
1913Zeta Beta Tau established Upsilon Chapter at McGill University as its first chapter in Canada. It also issued the Zeta Beta Tau Quarterly as its first Fraternity-wide publication.
1914 Phi Alpha, the fourth of Zeta Beta Tau’s antecedent fraternities, was founded at The George Washington University.
1915Phi Epsilon Pi established Mu Chapter at the University of Georgia from a group known as the E.D.S. Society that was originally founded in 1895. It was the oldest local Jewish fraternity in continuous existence.
1918Zeta Beta Tau founded Alpha Delta Chapter at the University of Southern California as its first chapter on the West Coast.
1924Zeta Beta Tau engaged George Macy as its first full-time paid director. He held the title of General Secretary.
1925 Phi Epsilon Pi became the first Greek-letter fraternity to appropriate funds for activities outside its own organization when it endowed a $10,000 scholarship at the National Agricultural College in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.
1929Zeta Beta Tau established the National Permanent Endowment Fund (N.P.E.F.) to assist the Fraternity in its financial and operational needs and to help acquire chapter house property.
1930 Zeta Beta Tau presented its first Man of the Year Award to Charles L. Kaufman, Phi (Michigan) 1917. The award is granted to an alumnus “who, as a result of his personal accomplishments in life’s endeavors, has stood forth beyond all of his brothers.”
1941 Zeta Beta Tau established Service Men’s Service, a program that continued through World War II which provided newspapers, books, food, etc., to Fraternity brothers in the Armed Forces.
1950 Zeta Beta Tau established the Zeta Beta Tau Foundation, Inc. to provide scholarship and loan assistance to deserving ZBT undergraduates.
1954 Delegates at Zeta Beta Tau’s International Convention amended the Fraternity’s Constitution to eliminate sectarianism as a qualification for membership, thereby making membership available to all male college students regardless of race, creed, faith or color.
1959Phi Alpha merged into Phi Sigma Delta.
1961Kappa Nu merged into Phi Epsilon Pi.
1963Delegates at Zeta Beta Tau’s International Convention adopted a resolution comprising a statement of principles and beliefs known as the Fraternity’s Credo.
1969 Phi Sigma Delta merged into Zeta Beta Tau. Also, Zeta Beta Tau established and incorporated Z.B.T. Enterprises, Inc. to provide quality merchandise (plaques, jewelry, sportswear, etc.) for chapters and alumni associations, as well as membership credentials and awards for the Fraternity.
1970Phi Epsilon Pi merged into Zeta Beta Tau.
1989 Zeta Beta Tau eliminated the institution of pledging from the Fraternity in an effort to combat hazing, replacing it with the Brotherhood Program, a program with stringent quality requirements, education and bonding programs for all brothers. ZBT also joined the Fraternity Information and Programming Group (FIPG), an interfraternity group created to assist member fraternities in reducing potential liability through a comprehensive risk management policy.
1995 Zeta Beta Tau International Headquarters moved to Indianapolis, Indiana.
1998Zeta Beta Tau celebrated its centennial.
2002ZBT adopts Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals as a national philanthropic partner.
2010 ZBT’s Brotherhood Program is replaced by THE JOURNEY, a program intended to meet the organizational and educational needs of 21st century students. The purpose of THE JOURNEY is to instill the lifelong brotherhood experience in all brothers, both undergraduate and alumni. ZBT adopts Maccabi World Union as second philanthropy partner.
2012Zeta Beta Tau Foundation is adopted as Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity’s third official philanthropy.
2013Zeta Beta Tau established a partnership with the Foundation for International Education to offer study abroad opportunities to ZBT brothers.
2015ZBT adopted Jewish Women International as an official philanthropic and educational partner. Our joint Fund for Safe and Healthy Campuses provides for programming in the areas of dating abuse prevention on campuses across North America.
2017ZBT adopted Gift of Life Marrow Registry as an official partner.
2020ZBT hosts its first-ever fully virtual International Convention.
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