Klein continues storytelling tradition in wake of religious discrimination lawsuit


Teal Gordon/The Daily Northwestern

Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein gives his traditional “ghostbusters fireside” at Tannenbaum Chabad House on Monday night. Klein formerly performed the fireside at residential halls and colleges on campus, but had to move it following the University’s controversial decision to disaffiliate Chabad House.

Cat Zakrzewski, Assistant Campus Editor

Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein’s classic fireside can no longer be performed at Northwestern’s residential colleges, so students instead gathered Monday evening at Tannenbaum Chabad House for “Angels, Demons, and Ghosts: Confessions of a Jewish Ghostbuster.”

Klein said the student executive board of Chabad House decided to host the fireside in the wake of the University’s controversial decision to disaffiliate from Chabad House and Klein, following alleged violations of NU’s alcohol policy. Seven attended the intimate event, as compared to previous firesides hosted at residential colleges, where

Klein said 15 students typically attended. Klein said he has given the fireside talk about 20 or 25 times.

“I just enjoy spending time listening to Rabbi Klein,” said Weinberg sophomore Adam Stewart, who attended Monday’s event. “I really want to support him through all of this.”

Stewart is one of many who have supported Klein following the disaffiliation. Hundreds have voiced their opposition to the University’s decision to disaffiliate from Chabad House, and the Lubavitch-Chabad of Illinois filed a lawsuit against the University following the decision on the grounds of discrimination against the Jewish faith. Rabbi Daniel Moscowitz, the director of Lubavitch-Chabad of Illinois, told The Daily in September that Klein had been asked to leave without due process and said Klein was always “involved in following University policy.”

University President Morton Schapiro has previously praised Rabbi Klein and his work at Chabad House, according to the organization’s website. Schapiro told The Daily on Monday he knew Klein well and had been to Chabad House before. However, he said he was unable to comment in detail on the disaffiliation because it was under “pending legal action.”

“It was the right decision,” Schapiro said of the University’s disaffiliation from Chabad.

However, programming has continued at Chabad House, with events such as Friday Shabbat dinners and Monday’s fireside.

“Who do you call?” asked Klein with a smile, referencing the 1984 supernatural comedy “Ghostbusters” before starting his speech. Students in attendance answered with a mixed cheering of “Rabbi Klein!” and “Ghostbusters!”

In his fireside speech, Klein told the story of when he used Kabbalah and Jewish teachings to rid a factory of reported ghosts. When the owner called Klein asking him for help, Klein said he would come over as soon as he finished playing his baseball game with the Communication Residential College intramural team, a match Klein said he easily won.

Following a series of instructions from Klein, including giving each worker an extra dollar each week to give to the charity, the owner reported that the factory was soon ghost-free. He then sent Klein a check for $10,000, which he donated to Chabad House.

But Klein’s story was not simply for the entertainment of the students. Even though he said he does not believe a ghost haunted the factory, he used the opportunity to teach the students about Jewish burial rituals. Klein said the man who owned the factory had a deceased brother who had been laid to rest in a mausoleum. Klein instructed the man to put dirt in his brother’s vault to bury him, as is the Jewish tradition, so his soul could be free to move from limbo to heaven.

“As soon as someone dies, the body needs to be buried so that that person can go into the spiritual world,” Klein said. “It’s very, very important in the Jewish faith.”

All replied “Rabbi Klein!” when he concluded the story and again asked students, “Who do you call?”

But the rabbi’s tales of ghosts and demons were not the most significant part of Monday’s event. Rather, the fireside offered the opportunity for students to gather at Chabad House. Prior to his story, Klein asked the students what they studied that day and what they learned. As students discussed the classes they were considering taking next quarter, Klein remarked about which professors he knew and which courses he thought would be interesting.

Communication junior Ethan Levine-Weinberg said he became involved with Chabad House this year. He had heard about the fireside and wanted to make sure he attended one before he graduated. He described Klein as an “asset” to the NU community.

“If you know him personally very well, you realize what he brings to the community that is lacking when he’s not around,” Levine-Weinberg said. “It can’t be seen by an outsider who’s never even stepped foot in the building.”