Zeta Beta Tau Honoring Achievement for More Than a Century

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.

While awards and levels of achievement are a way of GLO life today, that wasn’t always the case. I was a bit intrigued when I learned that several of ZBT’s awards have been given for more than 100 years. In 1914, four “far-sighted alumni presented the Fraternity cups which were to be awarded to the chapters excelling in brain and in brawn,” according to the organization’s 25-year history book.

Isidore Sobel, an honorary member of Theta Chapter at the University of Pennsylvania, gave the Sobel Cup. Judge Moses Bijur, an Honorary member of Delta Chapter at Columbia University, gave the Bijur Cup. These honors were awarded to two chapters ranking highest in scholastic average.

Dr. Henry Frauenthal, an Honorary member, gave the Frauenthal Cup, which was to be awarded to the chapter most distinguished in athletics. Upon his graduation, Colman Bonart, Delta Chapter, gave the Bonart Cup to be awarded to the chapter with the best all-around athlete. 

The four cups were given for the first time at the 1915 Convention. In 1916, a Fraternity Cup was added to the award list. Due to World War I, no awards were given for 1917 and 1918.

Today, the Sobel Award recognizes improvement in GPA. The Bijur Award is given to the chapter with an outstanding GPA. Between 1995 and 1998, several Bijur Awards were given each year, however, since 1999, only one chapter has been recognized each year. The Frauenthal Award is now given to a chapter excelling in intramural sports. It appears the Bonart Cup is no longer awarded.

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