FridayPiday: Zack Kirshner (GVSU, 2020)

The dust is beginning to settle on all the mayhem that has ensued over the last few months, and we’re finally getting into the rhythm of our new daily routines. Brother Zack Kirshner (GVSU, 2020) eagerly greeted the return to this “new normal” we’ve come to know but has also started to realize the importance of unplugging to keep your sanity. Brother Kirshner is a senior and the IFC President at Grand Valley State University. He, like many undergraduates, are still in limbo as they wait for their school to make a decision about whether to resume in-person classes this fall. This decision will ultimately make or break Zack’s last semester in college.

“I’m excited to get back to Grand Rapids. I will say this pandemic has brought people closer together more than ever before, but sometimes it’s hard to know when to connect online and then take time to yourself offline. I’m interning for AEPi right now on top of taking two summer courses. Sometimes, I just have to take a day out of the house and go fishing.”

Brother Kirshner is taking on his third internship opportunity with the fraternity since last year. He traveled to Indianapolis and worked at the AEPi International office for two weeks last summer, assisted with staffing BBYO’s International Convention in Dallas in February and is now working on completing a six-week virtual internship with the fraternity to receive class credits he needs to graduate. “I know everything I’ve done and am currently doing only benefits the future of the fraternity, and I love that. Interning for AEPi has helped me understand the bigger picture of AEPi, especially right now.” Whether it’s interacting with Jewish high school teenagers or completing another project for AEPi, he’s happy to do his part. “I think of myself back in high school and remember how important it was that I maintain my sense of Judaism in college, so it’s fulfilling to be able to help these teens connect with Jewish life on their campuses.”

“I miss being in Indy with the staff like last year. My favorite part of interning was attending the staff softball tournament with other Greek organizations in the area. The experiences AEPi has given me is worth more than I could ever repay. I know I want to start in the workforce with Jewish non-profits after I graduate. Doing what I love for the fraternity I love is beyond rewarding.”

Being IFC President has presented quite a challenge for Brother Kirshner this semester. While things may seem easy with no classes in session, there are a lot of questions about the fall from fraternities on campus and he’s expected to come up with a contingency plan if COVID-19 again runs rampant. “Our goal is to maintain as much normalcy as we can during this time. One of the greatest struggles I have as IFC President is balancing people’s health and safety with their social needs as human beings. AEPi has taught me that IFC is like a business though, and at the end of the day you have to put everyone else in front of revenue.” He’s been working with the Panhellenic Council’s President as well as the Director of Greek Life, who oversees all four councils on campus, to ensure a smooth transition for fall recruitment. “We have to expect the unexpected right now. If we have to conduct recruitment online in the fall, I hope groups remember to unplug themselves and do something to connect with one another that isn’t on Zoom.”

Once this is all over and he graduates, he hopes to apply and work for the fraternity. To him, it doesn’t matter what he does, but having the opportunity to give back is what matters most. “I’ve enjoyed my time interning for AEPi. I’m passionate about my work and I’m surrounded by others who are just as passionate as me, if not more. That’s why I’m on my third internship. You don’t really understand until you see it first-hand, and that doesn’t have to be through an internship. You can get an idea of what the fraternity is doing to help Brothers through their AEPiConnect webinars, conclave, convention and more.” He recently attended an #AEPiConnect program with Brother Michael Yormark (Maryland, 1988), President of Jay-Z’s ROC Nation, discussing the future of global entertainment. “That was a great session. Seeing AEPi partner with BBYO and Hillel to bring these programs shows me that they’re leaders in the Jewish community and they want us to be too.

Although his last semester on campus may not go according to plan, he feels ready to embrace it in whatever fashion he can. “I was a Founding Master of my chapter. Looking back, it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my college experience. Even though I’ll be long gone in 20 years, there’ll still be something that I started on campus. You can’t put the feeling that gives you into words. You give it your all and get back way more than you bargain for. Helping Jewish life on GVSU’s campus is something I will never forget.”

“We always talk about how fraternities are social in nature and it may seem like that but looking beneath the surface it’s a gift right now. They’re doing everything they can to lift us up and connect us daily. This pandemic is where you see the true testament to Brotherhood. Fraternities are more important now than ever before.”