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Following his dismissal, Libenson pledged to create a new campus group to carry on his work at the University of Chicago. He’s made good on that pledge. JU has three full-time staff members and two part-time. The organization maintains offices in a church building near campus. Libenson told the Forward that he’s raised most of the $400,000 annual budget he’s projected for this new organization. Board members of his group, many of whom were on the dismissed Hillel board, have given to the effort.
Libenson’s group is offering two internship programs similar to some of those he ran at Hillel. It has also sponsored an off-campus undergraduate apartment for Jewish students, a program that Libenson likened to the Moishe House program that sets up Jewish-themed housing for recent college graduates.
“There’s been tremendous enthusiasm among students to participate in our internship programs and all of our programs,” Libenson said. “Hillel seems to be a nonfactor in whether or not students are participating in our programs.”
Hoffman said that she didn’t mind the competition from Libenson’s group. “From our perspective, there’s more Jewish life happening on campus,” she said. “It’s a win all around.”
Meanwhile, a student-run group founded in May to mediate between the various professional-run Jewish organizations on campus on behalf of students seems to have disbanded. In an email, Doni Bloomfield, who is the former executive chair of the Jewish Student Assembly and a University of Chicago junior, said the group was no longer necessary.
“Due to the candor, conviviality and civility of the Jewish community on campus so far this year there hasn’t been much need for the Jewish Student Assembly,” Bloomfield wrote.
Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @joshnathankazis