Jews, Muslims call for kosher and halal eatery

Several student groups are still fighting for a kosher and halal dining venue despite the University’s decision last summer not to put such an eatery in the Hippodrome.

This fall, the Jewish and Muslim student associations circulated a petition calling for the creation of a new dining venue to serve special religious needs. The document, which has more than 600 signatures, was drafted in response to student complaints over the lack of a kosher and halal venue on campus.

Jewish religious authorities prescribe Kosher food preparation guidelines; halal food is prepared according to Islamic guidelines.

“We have created a grassroots campaign to gain support for a kosher-halal food venue on campus, supported by its students, faculty, staff, administrators and neighbors,” wrote senior Sam Cutler, president of the Jewish Student Association in an e-mail. “We have to voice our concerns with the current dining plan, which does not adequately address the needs of many Jewish and Muslim students on campus.”

Simon Amiel, executive director of Hillel, GW’s Jewish student center, said many students come to his organization for kosher Shabbat dinners and lunches on weekends because they are unhappy with the University’s kosher service.

He added that the lack of an on-campus venue for religious food needs deters many students from attending GW.

“Kosher dining was a popular topic during Colonial Inauguration,” he said. “Many prospective students and parents ask about kosher dining.”

Hopes for a kosher and halal venue peaked over the summer, when Amiel met with Joseph Neubauer, chair of Aramark, about the possibility of turning the now-closed Big Burger on the Marvin Center’s fifth floor into a kosher and halal restaurant. Aramark operates Marvin Center dining venues.

“I was extremely excited about this possibility,” Amiel said. “I started making calls to kosher venues near campus that would be willing to help out with the creation of this new dining venue.”

But the University ultimately rejected the proposal on the grounds that such a business would not bring in enough revenue to justify its operation.

“Over the last year, Aramark, in conjunction with the Hillel executive director and the University, took a hard look serving GW’s kosher community,” Christine Fischer, GW’s director of dining and retail, wrote in an e-mail last week. “By the end of the summer, Aramark decided to partner with Kosher Mart, a local kosher caterer, to provide fresh items delivered daily.”

Fischer added that GW has no plans of opening a kosher or halal venue and that her office has not yet received a copy of the MSA and JSA petition.

Amiel said more needs to be done to accommodate students with religious needs for food preparation.

“To be fair to Aramark, they are doing what they can do, but they are not doing what they should do,” he said. “Students need fresh kosher food and the University should be providing this to students.”

Some students voiced complaints about the lack of a kosher or halal dining venue on campus.

“It’s tough for religious Jews to live on campus when there isn’t a kosher dining service available for them where they can eat and feel at home,” freshman Kenny Gold said.

But sophomore Roxanne Orkin said she is relatively satisfied with kosher choices, which include deli sandwiches and dinners, meats and soups located in the District Market’s kosher section.

She said, “Everyone has different levels of kosher needs and although it would be nice to have better choices, it is not a huge problem.”

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