Nunez: Klein a gracious host to Jews, non-Jews alike

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Julianna Nunez, Columnist

At the beginning of this year I received the very upsetting email from Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein. He wrote that the Tannenbaum Chabad House was going to be disaffiliated with Northwestern because of the consumption of alcohol there by minors.

Over the past weeks, many students from the Jewish community at Northwestern have spoken out against Patricia Telles-Irvin, vice president for student affairs, for this disaffiliation and have sought support from other members of the Northwestern community and the Jewish community as a whole. A Facebook group has been started and there is even a website that allows users to sign a petition in hopes of bringing Rabbi Klein back within the Northwestern community.

Fortunately, Rabbi Klein has continued with the Chabad dinners, so I still have a welcoming place to go to every Friday evening. Of course, I want Rabbi Klein to be affiliated with the Northwestern community again. The disaffiliation of the Chabad House is not just affecting Jewish students. I know this because I’m a Christian who goes to Chabad House every week.

I began attending Chabad during winter quarter of my freshman year. I had been with my boyfriend, who is Jewish, for a while and we decided to try that whole interfaith thing. We began going to Chabad with him every Friday.

Rabbi Klein was the first rabbi I had ever met, so naturally I was very nervous. I was scared about making faux pas against Jewish customs (Goy pas), but it turned out that Rabbi was very welcoming and understood where I was coming from. He was willing to teach me about Jewish customs without seeming bothered and I was often invited to Chabad events.

Last spring I was asked who I considered my mentors at Northwestern. I said Julie Windsor Mitchell, the minister at University Christian Ministry; my friend Cory, a seminary student at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary; and Rabbi Klein. Rabbi has worked with the AEPi fraternity, done firesides with other spiritual leaders on campus and has given all students the opportunity to learn more about Judaism.

Rabbi has shown me how someone can be spiritual and still have a zest for life. Even during these difficult weeks, I have never seen Rabbi upset about the situation. He tells me how devastated he has been feeling, but for him Friday nights are a time for prayer and spending time with people we care about.

Rabbi ultimately wants what is best for students. The fact that Rabbi has gotten rid of the “L’Chaim” shots (which I never once felt pressured to drink) shows that Rabbi is willing to do whatever he can to stay with the Northwestern community.

When I found out that Chabad was being disaffiliated with Northwestern because of alcohol, I was very confused. If Northwestern wants to be rid of underage drinking all it has to do is eliminate the Greek system, all student clubs and build a great wall separating those who are of legal age and those who are not. Disaffiliating the Chabad House has only made students upset.

Students continue to go to Chabad House every Friday for worship and dinner. We laugh, we share stories; it has never been all about alcohol. Rabbi tries to create a learning environment for students by inviting lecturers or sharing what he learned during that week. At Chabad I have made friends and have met people I probably would never have met if I did not go. My boyfriend is studying abroad in Germany and I still found reasons to go to Chabad, even though I am a Catholic-raised Christian.

Last week during the Chabad dinner, Rabbi told me that for some Northwestern faculty members their job is just that, a job, but he saw his job at Northwestern as part of his life. I suggest Northwestern students stop by the Chabad House despite the disaffiliation. They will be welcome and will be able to enjoy the company of someone who still cares deeply for the Northwestern community.

Julianna Nunez is a Medill junior. She can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, email a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].