On March 25, 1917, seven young Jewish women who exemplified self-confidence and the willingness to take a chance, founded a new sorority at Cornell University. The name chosen, Sigma Delta Phi, was soon changed to Sigma Delta Tau when the women discovered the letters belonged to another Greek organization. Most of the seven had experienced the subtle, but very real, discrimination practiced against religious minorities by many Greek organizations at the time.
In response to the closed doors, and as a way to meet their own social and housing needs, these young women established a sorority which would respect the individuality of its members. The personal growth and social development of each individual was the basis upon which the new organization would be built.
On June 16, 1917, the seven founders and their Ritualist were welcomed by Cornell administrators and faculty and representatives of the seven National sororities on campus–Alpha Omicron Pi, Alpha Phi, Delta Delta Delta, Delta Gamma, Delta Zeta, Kappa Kappa Gamma, and Kappa Delta–as their guests of honor at the Installation Banquet of Alpha Chapter of Sigma Delta Tau. Pledges Frances Bayard and Frances Brock also were present for the banquet.
Dora Bloom Turteltaub was “the leader.” She was the first chapter president and was calm and placid throughout the hectic first year of Sigma Delta Tau. Dora married John Turteltaub and at the time of her death, in March 1970, lived in West Orange, New Jersey. She was a community-minded woman, an extensive world traveler, and a proud mother and grandmother. Dora served as President of the Theresa Grotta Home for many years and was Secretary of the Conference of Jewish Women’s Organizations.
Amy Apfel Tishman was the “personality-plus coed.” She married Alexander Tishman and made New York City her home for many years. Amy was a member of many worthy charitable organizations and a devoted mother and grandmother. Upon her death, in 1982, the Tishman family bequeathed to the Sigma Delta Tau Foundation a scholarship in Amy’s name to be awarded to deserving members of the Alpha Chapter of Sigma Delta Tau.
Marian Gerber Greenberg was considered “the brain” and was more interested in her studies than campus activities. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa with honors in History. Marian married David B. Greenberg and they co-authored two books on travel: What to Buy in Europe and What to Buy in South America. Marian earned international recognition for her volunteer work as the first American Chairman of Hadassah’s Youth Aliyah. Marian taught courses at the University of Massachusetts in the Judaic Studies Department.
Grace Srenco Grossman was the “campus queen.” Grace was a freshman, assigned to a dormitory with a sophomore roommate. This roommate was Dora Bloom. Grace said, “This chance meeting led to many happy events in my life: the founding of Sigma Delta Tau and my marriage to a Philadelphia lawyer.” She helped found the Beta Chapter and met her future husband, J. Grossman, at their installation banquet. Grace devoted much of her time to the American Red Cross and to her hobby, painting. Grace had a daughter, Nancy, who joined SDT at the University of Pennsylvania.
Inez Dane Ross was considered “the sophisticate” and helped Dora Bloom get the idea of Sigma Delta Tau rolling. Inez became a prominent social worker in New York City. During the Depression era of the 1930s, she was associated with several state and federal relief agencies where her outstanding efforts came to the attention of Eleanor Roosevelt, who honored her at the White House. It was Inez who designed our National crest and selected the colors of “cafè au lait and old blue.”
Regene Freund Cohane called herself “the activity girl.” She balanced her work in campus organizations and her pre-law studies very well. After graduating from law school, she married Louis Cohane. They maintained law offices in Detroit the entire period of their marriage. In 1924, they earned the distinction of being the first married couple to try a case before the United States Supreme Court. Regene served as Sigma Delta Tau’s first National President from 1918-1922. She continued to serve as SDT’s National Counselor, a volunteer position she held for 35 years. Regene has been honored many times over the years for her leadership roles in civic and social welfare organizations, as well as for her contributions to Sigma Delta Tau. Regene was chosen one of Detroit’s “Women of Achievement” and her portrait has been placed in the Detroit Historical Museum. Sigma Delta Tau honored Regene in 1991 by establishing the Regene Freund Cohane Outstanding President Award.
Lenore Blanche Rubinow was known as “the idealist.” She studied dance during college and dreamed of a career on the stage. Lenore studied sociology in graduate school at Columbia University. She became a successful social worker in Newark, New Jersey. She organized and directed the Department of Social Service of the Newark Beth Israel Hospital. In connection with her profession, she spent three years in Germany after World War II as part of the displaced persons’ program.
Through Dora Bloom, the services of an idealist and poet were sought to write a ritual worthy of the philosophy of Sigma Delta Tau. Nathan Caleb House, “Brother Nat,” was such a person and he wrote the ritual keeping in mind the personalities of the seven young women. After leaving Cornell, Brother Nat was “lost.” In a chance look through the New York City phone book, Nat was “found” and brought as a surprise to the 1958 National Convention. From that time until his death, Brother Nat attended almost every Biennial Convention and maintained correspondence and visits with many alumnae and collegiate chapters. Brother Nat was the only man to wear the Sigma Delta Tau gold Torch pin.