Northwestern students, alumni petition against Chabad disaffiliation

Cat Zakrzewski, Assistant Campus Editor

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Northwestern students and alumni are voicing their concerns about the University’s decision to disaffiliate with Tannenbaum Chabad House and Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein in a petition distributed to trustees and administrators.

The petition, dated Nov. 19, has received more than 800 signatures, according to Matthew Renick, the Chabad House student executive board president. He said the petition was distributed to about 60 trustees and 15 administrators and faculty members.

“I’m extraordinarily pleased,” said Renick, a Weinberg senior. “It’s not just the Chabad community that is upset with this.”

The petition stems from a campaign to bring Klein back to campus that began shortly after the rabbi’s Sept. 25 announcement of the disaffiliation. Patricia Telles-Irvin, vice president for student affairs, acknowledged in an email sent to students in October that the University disaffiliated with Chabad House on Sept. 11 following an investigation that found the rabbi guilty of violating NU alcohol policy.

The University’s decision has received heavy backlash from both the Jewish and wider NU communities, where the rabbi served for 26 years. Although Klein told The Daily in September he had served alcohol at Chabad House, he maintained he did not violate university policy because Illinois law allows alcohol to be served to underage people for religious purposes.

The dissemination of the petition is the latest in a series of attempts to raise campus awareness of the Chabad House disaffiliation. Many students and alumni who have been involved at Chabad House have written letters to administrators and The Daily. They have also spotlighted their cause through social networking and the website SupportRabbiKlein.org.

“The goal is to bring Rabbi Klein back on campus,” said Matthew Altman (Communication ’10), former president of the Chabad student executive board. “His absence has been widely felt.”

Although some supporters believe the petition will help Klein regain his status on campus, others think a reinstatement will only result from pending litigation. Following the University’s decision, Lubavitch-Chabad of Illinois, acting on behalf of Klein and Chabad House, filed a discrimination complaint in federal district court against NU, Telles-Irvin and University Chaplain Timothy Stevens. The complaint was filed after Klein said the University did not provide evidence that Chabad violated NU policy, and that the University is discriminating against the Jewish faith.

“We have to wait to see how the court case pans out,” Renick said. “It’s important to show them that we do have the support.”

Renick said Klein’s supporters are continually looking for ways to raise awareness about this issue and keep it “at the forefront.” Camila Benaim (Weinberg ’12), former Chabad House student executive president, said she hoped they could “keep his story going.”

“He will one day come back to campus, hopefully sooner rather than later,” she said.

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