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On December 29, 1898 at Columbia University in New York, Professor of Languages, Richard J. H. Gottheil, was inspired to gather together a group of Jewish students from several area universities to form a Zionist youth organization known as Z.B.T. During its early days, Z.B.T. served as a fraternity of sorts for the many Jewish students who were excluded from Greek-letter organizations because of their faith. Based on this desire for social fellowship, Z.B.T. saw the need to change its purpose, structure, emphasis, and name, to become in 1903, Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT).
Since its early days as a Zionist youth organization, ZBT has grown to include over 81 active chapters across North America and more than 2,600 undergraduate members. With their motto, “A Powerhouse of Excellence,” the Brothers of ZBT are inspired to always give their best efforts, and many have gone to achieve great things through their hard work, including Samuel Goldwyn (MGM Productions), Henry W. Bloch & Richard Bloch (founders, H&R Block), Harold Ramis (Actor, Director, Writer, & Producer), Jerry Bruckheimer (TV & Film Producer), and Leonard Bernstein (Composer & Conductor). With Brothers like these, it is not surprising that many men want to wear the Zeta Beta Tau blue, white, and gold.
For the members of ZBT, service (hands-on interaction with a charitable organization) and philanthropy (the act of donating money to a deserving cause), are of equal importance, for this reason the Fraternity has multiple venues for its Brothers to make the world a better place. The men of ZBT keep busy throughout the year donating their time, hard work, and money to designated organizations like the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and the Maccabi World Union, as well as holding local fund-raising events, such as “Get on the Ball,” that may benefit any charity of the local chapter’s choosing.
Though Zeta Beta Tau was originally founded as a Jewish fraternity, and currently focuses its efforts on cultivating relationships with local Jewish communities, all members know the hurt that can be caused by exclusionary practices. For this reason, ZBT has been committed to being a non-sectarian brotherhood, welcoming all men of good character, regardless of religion, race, or creed, since 1954. The men of ZBT tirelessly work to promote their mission of fostering intellectual awareness, social responsibility, integrity, and brotherly love, values that make both the campus and the world, a better place.