Iota alpha pi

Iota Alpha Pi was an international collegiate sorority operating in the United States and Canada from 1903 to July 1971. The founders were Hannah Finkelstein Swick, Olga Edelstein Ecker, Sadie April Glotzer, Rose Posner Bernstein, Rose Delson Hirschman, May Finkelstein Spielgel, and Frances Zellermayer Delson.[1]


Iota Alpha Pi was the first national sorority for Jewish women. In March 1903, on the campus of Hunter College, seven young women created a new sorority (Bairds, p. 807). J.A.P., or "Jay-ay-peez",[2] focused on religious education and settlement house work. Nine years later, with the new name Iota Alpha Pi, the members began the traditional sorority expansion process. Iota grew slowly and steadily for the next sixty years. Canadian chapters were chartered; Manitoba had a particularly prosperous chapter.

Iota joined the National Panhellenic Conference as an associate member; the date is unknown. Although many chapters were planted, Iota Alpha Pi could not keep up with its rapidly growing competitors.

Historian Marianne Sanua recounts the life of Iota Alpha Pi in her book, Going Greek: Jewish College Fraternities in the United States, 1895- 1945. The sorority was "not for the especially popular, affluent, or snobbish, but just a group of good friends" (p. 81) The American Jewish Yearbook 5692 describes the sorority as Jewish in a positive way" (p. 197). This accolade probably stems from Iota's studies on women in the Bible.[2]

By 1966, Iota Alpha Pi had granted a total 23 charters. A report by Wilson Heller indicates that the sorority was strong until 1968. Heller posits that the sorority saw dramatic declines in membership, particularly with the cessation of the "Christians only" clause in non-Jewish organizations.

In 1969, Iota Alpha Pi had new chapters at the University of Maryland College Park and Hunter College Park Avenue.

In July 1971, the international headquarters voted to disband Iota Alpha Pi (Heller).

As of 2008, some alumni continue to hold reunions and other events. However, no formal organization exists to coordinate these gatherings.


The original name of the sorority was J.A.P. Their publication was The J.A.P. Bulletin. With the name change to Iota Alpha Pi, the magazine was also renamed: The Heights. Fraternal history buffs have speculated the secret meaning of J.A.P. The likeliest answer is "Just a Plain Sorority".[2]

The first official badge was a scarlet horizontal diamond surrounded by seed pearls. The scarlet diamond bore the letters Ι Α and Π, in gold. Above the Α, in gold, was a skull and crossbones. Later versions of the badge included two full blown roses at the points of the diamond.

Baird's (1991), lists the official colors as red and black.

The official coat-of-arms is described as " a diamond of scarlet surrounded by jewels" (Butterfield, 1931).


1903 A Hunter College (1913)

1913 B Hunter College (1965)

1913 Γ Brooklyn Law (1946) by 1969 Brooklyn Law School no longer had a chapter although the date it was disbanded is uncertain.

1922 Δ NYU Washington Square

1922 Ε New Jersey Law School (1942)

1926 Ζ Adelphi University

1927 Η University of Denver (1942)

1929 Κ University of Toronto (1956)

1930 Ι Long Island University

1931 Λ Brooklyn College

1932 Μ University of Manitoba (1965)

1935 Ν Wayne State University

1938 Ο Queens College

1942 Π Syracuse

1946 P Miami University Ohio (1956)

1946 Σ Temple University

1947 Υ Rider College (1955)

1955 Φ University of Illinois

1960 Ψ NYU University Heights (1965)

1962 BA Penn State

(Above chapters compiled from Marianne Sanua's book.)

Additional chapters:

1965 BB CCNY

1966 BΔ Cornell

BE C.W. Post

University of Maryland at College Park

Hunter College Park Avenue


Additional Resources

  • Adler, Cyrus; Szold, Henrietta; American Jewish Committee; Jewish Publication Society of America. American Jewish Yearbook 5692. American Jewish Committee, 1931.
  • Butterfield, Emily Helen. College Fraternity Heraldry. George Banta Pub. Co, 1931.
  • Baird's Manual of American College Fraternities (multiple editions)
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