Jewish fraternity hits CSU

Mar 202007
Authors: Nikki Cristello

The university’s only Jewish fraternity has just five members – and one isn’t even Jewish.

Created in fall 2006 after a visit from the national chapter, Sigma Alpha Mu is in the midst of building its identity on campus.

“It would be great to come back as alumni and know that we have started something great,” said Ben Tessler, a freshman psychology major and vice president of the fraternity.

National chapter members thought that Sigma Alpha Mu, nicknamed Sammy, would thrive at CSU because of the area’s growing Jewish community.

Keith Anderson, a sophomore landscape and design contracting major, is the social chair of the fraternity and the non-Jewish member.

“I’m not a religious person,” Anderson said. “But I am a spiritual person.”

And that’s perfectly fine, said Adam Avery, the fraternity’s president.

“While Judaism was our original base, it is not our main focus,” said Avery, a freshman open-option major seeking natural resources.

But fostering a better understanding of Judaism and helping with philanthropic causes is. Sammy helped out with Holocaust Awareness Week, and raised cash for Habitat for Humanity during Homecoming.

And, with the help of Jewish student groups Hillel and Chabad, Sammy brought free martial arts lessons to campus in the form of Krav Maga, the basic self-defense used by the highly trained Israeli army.

“We try to teach common threats you might encounter,” said Dave Penhall, an instructor from Barnett’s Elite Martial Arts, the school that provides the lessons.

“We teach situational awareness and how to avoid dangerous situations while having fun. If you’re not enjoying it, you’re not learning,” he said.

The next session is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursday in room 230 of the Lory Student Center. Admission is free and the event is open to all.

Michael Foxman, a junior construction management and real estate double major, is Sammy’s secretary and said the fraternity is actively recruiting.

“We would like to bring as much Jewish identity to campus,” he said.

Anderson said being Sammy’s only non-Jewish member doesn’t bother him at all. In fact, the fraternity’s organization and structure is beneficial in some ways.

“In Sammy I like how I can help to influence something positive as opposed to going into a fraternity and having to clean up an image,” he said. “It’s easier to start fresh.”

Staff writer Nikki Cristello can be reached at

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