Updated: Sept. 13, 2021 at 2:48 p.m.
After becoming the newest chapter to join the Panhellenic Association last spring, Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi hopes to collaborate with other local chapters this upcoming year.
Sorority members said SAEPi is seeking to build a community within the chapter through social and religious events as well as with SAEPi chapters from other universities and other on-campus sororities at GW. Sorority leaders said they hope the chapter provides a space for its about 25 members, along with prospective students, to connect with other Jewish women to ensure they don’t have to sacrifice their Jewish identity for a traditional Greek experience.
Senior Rebecca Ioane, the president of SAEPi, said the chapter started as a small group in fall of 2018 before it was officially recognized by Panhel in the spring. She said she joined the chapter in spring 2019 after hearing about SAEPi through her friends at GW Hillel and decided to become involved within the organization in seeking to be a part of a Jewish community on campus.
“I joined SAEPi because I needed the Jewish community on campus that it provides,” Ioane said in an email. “It has always been a space where I feel at home, like I’m surrounded by family.”
SAEPi was founded as a national Jewish sorority in 1998 at the University of California Davis, according to the national chapter’s website. Nationwide, SAEPi currently consists of 15 active chapters and colonies – which are chapters awaiting formal recognition – the website states.
Junior Michelle Rechtman, the vice president of SAEPi, said members’ common experiences as part of the Jewish community bonds them as sisters. She said SAEPi also includes many members involved in other Jewish organizations on campus like GW Hillel, JStreet U – a student organization that advocates for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – and GW for Israel.
“While we all have different experiences and upbringings and have experienced Judaism differently, we always have the bond of being Jewish,” Rechtman said in an email.
Alumna Lila Gaber, a founding member and former president, said she and two other students started the chapter to create a Jewish sisterhood on campus after feeling that one was missing from their GW experience. She said the chapter’s planning phase began with meetings in students’ rooms and Shabbat dinners before growing into a larger community of members and leading to the creation of GW’s SAEPi chapter.
“Over time we reached out to more people who were interested and grew an entire community,” she said in an email. “It’s been amazing to see it grow, and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here!”
Senior Phebe Grosser, the secretary of SAEPi and a Hatchet photographer, said chapter leaders hope to connect with Towson University’s chapter to host a Shabbat dinner program together soon. She said leaders hope potential members feel they have a safe space to learn about SAEPi’s core values like unity, trust, strength, sincere sisterhood and exemplifying Jewish values.
“One thing that was exciting for me especially was seeing girls I did youth group/went to camp with and reconnecting with them,” she said in an email.
Grosser said being in a smaller sorority with 15 active chapters, as opposed to other sororities like Kappa Delta with 142 active chapters, has allowed chapter leaders and members to develop a personal relationship with their national board. She said recruitment for the chapter resembles an informal process and will take place at the same time as other sororities on campus this coming spring.
”This year will be a really great year,” she said. “Our members are engaged in so many different organizations both Jewish organizations and secular organizations.”
Sophomore Eliana Pierotti – the public relations chair and Sunshine girl, a welcome event coordinator – said she works to plan social events to help members bond, like a birthday event to celebrate members who had birthdays over the summer.
“I wanted to be around women who cared about creating genuine friendships and learn about Judaism and Jewish culture with them,” she said in an email.
Pierotti said the chapter will plan COVID-19-safe bonding events this year like a “dip night” where members each bring different types of dips and get to know one another.
She said that she hopes SAEPi will be able to connect with other sororities on campus to widen the chapter’s community and build an on-campus presence.
“Every time we interact with each other, it’s really important to keep us close and good friends,” Pierotti said.
This post was updated to correct the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly spelled Ioane’s last name. The correct spelling is now reflected. We regret this error.