July 15, 1999
Vol. 18 No. 19

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    [daniel klein] by jason smith
    Third-year Dan Klein is the first recipient of the Daniel I. Leifer Fellowship for Social Justice.

    New fellowship to study, work in Israel honors Rabbi Leifer

    By Jennifer Leovy
    News Office

    Third-year College student Dan Klein is working in Palestinian refugee camps this summer as the first recipient of the Daniel I. Leifer Fellowship for Social Justice. The Joan and James Shapiro Foundation established this annual fellowship in memory of Rabbi Daniel Leifer, with additional support from the Rabbi Daniel Leifer Memorial Fund.

    Rabbi Leifer dedicated more than 30 years to the Newberger Hillel Center at the University, joining the center as Associate Director in 1964 and then serving as Director from 1972 until his death in 1996. He spent much of his career promoting social justice in the United States and Israel.

    “In his work at Hillel, Daniel opened it up as a forum to expose students to all points of view, from left to right,” said Myra Leifer, the late rabbi’s wife.

    Leifer invited a broad range of guests to the center, including artists from Arabic countries, Palestinian politicians and speakers for social justice and democratic procedures in Israel. “All of these programs existed to expose students on campus to the diverse issues going on in Israel and to get people to talk with each other––to have dialogue that would encourage social change in Israel,” said Myra Leifer.

    “I am pleased to see this fellowship developing because Daniel cared very deeply for his students. I’m glad students will get the opportunity and exposure to learn in Israel,” Myra Leifer said. “This fellowship is a way of continuing Daniel’s work.”

    The Leifer Fellowship supports travel, housing and related expenses for the duration of one quarter spent working with a social justice organization in Israel.

    Klein received the fellowship June 2 at a ceremony at Newberger Hillel Center, where Andrew Aronson, Associate Professor in Pediatrics, serves as Chair of the Hillel Board. Speakers at the ceremony included Rabbi David Rosenberg, Director of Hillel; James Shapiro, Professor in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology; and Irene Elkin, Chair of the Leifer Fellowship Committee and Professor in the School of Social Service Administration.

    Although Klein personally never knew Rabbi Leifer, he shares the rabbi’s passion for creating dialogue. Klein is the founder and co-director of the Peer Mediation group on campus. “I am honored to be the first person to receive the fellowship that memorializes a great man who promoted values I believe in,” said Klein. “Everyone on campus who knew Rabbi Leifer says how wonderful he was and how committed he was to students.”

    Klein will put his training in mediation and conflict resolution to use in Israel, where he will volunteer for the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information based in Jerusalem.

    Klein secured his position after he was selected for a 1999 Summer Internship by the Human Rights Program, which is part of the University’s Center for International Studies.

    Jacqueline Bhabha, Program Director, said the program helps coordinate placement and ensures interns do substantive work for their organization. Because the interns are volunteers, Bhabha said fellowships like the Leifer are a tremendous help to the students.

    Klein will help coordinate and publicize the IPCRI project titled “The Democratization of the Palestinian Refugee Question: Involving the Refugees in Determining Their Own Future.”

    Organizers will host public forums to discuss practical options for negotiating refugees’ final status. The forums will take place in the Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza, where refugees and public figures invited from Palestine and Israel will present their viewpoints. The goal is to give the refugees a voice in determining their future.

    When Klein returns to Chicago, he will share his experience with other students in a formal talk at the Hillel Center. Elkin said because the intent is to benefit other students as well as the fellow, the formal talk is an integral requirement of the fellowship. Klein also will produce a written report for the Human Rights Program for possible publication.

    “I am excited about working with an organization that promotes dialogue and has a nonpartisan approach to conflict resolution,” said Klein. “I believe in this process, and I think working in this environment will help me focus on how I can best promote peace and social justice in the future.”