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Thursday, December 18, 2014

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Jews form new fraternity at U of Manitoba

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Back row, from left, Alex Dashefsky, Harrison Katz, Ben Waldman, Max Learner, Daniel Kroft, Josh Goldstein, Bradley Abells, and Ian Baruch, and front centre, Drew McGillawee.

WINNIPEG — After an absence of about 40 years, Jewish fraternity life has returned to the University of Manitoba.

In early September, five friends and fellow U of M students formed Sigma Phi, an affiliate of Alpha Epsilon Pi.

“We felt that Hillel is largely for Jewish-related activities,” said Alex Dashefsky, one of the chapter’s founders. “We perceived a need for an organization strictly for social activities like BBYO at the high school level.”

Along with Dashefsky, a second-year science student, the other founding Sigma Phi members are fellow science students Harrison Katz and Daniel Kroft, actuarial student Bradley Abells, and Simon Garfinkel, who is taking a mix of arts and science subjects.

The first step they took was to contact AEPi’s head office in New York and have a representative of the international fraternity come to Winnipeg. Dashefsky noted that AEPi has branches at several other Canadian universities.

 “We are slowly growing our membership,” Dashefsky said. “We currently have 11 initiates and four more potential members.”

The chapter held its first public program – a kick-off social – in mid-November. The “foam party” at a local night club, featuring a foam-making machine, attracted about 150 people.

Dashefsky said fraternity members are using the profits from the event as seed money for future chapter activities.

Up next is a gathering at the Metropolitan Centre in downtown Winnipeg in mid-December to watch a Winnipeg Jets hockey game on the Met’s big screen.

“We also want to do a lot of philanthropic programs,” Dashefsky said. “For example, on Halloween, we went door to door collecting cans for Winnipeg Harvest [the city’s largest food bank]. We collected over 200 cans.

“We are also planning an ice hockey tournament outdoors that will be open to anyone. Our goal will be to raise money to buy hockey equipment for kids who can’t afford to buy the equipment.”

Dashefsky talks as well about joint programs with other fraternities and sororities on campus.

And some of Sigma Phi members are planning to attend AEPi’s national convention in Toronto in August, he said.

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