Students, EPD see rabbi as a ‘Northwestern treasure’

By Laura Olson/THE DAILY NORTHWESTERN
Published: Monday, October 3, 2005

When Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein moved to Evanston 20 years ago to serve Northwestern’s Tannenbaum Chabad House, he wanted to find another way to give back to his community. So he found another outlet for his diverse interests – the Evanston Police Department.

With an Evanston minister, Klein created a police chaplain program soon after he moved to Evanston when he realized there were many Jewish police officers at EPD, Klein said.

“Police officers are the foundation of our society,” Klein said. “People don’t always appreciate them as much as they should. In Evanston, we definitely have one of the best departments, and the ‘Thank You’ doesn’t always go to the officers.”

The Evanston Police Clergy Team works with EPD officers and University Police officers during times of crisis and helps residents deal with death or violent crime. Team members work in community congregations, but their services at the police department are not necessarily religiously oriented.

Klein and the seven other clergy team members are available 24 hours a day and seven days a week for counseling, comfort and support.

“We respond to a variety of different situations,” Klein said. “It takes experience to key in on what the person will respond to in their need.”

The clergy team began by learning about the department and getting to know the officers.

“To start out, we did police ride-alongs and developed a sense of trust and security with the officers,” Klein said.

After a few years, the team instituted an annual Police Appreciation Month. For that month, Klein and other team members provide a variety of services for EPD officers, including meals during all three shifts.

Police work is much more complicated than how it is portrayed in the media, Klein said.

“Every time an officer stops a car, that officer is putting his life on the line,” Klein said. “He doesn’t know who is in that car. It’s tremendous.”

In addition to counseling officers, clergy team members also deal with death notifications and see a darker side of police work.

“You see that there are some really terrible people out there,” Klein said. “They are in pain, are hurting and want to hurt others. You don’t see that day-to-day.”

Team members attend the International Conference of Police Chaplains each year for training, networking and fellowship. About 500 chaplains throughout the nation meet annually to discuss the difficulties of the profession.

“It’s a very different type of a job,” Klein said. “The most important way to deal is through talking, to get it out.”

EPD appreciates the police chaplains and the work they do every day, Evanston Deputy Police Chief Joseph Bellino said.

“They understand the ins and outs of the police daily work and have a good ear,” Bellino said. “They are always there to listen and to share good times and bad.”

Klein also serves as the rabbi for two NU Jewish groups and is a faculty adviser for Communications Residential College. He also sponsors trips to Israel each year for Jewish students.

“He puts everything he has into his work,” said Weinberg senior Sheena Tart-Zelvin, president of the Chabad House. “He’s definitely a Northwestern treasure.”

Klein makes NU a welcoming place with his willingness to be goofy, Tart-Zelvin said.

“He’s a good rabbi to have on a college campus,” Tart-Zelvin said. “He’s such a character but good when things get serious.”

Reach Laura Olson at l-olson2@northwestern.edu