The nation’s fastest growing Jewish sorority just joined the University of Minnesota campus, and is hoping to create a community of equality and inclusivity as it grows its membership in coming years. Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi’s president, Micaela Yarosh, talks about her experience as a Founding Mother in this week’s Who The Folk?!
Can you explain what ΣΑΕΠ is to the people who may not know about it already?
SAEPi (Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi) is a national women’s sorority. It is the fastest growing national Jewish sorority but it is not Panhellenic associated, so it is offering that ‘Jewish first, Greek second’ mission for Jewish women or women seeking a Jewish-related experience.
Would you mind telling me why you joined?
Yeah. I was really hoping to create a sense of equality on the University of Minnesota campus, and I wanted the women to have the same social, professional and networking opportunities as our male counterparts. So that is why I chose to get involved in building this movement.
Do you think that you’ve succeeded so far in doing that?
I think we’re definitely on an upward trajectory towards achieving equality. Obviously the colony is very new, but I think we are well on our way towards making progress.
You mentioned colony… can you talk a bit more and explain what that means?
Yes. So, there are certain requirements that a colony needs to achieve before becoming a chartered chapter. The period between the establishment of a colony and the chartering of a chapter is roughly one-and-a-half to two years. There’s a number of team building and Jewish values-based events that the colony has to achieve in order to attain full chapter status. In general, an SAEPi colony is the formation — the beginning stages of formation of a new chapter.
How did you become president of the sorority?
The national representatives from SAEPi, when they come to a [school], they gauge interest regarding who would like to have each position. They also use the two weeks that they are with the Founding Mothers to note character, and the way in which individuals attract other individuals. And ultimately, I was appointed the position.
Mazel tov! What do you like about being president?
I really like being able to engage with the different other Jewish organizations on campus, to build those relationships. And I like — hopefully — serving as a role model for other people. At least, that’s one of my goals, is to try to help other people lead by developing their own leadership as well. So helping the group as a whole fulfill its vision without doing all of the tasks by myself. Kind of a holistic approach to leadership.
Is there anything you don’t like about the position?
Not at this time! In every organization, hurdles are encountered and overcome, and so on and so forth. But those are just the challenges that come with a leadership position and I had that expectation coming into the position, so it hasn’t been anything too surprising.
You touched on this a bit earlier, but what are your goals looking at the future of SAEPi on this campus?
I think we are just going to continue to hopefully recruit more members, gain a stronger presence, become partners with other Greek organizations, and build a relationship with the University as well through the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life.
What has that been like, working with the Greek office?
It has not been incredibly extensive yet. We’ve discussed different council opportunities; the two major options that we’re looking at are joining the Multicultural Greek Council and the other option would be eventually attaining an associate Panhellenic Council status. That has not been formally decided yet, and there are benefits to either option.
If people are interested in getting involved in SAEPi, what would you tell them and how can they get more information?
A great first step would be contacting a member of the organization, so we have 19 Founding Mothers right now, and any one of them can direct you to the information. We will be hosting a spring recruitment in February, and there will be a series of events. People who attend over 50 percent of the events have reasonable cause to believe they will be accepted. It’s a very inclusive organization, and anybody who’s interested can definitely get in contact with any of the members of the organization, or me personally, or any of the board members.
You mentioned that SAEPi is a very inclusive organization. Can you talk a little bit more about that, and why that’s important to you?
I think that a lot of individuals feel as though Greek life may not fit their own lifestyle, and I think SAEPi hopes to capture Greek life through a different lens, and provide a different opportunity for community — especially Jewish community and engagement — that might not otherwise be available on a particular campus. I think that we really want to appeal to all individuals, and that is why we don’t follow a formal recruitment standard, as does the rest of the Panhellenic Council.
Favorite Jewish holiday?
Rosh Hashanah is my favorite Jewish holiday. I really like the idea of beginning fresh, the new year. I also think it’s really festive to spend time at my synagogue, and with my family, and it’s a little more upbeat than Yom Kippur. But I think especially since for me, Rosh Hashanah usually aligns with the beginning of the school year, I really think of it as like clean slate. It’s cleansing.
Favorite Jewish food?
Maybe homemade challah? Just anybody’s homemade challah — it’s always better when it’s homemade.Click here to nominate your favorite TC Jew to be featured on our weekly Who the Folk?! series!