The Conspiracy

Who ‘owns’ the University of Chicago Hillel?

U. Chicago director Daniel Libenson was fired from his position late last month | via the Forward

At the University of Chicago Hillel the students aren’t the rebellious ones. The Jewish federation of Chicago fired the professional head of the U. Chicago Hillel along with its entire board on March 30, the Forward reports (written by former New Voices editor Josh Nathan-Kazis).

There’s a whole lot of weird in this story:

What is this dispute about? The Hillel folks were agitating for independence from the federation, but the federation accused them of mismanaging their finances. Meanwhile, it’s unclear why the federation forced Hillel to make certain contracts for services like janitorial and maintenance, which the deposed Hillel leadership says contributed to their financial woes.

The Chicago federation “owns” all of the Hillels in Illinois: We know of no other examples of such an arrangement between a federation and a local Hillel chapter, most of which are independent organizations with ties to the broader Hillel network.

Where are the students in all this? As the Forward reported, students “say their concerns are getting lost in the institutional crossfire”:

“It absolutely feels like a hostile takeover,” said Stephen Lurie, a University of Chicago junior who has been active in the Hillel. “There’s been no transparency about a decision that really affects us.”

The article notes that students have had “informal meetings” since the shakeup:

Lurie said student representatives might be elected at that meeting to represent student interests in talks with Hillel and Libenson’s new group.

“Students are really just trying to find the best way to deal with any side in terms of getting their interests met,” Lurie said.

Might be elected? If student leadership goes un-consulted on this, the train will have truly gone off the rails. But why does new student leadership need to be elected for this? Where is the elected student leadership of this Hillel in all this?

It’s not clear whether either or the two “adult” sides in this are really on the side of the students.

3 Older Responses to “Who ‘owns’ the University of Chicago Hillel?”

  1. Visitor
    April 11, 2012 at 7:18 pm #

    Federation hired liebenson so shouldn’t they be able to die him too?

  2. Michael Lipkowitz
    April 11, 2012 at 11:02 pm #

    As a current student, I think it’s important to point out that there were five student representatives on the Board (that was later fired) that made the decision to ask for independence from JUF.

    As for the alleged “mismanaging” of finances, the more that I learn the more I begin to be skeptical of these claims. Our Hillel balanced the budget by eliminating unnecessary building costs, but JUF preferred to keep the building and cut programming/staff instead, something which would’ve totally crippled our community. This is the only “mismanaging” I am aware of in the current situation.

  3. Jason
    April 15, 2012 at 1:24 am #

    Hillel has not had a student board in years, ever since dan took the job

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