Rabbi admits alcohol was served at Chabad
September 26, 2012
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Students have been served wine and hard liquor at Tannenbaum Chabad House, Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein told The Daily just one day after he announced Northwestern’s disaffiliation with the organization.
In an email sent Tuesday to NU’s Jewish community, Klein said that Patricia Telles-Irvin, vice president for student affairs, cut relationships with Chabad House because the organization “had not followed university policy on alcohol consumption.”
University policy states, “Students are subject to Illinois law and University policy, which prohibit the possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages by any person under the age of 21 years,” according to the 2011-2012 Student Handbook.
Klein maintains that he did not violate any state laws. He claims an Illinois state law allows people under the age of 21 to accept and consume alcohol during religious ceremonies. He told The Daily that alcohol was served during Shabbat dinners.
“The service of alcohol at Chabad was associated with Jewish ritual and celebration,” Klein said. “It is part of the Jewish culture.”
The Student Handbook, however, makes no exception for religious events.
Klein said Chabad House “respects university policy.” He said he was first notified the University would cut ties with Chabad House due to alcohol consumption on July 29. As of Aug. 1, he said alcohol had not been served at Chabad House, outside of very small amounts outside a ritual called the Kiddush ceremony.
“We’re not about alcohol,” Klein said. “We’re about God. We’re about fellowship. We’re about faith, spirituality, joy and teaching.”
Matthew Renick, a Weinberg senior who is president of the Chabad House student executive board, said Klein announced in August all campus Chabad Houses across the country are going dry at a national convention of Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity in Phoenix.
“It’s just one piece of a larger puzzle that is Jewish life,” Renick said. “It certainly is not the foremost part.”
Klein said the organization would continue to host programming at the house despite the disaffiliation, and that he expected students would continue to attend. Renick said he would remain active at Chabad House.
“Being Jewish was something I was before Northwestern, and how I choose to be Jewish at Northwestern will not change because of something like this,” Renick said.
However, Klein hopes Chabad House will regain campus status in the future and hopes to discuss that policy with the University.
“It isn’t an ideal situation to remain unaffiliated,” Klein said. “I feel very much targeted and discriminated against.”
Klein took legal action against the University on Friday, following its disaffiliation of Chabad House. Acting on behalf of Chabad House and Klein, Lubavitch-Chabad of Illinois filed a discrimination complaint in federal district court against Northwestern, Telles-Irvin and University chaplain Timothy Stevens.
“The University claims that it offers a wide variety of religious and community options but it is discriminating against Chabad House and the Jewish faith,” the complaint reads.
NU officials will not comment while the matter is in litigation, said spokesman Bob Rowley.
“They’re discriminating against Chabad, which is part of the Jewish faith,” said Klein, who also declined to comment on the litigation.
Many students were caught off guard by the email Klein sent to students publicizing the rift between Chabad House and the University.
Chabad House has played an active role in campus life for almost three decades, and Klein was involved in many aspects of campus life. He acted as adviser to AEPi and previously served as the associate master of the Communications Residence College. He also was influential in creating the University’s kosher meal plan and, until this year, served as the Supervising Manager of the program for the University and Sodexo.
Klein is also the senior chaplain with the Evanston Police Department and has been called on by the University to aid in crises counseling involving death and suicide.
AEPi president Ethan Merel, said he did not expect the news.
“Fraternities turn over membership every four years,” Merel said. “He has been there and seen the transitions, and he was always useful in providing advice.”
Weinberg junior Alex Jakubowski responded to the news while in Italy by mobilizing support for Klein on social media. He created a Facebook group called, “We Support Rabbi Klein and Chabad at Northwestern.” The page received 122 “likes” in nine hours.
“From taking students to White Sox games to talking them through failed relationships, Rabbi Klein has been one of the best resources at Northwestern for almost 30 years and is certainly one of the best people I have ever met,” Jakubowski said in an email to The Daily.
Klein does not yet know the extent to which the University’s decision will impact his role on campus, and he said he was not sure if he would continue in his role as adviser to AEPi or have his scheduled firesides.
While Klein is no longer officially affiliated with the University, he said his bond with NU remains strong. When he received the email alerting him of missing sophomore Harsha Maddula, he said he immediately began to drive around campus looking for him.
“He may not be a part of the Jewish faith community, but he is a part of my community,” Klein said. “Northwestern is my community.”