By Shira Hanau
A year after the filing of a federal civil rights complaint alleging an “unrelenting campaign of anti-Semitic harassment” at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the school is set to have a new dorm specifically for Jewish students.
Illini Chabad will run the dorm in partnership with the university, the Forward reported. The dorm, which joins a list of faith-based housing options, will have room for 32 students. The bottom floors will serve as the Chabad center and kosher dining hall.
While the dorm is meant to be a place where Shabbat and kosher observance will be easier, it is also intended to be a response to the recent spate of anti-Semitic incidents on campus.
In March 2020, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP filed a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights on behalf of students over an alleged pattern of anti-Semitism, including instances of swastika graffiti, vandalism at Jewish centers, and harassment of Jewish and pro-Israel students.
The complaint was enabled by the Trump administration’s 2019 decision directing the Education Department to include Jewish students in anti-discrimination protections.
In September, the school’s student government passed a resolution supporting the Black Lives Matter movement that also included a call to divest from companies that do business with Israel. In November, the university said it would work with Jewish and pro-Israel students to make sure they felt safe at school.
Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel, director of Illini Chabad, told the Forward he hoped the new dorm would be a step toward making students feel safer on campus.
“If there’s one place on campus you want to be comfortable, it’s at least where you go to sleep at night,” Tiechtel said.