The Lubavitch-Chabad of Illinios, the Tannenbaum Chabad House and Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein plan to appeal the U.S. District Court’s decision to dismiss their lawsuit filed in September 2012 against Northwestern.
“We think, especially after consultation with our attorney, that the ruling was based on technicalities, that we feel were in error,” said Rabbi Daniel Moscowitz, Regional Director of the Lubavitch-Chabad of Illinois. Moscowitz said they are hiring Nathan and Alyza Lewin, legal experts from Washington, D.C. “who have many years of experience, especially in issues like these.”
The suit was filed when Northwestern ended its 27-year affiliation with the Tannenbaum House for not adhering to the university alcohol policy. Rabbi Klein acknowledged that alcohol was served at the Chabad House but argued Illinois state law allows alcohol consumption in a religious ceremony. Klein said the university’s reasons for dissociation were “meant to single out Chabad against all other faiths for removal from Northwestern University.”
However, U.S. District Court Judge John W. Darrah’s summary judgment opinion said there was no proof of such discrimination.
“It is clear from the record that Defendants’ reasons for disaffiliation with the Tannenbaum House were genuine,” the summary read. “After repeatedly issuing warnings concerning underage drinking, Defendants commenced an investigation regarding the issue of underage and excessive drinking at the Tannenbaum House and determined that it would be appropriate to disaffiliate with it. It was for those reasons, and not because of Plaintiffs’ religious beliefs or ethnic backgrounds, that Defendants disaffiliated with the Tannenbaum House.”
According to Northwestern Vice President for University Relations Alan Cubbage, the university continues to affiliate with several religious centers on or near campus, including the Fiedler Hillel Center.
“Depending on the circumstances, Northwestern would be willing to consider reaffiliation if the Chabad House had different leadership,” Cubbage said in an email.
Moscowitz said he does not think this is a fair compromise.
“Rabbi Klein has been a devoted leader not only for the Tannenbaum Chabad House, but for all of Northwestern University for the past 27 years, and we are standing with him in solidarity,” Moscowitz said. “It’s important that he continue to provide that leadership and spiritual guidance.”
Weinberg senior Joel Rabinowitz, the president of Tannenbaum Chabad House’s student executive board, agrees. He said Rabbi Klein is a “magnetic figure” and people come to Chabad for him. Chabad provides a meaningful experience for students and has tremendous programming, Rabinowitz said.
“Rabbi Klein built the Chabad,” he said. “He is the Chabad here on campus.”