Amid ongoing litigation, Tannenbaum Chabad House expands staff


Source: Rabbi Meir Hecht

Despite the University’s decision to disaffiliate with Tannenbaum Chabad House, the organization is expanding its staff with the addition of Rabbi Meir Hecht. Hecht recently moved to Evanston with his wife and five children.

Rebecca Savransky, Reporter

Months after the University controversially severed ties with Tannenbaum Chabad House following reports of underage drinking, the organization has hired an additional rabbi and hopes to expand its presence at Northwestern.

Rabbi Meir Hecht said he plans to work alongside Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein and develop more one-on-one connections with individuals in the NU community and outside — a job Klein said was far too much for him to do alone.

Lubavitch-Chabad of Illinois filed a lawsuit against the University in September, labeling the disaffiliation from Chabad House and Klein religious discrimination.

Hecht said he hopes NU will eventually see the value and importance of Chabad House within the student community and eliminate existing tensions.

“My hope in the broader picture is that the University will of course see that we’re here to be of service to students in any way possible and that Chabad is a place where students feel comfortable,” Hecht said.

After talking to Klein for more than a year about working at Chabad House, Hecht and his wife moved to Evanston with their five children earlier this month to immerse themselves in the community they would be serving, Hecht said.

Before coming to Evanston, Hecht traveled around the world, living and studying in many places, including New York, Paris and Israel. Upon his move to the Midwest, Hecht became the director of the Jewish Learning Institute of Chicago, an international organization focused on educating members of the community on Jewish principles. Hecht said his work at the institute will complement his goals in Evanston, as he plans to teach classes and engage with the community in similar ways. He said he wants to continue working at the Jewish Learning Institute while becoming integrated into Chabad House.

Klein said he brought in additional hands to create more mentoring opportunities for individuals, emphasizing the importance of forming these personal relationships with students and the community.

“I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am,” Klein said. “Rabbi Hecht happens to be an amazing, amazing rabbi. He has tremendous charm and is very devoted. He’s a brilliant individual.”

Hecht said he also plans to do programming focused on young families, a group not previously targeted by the organization. With up to 200 individuals coming to Chabad House during an average week, Klein said he needed extra help and hopes that Hecht will help to progress and expand Chabad.

Students involved with Chabad House programming said they are looking forward to the addition of the new rabbi and hope he will have a positive influence on the organization.

“I’m excited for what Rabbi Hecht can bring to Chabad and to see the connectedness he can foster between the greater Evanston community and Jewish students at NU,” said Matthew Renick, Chabad’s former student president and a Communication senior.

Although he will still be working in Chicago in addition to fulfilling his responsibilities in Evanston, Hecht said he has already formed relationships with students and plans to become much more involved within the community in the coming months.

“We know that there will be all kinds of challenges in the path just like anything good, but of course our objective is to be able to be positive and give inspiration to all those we encounter, “ Hecht said. “In Chabad, we’re here for life.”