Illinois director of Lubavitch-Chabad voices support for Rabbi Klein

Cat Zakrzewski, Assistant Campus Editor

The director of Lubavitch-Chabad of Illinois called Northwestern’s decision to cut ties with Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein and Tannenbaum Chabad House a “tremendous injustice” on Thursday.

Rabbi Daniel Moscowitz said Klein had been asked to leave without due process, following reported allegations of violating the University’s alcohol policy.

“Klein was singled out,” Moscowitz said. “He is a leader in the Northwestern community, and he was called in and told to leave without any discussion of any of the facts.”

Lubavitch-Chabad decided to file a complaint against Northwestern when the University refused to provide evidence of Klein violating alcohol policy, Moscowitz said.

Moscowitz declined to comment when asked if Klein had ever discussed serving alcohol to underage students at Chabad House with University administrators.

Klein told The Daily on Wednesday he had served students wine and hard liquor at Chabad House during the organization’s Shabbat dinners. He said he had not broken any Illinois state laws, which make an exception for underage drinking during religious services. However, NU’s 2011-2012 Handbook does not make any similar exception.

“If the University had ever contacted Rabbi Klein about anything, Rabbi Klein was always very involved in following University policy,” Moscowitz said. “He’s always been within the framework of the University’s policy.”

The district court claim also filed charges against the University for “discriminating against Chabad and the Jewish faith.”

“I think it speaks for itself,” Moscowitz said.

Weinberg senior Matthew Renick, president of the student executive board at Chabad House,  said he felt the University was discriminating against the Jewish faith “to an extent,” but was most upset about how NU handled the situation.

“It seems like it was less of a conversation and more of a one path kind of thing,” Renick said.

Moscowitz called the University’s decision “unilateral” with “no regard for fact.” He said the discrimination against Rabbi Klein “resurrects” Northwestern’s anti-Semitic history.

When Chabad House first attempted to open at NU, Klein fought a seven-year battle that eventually made its way to the Supreme Court.

“What it comes down to is Northwestern was not nearly as accepting of Jewish life as it is now,” Renick said. “To take the frontrunner out of the picture, I don’t think that’s right.”

Moscowitz said he is proud of all University President Morton Schapiro has done for NU’s Jewish community. What he finds offensive, he said, is the University’s decision to allow Arthur Butz, a McCormick professor who supported Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s denial of the Holocaust in 2006, to remain on faculty.

“It’s very difficult to see a situation like this today,” Moscowitz said. “On one side you see Professor Butz is still a part of the University, and on the other side, Rabbi Klein is still being dismissed.”

Moscowitz said in the past 27 years he has known Klein, the rabbi has always worked “hand-in-hand” with the University on many initiatives, such as bringing Kosher food to the dining halls.

“If you cut me, I would bleed purple,” Klein said Wednesday. “I have been a very dedicated servant to this community and campus.”

On April 12, Schapiro praised Klein for his assistance of students through Chabad House at the “Conversations with the President” event, according to the organization’s website.

“We question everything — that’s what you do in higher education, but we also enhance, and that makes us very unusual, as you know, and (Rabbi Klein) is one of the people who deserves the credit for that,” Schapiro said at the time.

Although Klein performed his last official services with the University Wednesday for Yom Kippur, Chabad House will continue its programming in the Evanston community. Klein said Wednesday he remained uncertain about how the University’s decision would affect his scheduled fireside talks with students or his role as fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi’s adviser.

Evanston Police spokesman Cmdr. Jay Parrot said unless evidence emerges that Klein broke any law, he would continue to act in his capacity as Evanston Police chaplain.

Klein said he hopes Chabad House can become affiliated with the University again, and sooner rather than later.

“I think Chabad House is a great asset, something to boast about in Northwestern’s Jewish life,” Renick said. “Without Rabbi Klein as a part of that, it doesn’t have the same weight.”