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Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein, a Man of Many Interests

BY: Benjamin A. Schoenkin

Important TermsBirthright– Free trips to Israel for Jewish college students funded by various Jewish agencies and philanthropies.

Chabad– A sect of Orthodox Jews headquartered in Brooklyn, New York that sends Chabad Rabbis across the United States and the World to reach Jews of different backgrounds.

Chabad House– A place for Jewish community members to meet for services and other activities with the presence of a Chabad Rabbi.

Kosher– Strict dietary guidelines followed by observant Jews.

Lubavitch Rebbe– Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, leader of the Chabad movement from 1951 until his death in 1994.

Shabbat– The Hebrew word for the Jewish Sabbath on Saturday.

Evanston- Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein, 52, isn’t just a rabbi.  Klein enjoys doing many other things including taking photographs for the Chicago Tribune and rooting for his favorite Chicago baseball team.

Klein grew up in West Rogers Park, IL. He did not always know that he wanted to become a rabbi. Klein explained that he did not grow up in an observant household. His home was not kosher. He further elaborated, “Sometimes we would have dinner Friday night (Shabbat dinner), but it was not a regular thing.”

Rabbi Klein attended public school until the 9th grade while also attending Hebrew school twice a week. Klein said, “I got involved in Hebrew school. I really enjoyed (it) and I decided that I wanted to go on to the Ida Crown (Jewish) Academy.” Klein finished high school at Skokie Yeshiva where he won an award for the student who studied the most.

He reminisced about his becoming more religious, “I loved to study, I loved to learn” and “It was purely educational, it made sense to me.” While in high school he began to consider the possibility of becoming a rabbi.

After high school he went to Rabbinical College of America in Morristown, NJ where he received his bachelor’s degree in religious studies. Following his degree, Klein went to Seattle, WA for an internship where he worked with the local Jewish community. While there he studied for his rabbinical ordination. He completed his rabbinical studies in less than a year while most people take at least two years to complete the program. Klein traveled to Brooklyn, NY to take his test and he received his ordination from Chabad. Following his ordination Klein said, “I got a special ordination in daily living.”

Rabbi Klein currently works as a Chabad Rabbi near Northwestern University and has three adult children.

He was originally told about the possibility of becoming a Rabbi for the Evanston, IL area at his engagement party (he is currently divorced) in 1985. He was unsure whether he wanted to become a campus rabbi at the time and he went to the Lubavitch Rebbe for guidance who told him to take the job in Evanston.

Matthew Renick, 22, a senior at Northwestern University stated during a phone interview about Rabbi Klein, “He is a frontrunner for (the) Jewish Community at Northwestern.” He continued, “He is constantly promoting Jewish discussion.”  Renick also explained that Klein has events where both students and the community interact with each other.

Rabbi Klein can be found doing a lot more than what his rabbinical duties require of him. When he was trying to help Jewish students at Northwestern get a kosher meal plan, he would use his knowledge of cooking to help out the students. Klein said, “Once a week I cooked the Stir Fry (at the dining hall).” Helping Jewish students is a priority for him. He explained how he used to go to University of Illinois several times a month before there was a Chabad house in Champaign, IL. Klein can also be found helping people in the community such as visiting people who are sick in the community.

He works with the Evanston Police Department as a chaplain. With the help of Reverend John Northwood, he established the chaplain program. Klein (along with students) once helped out an old couple that was being evicted from their home due to their home not being clean. He prevented the old couple’s eviction.

Rabbi Klein also gave the opening prayer at the US House of Representatives as a guest chaplain in May 2010. He said, “It was an amazing experience.”  He was able to meet many congressional people. Klein said, “I would do it again.”

He does a lot of traveling. Klein has taken Jewish students on 28 trips to Israel through the Birthright program. He explained that he likes to visit California. Klein has traveled the country extensively including visiting Idaho, Texas, and Utah. Klein has also visited Jordan, France, and England. He has taken many photographs of the Eiffel Tower while visiting Paris. He has also traveled the country to speak to various audiences.

Sports play a large role in Klein’s life.  Klein said, “I love baseball. I love sports.” He can be found taking in a White Sox game during the summer. Besides for going to games, he plays baseball several times a week. Klein used to play center field, but he now plays right field. He turned his love of sports into a radio show on Monday’s in the 1990’s on a former station called The Bear.

Photography is of special interest to Klein. “I enjoy taking pictures,” said Klein. Some of his pictures have appeared in the Chicago Tribune.

He enjoys reading and collects foreign Jewish books. Klein has a very large library.

Rabbi Klein also said that he is called the “Renaissance Man.” “I have a keen ability to connect with people on many different levels in many different ways” said Klein. He further elaborated, “ I love life, I love living, I love to be excited.”


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