A house without a heart is not a home, and in a similar vein, a fraternity without a house is not any fun. From the functional but far-from-sanitary halls of Beta’s Lynwood house to the slightly more upscale High Street property of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, a fraternity house is essential. But it is the parties thrown at a frat house — not its furnishings and rooms — that make or break a Greek organization, even if it’s a Jewish one.
After moving into its new home this semester, recently resurrected Jewish-affiliated fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi has been violating every commandment on the tablet. An increasingly popular party location, AEPi has been host to everything from small Thursday night get-togethers to wild Saturday-night flings. Even though the fraternity sees itself as Jewish-affiliated, frat brothers say very little Judaism actually manifests itself in their day-to-day — and night-to-night — activities.
Now that AEPi has its own space, brothers say they can throw parties as often as they please. Only a few months into the year, their small but active brotherhood has taken frequent advantage of their newly christened house. In addition to fraternity meetings, pledge events and small informal gatherings, AEPi has quickly become renowned for their larger, shamelessly titled parties. The fraternity dubbed the first such party “Gin and Jews,” and AEPi President Robert Spiro ’06 said their next party, inspired by the Robin Williams movie of a similar name, will be called “Jewmanji.”
Spiro said the parties have been hugely successful and well-received by other Yalies.
“For a lot of the parties, there’s a line down the street to get in,” he said. “I think we’ve had about 1,000 people in this house. It seems to be, I’d say, one of the top three hot spots on campus.”
Brothers admit that prior to acquiring the apartment, planning parties was not an easy task.
“We would rent out spaces, and it was always a pain in the ass,” Spiro said. “Having a house is a million times better.”
The new house occupies the top three floors of 271 Crown St. Upon first glance, it appears to be yet another abandoned city building: On the first floor lies the ruins of the China Trading Company, a now-defunct Asian import shop. But following signs past a rusty gate and up two flights of creaky stairs brings unsuspecting visitors to the AEPi playhouse.
Though it may not exactly match the standards of an IKEA-inundated loft on an MTV reality show, the apartment boasts enough room for any modestly sized party. The first floor is the primary party space, complete with a bar in the back and a $30,000 tri-color LED ticker, a donation that even the brothers admit is a bit much. On the second floor resides a second common room, complete with futons, video game consoles and other frat house necessities. However, what the AEPi brothers really hold dear to their hearts is the third floor: a tiny fully windowed protrusion that visitors affectionately call “The Lighthouse.”
“It’s the perfect place to make out,” Adam Metzger ’08, an AEPi pledge, said. “Not that I have.”
Even without “The Lighthouse,” Spiro added that the brothers would have no problems attracting girls to their supposed “hot spot.”
“We don’t do anything — they just come,” he said. “Most nights we’ll have 40 or 50 hot girls come over looking for circumcised men. It’s tough to keep up with the demand, but we do our best, which is pretty damn good.”
The AEPi house has become so much of a social center on campus that even other student groups, such as the sketch comedy troupe Suite 13, have utilized it for parties of their own.
Lexy Benaim ’06, a member of the band The Harlem Shakes, said he had a memorable time performing at the AEPi house for a Suite 13 after-party, where people went ballistic dancing, moshing and even crowd-surfing.
“It was one of the wildest shows we’ve ever played,” Benaim said. “A lot of people told me that that party that we played was one of the best parties that they’ve been to at Yale. There was definitely a raging party at that house — I was pretty impressed.”
Most recently, Yale’s resident prankster group the Pundits held a naked party on Halloween night at the house, where everyone was required to enter the party in their birthday suit.
Partygoer Alana Tucker ’07 noted that the timing of the party was all too perfect.
“I thought it was really funny and ironic that it was on Halloween, and everyone had to take off their costume at the door,” she said.
Some might argue that such antics have no place in the house of a Jewish fraternity. But Rabbi Lina Grazier-Zerbarini, associate rabbi of Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life, said she and her colleagues have nothing but support for the fraternity.
“While I wouldn’t find any rabbinic texts that necessarily support naked parties, I wouldn’t want to say that’s outside of Judaism,” she said. “Because people are people, and I think that looking to live fully as Jews is part of what AEPi is all about.”
“You think of a Jewish community, and there are two paradigms,” he said. “There’s the synagogue congregation, which we’re not, and then there’s the Jewish mafia, which I think is a more apt comparison, just not as much organized crime.”
Indeed, those in AEPi agree that their organization is more about socializing than religion. In fact, AEPi’s roll includes one strikingly un-Jewish name — Christopher Wu ’05.
Wu, who admits that he has no Jewish blood, joined the fraternity last semester. He said while he never had imagined himself as a frat boy, the AEPi brothers gave him such a warm welcome that rushing became something he could not turn down.
At AEPi, the people are rowdy, the music is blaring and alcohol is flowing like the River Jordan. And that’s something even gentiles can appreciate.