Princeton University appointed Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Eitan Webb as an official chaplain after a student-driven campaign to afford the local Chabad House full recognition. The move represents a complete reversal of an administrative decision last year to deny Webb the post.

This week's decision paves the way for greater visibility on the Ivy League campus. Symbolically, however, the appointment is much more meaningful.

"It means that the university has given us their trust," said Webb, who has co-directed the Chabad House with wife Gitty Webb for the past six years. "The university has strictures in place for everything they do, so when they say that they're willing to affiliate with a certain group, that's a very good thing."

University president Shirley Tilghman told The Daily Princetonian student newspaper that the about face on the chaplaincy issue – previously, only the executive director of Princeton's Center for Jewish Life held the title of chaplain – came about largely because of students' testimony that both the CJL and the Chabad House served complementary, rather than opposing roles.

Almost 200 Princeton undergraduate and graduate students, as well as alumni, signed a petition to get the university to reverse its previous denial.

"The student-led drive was phenomenal," said Webb. "Dozens of students and alumni wrote to the university, called the university and met with administrators. It was a huge groundswell of support, and we were very gratified by it."

Webb noted that earlier this year, Tilghman and Alison Boden, the dean of religious life, visited the Chabad House for a Friday night dinner.

"They experienced first hand the good work that Chabad does on this campus," he said.

Jewish student leaders at Princeton were thrilled.

"Rabbi Webb and Gitty do a lot of wonderful things for the Jewish community on campus, but they have been somewhat limited because Rabbi Webb was not a University chaplain," said CJL secretary Hilana Lewkowitz-Shpuntoff, a sophomore. "He will now have the freedom he needs to be even more successful.

"I really enjoy learning with him every week," added Lewkowitz-Shpuntoff, who participates in the Sinai Scholars Society, a project of the Chabad on Campus International Foundation. "Now that he's a chaplain, many more students will be able to benefit from their presence on campus."

"By Rabbi Webb becoming a chaplain, the university is officially endorsing him and giving him their support," said Josh Rodman, a junior and Chabad board president. "This is a very big thing, because to Jewish students who have not yet participated in Jewish events on campus, it may seem that the Center for Jewish Life is the only option.

"Now, however, it will be very clear that the Jewish community consists of a wide range of programming," continued Rodman. "Rabbi Webb will be able to attract even more students who desire to become more involved in some way."

Rabbi Menachem Schmidt, president of the Chabad on Campus International Foundation and executive director of Lubavitch House at the University of Pennsylvania, said that he was “ecstatic about the decision.”

“In the work that Chabad is doing on campus, Princeton has played a very important role,” he said. “The Webbs have been exceptional in both their accomplishments on campus and their leadership in the Chabad on Campus network, which currently includes nearly 130 campuses worldwide.”

Added Schmidt: “The appointment is further recognition for these two exemplary people.”