My Jewish Sorority Was Surprisingly Diverse

After high school, I went straight into community college. My life consisted of going from my car to my classroom and then back home. I made one long-lasting friend there, but otherwise I stuck to my normal schedule and some friends I had made in high school. I didn’t see this as a problem — I liked the friends I had, and I didn’t really see a reason to make more.

Meanwhile, my best friends from home went onto big universities where they joined Greek life. To be honest, I thought it was such a joke. I laughed at them endlessly and questioned why anyone would want to pay for friends.

But then I graduated from community college and found myself at Wayne State University in Detroit. I picked Wayne State because it’s in the heart of the city, which meant museums, theaters, great bars, and restaurants would all be minutes away. But I soon learned it’s also a growing university where Greek life and athletics are the major key to any social life. With my athletic days far behind me, I really only had one option.

So, I took a leap of faith. I rushed during my first fall there. I went in blindly, knowing nothing about the chapters in front of me. Soon I figured out one of my top choices was Alpha Epsilon Phi, a nationally known Jewish sorority with strong Jewish values. Suddenly, the idea of joining a sorority that aligned with my values sounded pretty enticing. Here was a group, finally, that didn’t mention Jesus or their Christian roots. I grew up in West Bloomfield, Michigan, known as West Jewfield to many. But even there I didn’t feel like I fit the typical “Jewish girl” mold. I was involved with BBYO but I still didn’t have many Jewish friends. I had a diverse friend group which was great, but I still wanted more friends like me.

But honestly, I didn’t think I’d get in.

I am far from the stereotypical sorority girl. I am curvy, sporty, have more guy friends than girls, and I don’t bite my tongue. I was taught to speak my mind and I always do. I feared that I wouldn’t fit in with the other girls. I thought they wouldn’t accept me because I wasn’t anything like the typical sorority girls I had seen in movies. I’m not the girl who pulls millions of guys at the bar, or who wears crop tops and booty shorts. I was also a little afraid that they would not like me because I was so outspoken. And yet, somehow, I got extended a bid to AEPhi.

Flash forward a few months, and I was initiated. I soon found myself in a place where you aren’t accepted because of your looks, but on what you can bring to the table.

A year later while recruiting, I learned that my chapter of AEPhi looks for women who are kind, accepting, and strong. I learned that we recruit women who want the best, not just for themselves, but for the all women around them. And I learned I was finally in a place where being Jewish is a bonus point.

Recently on Alma, I read of a woman who regretted joining a Jewish sorority because she found herself stuck in a “Jewish bubble” where she wasn’t spending time with anyone from a different background as her. I feel for her experience, but I’m grateful I can’t relate. Even though I was in a Jewish sorority, my chapter had Muslims and other non-Jews as members. It was also ethnically diverse, with Mexican and Asian women making up its diverse base. Truly it was filled with people of all backgrounds, so much so that us Jewish girls were actually outnumbered.

During my time in my chapter, I was our Jewish Heritage and Ritual Chair. My job was to bring Judaism into the conversation and make sure our chapter was upholding strong Jewish values. Through this role, I got to show a group of diverse woman a large part of who I am. I shared the stories of our holidays, Hebrew words, the meanings of tikkun olam and tzedakah. I held Shabbat dinners for our chapter and brought attention to anti-Semitism and other issues affecting Jews. Every single activity, PowerPoint, and event connected me more to my heritage and ancestors.

Inside our chapter, the Jewish girls were all extremely close, yet still very accepting of everyone else. We were happy to have people on campus to light Hanukkah candles with, who were always down to go get some lox and bagels. On a national level, I also became connected with Jewish women from all across the country — women whom I could lean on for anything. When tragedy struck our community, all AEPhis were there for one another.

In my case, joining a Jewish sorority was beyond worth it. I suppose the joke is on me because every single penny was well spent, and I would do it all over again if I got the chance. I wouldn’t want to pass up on an opportunity that allowed me to wear both my letters and Judaism with so much pride.

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