Chicago federation dissolves U. of Chicago Hillel board

NEW YORK (JTA) — The Jewish federation in Chicago has fired the president and executive board of the University of Chicago Hillel, citing a dispute over who controls the Jewish student organization there.

The Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago has authority over the 17 Hillel organizations in Illinois and has governed the executive director of the Newberger Hillel Center at the University of Chicago since 2005.

The university’s Hillel board recently threatened to declare its independence from JUF and begin a new Jewish student organization on campus, the Forward reported. The Hillel board complained of unwanted programming budget cuts mandated by JUF. The Hillel had run at a deficit of $100,000 in seven of the past eight years, according to the Forward.

In response, JUF dissolved the board and fired its executive director, Daniel Libenson. JUF has installed an interim executive director, Paul Saiger, who until last month served as executive director of the Hillels of Illinois.

Libenson and the board, meanwhile, plan to found a new, independent Jewish student organization at the University of Chicago.

“We believe that the work that we have been building over the last six years needs to continue and that Hillel won’t be able to continue that work because of the budget cuts that the federation has demanded all along,” Libenson told the Forward.

Saiger, meanwhile, told JTA he hopes to keep the Hillel running smoothly as he hires a new director and board.

"I am going to be spending all of my time and efforts to ensure that a very good Hillel program continues on an even keel,” he said.

Saiger added that the federation was not going to open discussion of the way it oversees Hillel simply “because somebody decided they would like to have things differently. There are a variety of ways that Hillels operate across the country, but this is how Hillel operates in Illinois."
 

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