They didn’t know it at the time, but earlier this year, the brothers of Monmouth College’s Zeta Beta Tau fraternity scheduled an antisemitism program that is now very much tied to current international events.
Thanks to a ZBT heritage grant that Monmouth’s Delta Lambda chapter received, the fraternity will host speaker Alexander Katz at noon Nov. 5 in Dahl Chapel and Auditorium. The event, scheduled long before the Israel-Hamas war began Oct. 7, is free and open to the public.
Katz is a training and recruitment manager at URBN Playground, with a doctoral degree in educational leadership and administration from the University of Hartford. He’s also the adviser for the Eta Omicron chapter of ZBT at Quinnipiac University.
The speaker is the son of Martin Katz ’72, who during his time as a Monmouth student was president of the fraternity chapter that eventually became the College’s Delta Lambda chapter of ZBT.
Titled “Antisemitism: Past and Present,” Katz’s presentation will not only review and analyze past antisemitism experiences but also take a look at the current and future landscape of the issue.
A ‘powerful’ message
Founded in 1898 as the first Jewish fraternity, part of ZBT’s philanthropy focuses on uplifting and supporting the Jewish community.
“The idea is finding out the ‘why’ of antisemitism, so what in the past has led up to this moment, and then we’re probably going to be talking a little bit about how the future looks for Jewish populations,” said ZBT chapter president Corey Pevitz ’24 of Naperville, Illinois. “I’m really excited to bring in someone with this background that probably Monmouth has not seen in a very long time, and also to continue ZBT’s traditions and legacies and demographic as a Jewish organization and not losing that.”
Pevitz believes ZBT has a great responsibility to ensure the minority voice is heard, especially for a community where the voice is so small.
“It can be really hard, especially in an area like Monmouth in which there are very few Jewish organizations,” he said. “I think that’s going to be really powerful for people to hear.”
In the United States, acts of antisemitism have been on the rise, according to recent reports from independent groups. Although only slightly more than 2% of individuals in the United States identify as Jewish, over 51% of religious hate crimes are against Jewish people, according to a report released in March by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. To help reverse those numbers, ZBT wants to help more people become familiar with Jewish customs and traditions.
“I believe that experience is the number one educator, and when we’re able to put people in a situation in which they can experience first-hand the traditions of Judaism, they’ll find it less discomforting and disconcerting and find it more understandable,” said Pevitz.
ZBT has held exchanges with Temple Sholom, a congregation in nearby Galesburg, which Pevitz said has been fulfilling for the chapter. The chapter has also held events such as Powderpuff and Egg-a-Zeeb to raise money for Jewish Women International, an organization that supports Jewish women.
“Egg-a-Zeeb is one of our favorites,” said Pevitz. “That’s where we get a ton of eggs, and we get a big old tarp, and we have the opportunity for people to purchase eggs and crack them on top of our brothers’ heads.”
Other ZBT philanthropies
ZBT has also supported local organizations such as the Western Illinois Animal Rescue and Special Olympics. Additionally, the Monmouth chapter has worked with Gift of Life, a bone marrow registry that compiles a database for potential donors. The chapter holds a drive once a semester or year, offering people the opportunity to swab their cheek and send it to Gift of Life to be added to the registry.
During Homecoming, ZBT held its “Get on the Ball” fundraiser for the Children’s Miracle Network.
“We rolled this giant inflatable ball around and we got people to sign it, and then we asked companies to pledge a certain amount of money per signature, and that’s how much we ended up donating,” said Pevitz.
The chapter’s upcoming antisemitism program has been something it’s been trying to do for years, but COVID-19 held it back.
“Engaging with our Jewish history has just been something that we’ve always wanted to do,” said Pevitz.
***Courtesy of Barry McNamara, Monmouth College***