Mourning Leonard Cohen on Zeta Beta Tau’s Founders’ Day

Leonard Cohen, singer, songwriter, poet and novelist,  died on November 7, 2016,  at the aged of 82.  Cohen was a member of Zeta Beta Tau’s Upsilon Chapter at McGill University.


Cohen’s song Suzanne was a big hit for Judy Collins. Cohen released Hallelujah in 1984 and nearly 200 artists have recorded it. Everybody Knows is a favorite of mine and I’ve recently become obsessed with Madeleine Peyroux’s rendition of Cohen’s Dance Me to the End of Love. 

Cohen was awarded the Companion of the Order of Canada in 2003. In 2008, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They are but two of his many awards. His career as a singer and songwriter is well documented and one can spend a day lost in the internet listening to songs and reading about Cohen’s career. McGill University established a memorial fund to honor Cohen.

Zeta Beta Tau was created on December 29, 1898 when a group of young men attending several New York universities met at the Jewish Theological Seminary and formed an organization called Z.B.T. (yes, with the periods between the letters). The organization was inspired by Richard J. H. Gottheil, a Columbia University professor of languages. For a few years the organization served as an organization for the Jewish students who were excluded from the other Greek-letter organizations in existence on the campuses where they were studying. In 1903, the organization became Zeta Beta Tau. Six years later, there were 14 chapters established, all but one in the Northeast. The first chapter outside the Northeast was at Tulane University. In 1913, the fraternity became international with the establishment of a chapter at McGill University.

Although Zeta Beta Tau began as a Jewish fraternity, in 1954, sectarianism was eliminated as a membership qualification. Five other national Jewish fraternities became a part of Zeta Beta Tau. Phi Alpha merged into Phi Sigma Delta in 1959. The combined fraternity. known as Phi Sigma Delta, had approximately 17,000 members and 47 active chapters.Two years later, Kappa Nu merged into Phi Epsilon Pi. Phi Sigma Delta and Phi Epsilon Pi merged into Zeta Beta Tau in 1969-70. The histories of these groups are documented on the ZBT website and it is interesting to read about them.

© Fran Becque,, 2016. All rights reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest


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