Northwestern’s Chabad disbands for underage drinking

Federal judge dismisses religious discrimination suit, says university has ‘legitimate’ reasons for disaffiliation with Jewish group

Wine's ubiquity at Jewish celebrations can pose a problem for underage drinking. (Photo credit: CC BY/Uncalno via
Wine's ubiquity at Jewish celebrations can pose a problem for underage drinking. (Photo credit: CC BY/Uncalno via

A federal judge dismissed a religious discrimination lawsuit filed against Northwestern University for censuring a Chabad house for underage drinking.

The university cut ties in September 2012 with the Tannenbaum Chabad House and its director, Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein, after reports that the rabbi had served underage students wine and hard alcohol.

In the lawsuit, Chabad claimed that the university discriminated against the religious organization, disaffiliating with it while campus fraternities and sororities also were guilty of underage drinking.

Judge John Darrah of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois last week ruled that Northwestern University had “legitimate, nondiscriminatory” reasons for disaffiliating with the Chabad House in Evanston, Ill., the Daily Northwestern student newspaper reported.

The judge said in his summary judgment that Chabad was “comparing apples to oranges,” according to the newspaper. The university has a different disciplinary system for religious groups and fraternities.

The rabbi told the Daily Northwestern that he did not violate any laws because the alcohol was consumed in the framework of a religious ceremony, which is legal according to state law. The university countered that Chabad does not have an exemption for religious meetings.

According to the court documents, a student was taken to the hospital for alcohol poisoning at a Chabad party sometime after 2001.

The university investigation came after the father of a 2012 Northwestern graduate expressed concerns to the university about alcohol at Chabad, according to the newspaper, citing court documents.

The Chabad House continues to operate in Evanston with Klein as its director. Klein said he would appeal the decision.

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