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Jewish frat returns to Rutgers U.
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Jewish frat returns to Rutgers U.

Four years after the charter of its Rutgers University chapter was revoked, the international Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi is returning to campus.

The chapter had operated for 55 years at Rutgers and had its own fraternity house before the national fraternity and the university rescinded its charter in 2010 after a suspected hazing incident and other violations of its constitution and mission.

On March 12, several dozen alumni and new student members gathered at Chabad House on the New Brunswick campus for dinner and to launch a new era for the Rutgers affiliate — designated Rho Upsilon — of the 101-year-old fraternity.

Richard Feller of Livingston, a 1959 Rutgers graduate and past AEPi international president, said he hadn’t been on campus in decades, but that the restart of Rho Upsilon brought him back.

The Rutgers affiliate will be designated a “colony,” rather than a full chapter, until it completes five steps for reinstatement. The steps include a philanthropy project, an Israel-related project, an internal social activity, and an inter-chapter event. Members will also have to pass a test based on the fraternity pledge manual, said Bruce Kesselman of Old Bridge and Las Vegas, chair of the Rutgers AEPi alumni association.

“The fraternity is like a family,” alumni Steve Orlov of Bala Cynwyd, Pa., who came wearing his AEPi sweatshirt, told the students. “It’s so easy to get lost on campus. As an AEPi brother you can always come back. You will always be a part of it. You should think of the alumni as your extended family who you can call on at any time.”

Kesselman, a 1973 Rutgers graduate and president of the Las Vegas chapter of the Rutgers Alumni Association, edited a history of the chapter, which raised $7,000 for Rho Upsilon scholarships. Once new fund-raising efforts bring the total to $20,000, scholarships will be awarded to needy fraternity members.

After their charter was revoked, the fraternity was forced to give up its house at 46 Union Street. It will meet at Chabad for the foreseeable future.

“We became the fraternity on campus known for having the smartest bunch of guys,” recalled Kesselman. “We were not jocks…. My AEPi brothers are still my closest friends.”

Kesselman also issued a warning to the new students: “You have a reputation, so don’t go out and screw it up with excessive drinking, drugs, and girls. What you do is a reflection on us.”

Rabbi Baruch Goodman of Rutgers Chabad said he was initiated into the fraternity at the Chabad building; serving as spiritual adviser to the students, he said his duties include waking members for morning minyan. He said the new members had recently baked hamantaschen and made mishloah manot baskets for Purim.

Doug Keiles, who grew up in East Brunswick and now lives in Hillsborough, recalled some of his favorite memories of his frat days, particularly a 4 a.m. football game played in the falling snow.

“We live for our brothers at AEPi, central Jersey, and Rutgers,” he said.

Sam Seelenfreund, a freshman from Teaneck and the new AEPi president, said he hoped to keep Rho Upsilon special by building on the former members’ legacies.

“These are all amazing guys and we want to try and emulate them,” he told NJJN. “We want to continue the history and tradition. We are really looking forward to getting things going again.

“It’s also important to note that we intend to maintain the Jewish culture of the frat.”

Secretary Jacob Scott, a freshman from Woodcliff Lake, said he was inspired by “seeing the previous generations come and leave their mark on the university and this fraternity. It’s a brotherhood, which I really wanted to be a part of.”

AEPi has 100,000 members in the United States, Canada, France, and Israel. Other colleges in New Jersey with chapters are Princeton University, Ramapo College in Mahwah, and the College of New Jersey in Ewing.

In January, AEPi became a member of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

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