Survey gauges kosher interest

Hillel is circulating a questionnaire as part of the first step in creating a kosher meal plan for next year.

Rob Fishman, interim director of Hillel, said the questions are being sent via e-mail to students and parents on the Jewish center’s listserv to see if there is sufficient interest in kosher food. Under the proposed meal program, students would sign up and pay for kosher meals throughout the semester. Meals would be picked up in either the former Hall on Virginia Avenue diner or Hillel.

While his ultimate wish would be for a full-service kosher venue, Fishman said it is likely that a food service would only be open to those who register in the beginning of the semester. Hillel currently serves kosher dinners to students during the week, but it offers no formalized meal plan.

“What we’re doing is working with (University) President (Stephen Joel) Trachtenberg and Jewish students concerned about kosher food to explore ways to get more options on campus,” Fishman said. Kosher food adheres to certain Jewish preparation guidelines.

Queries on the questionnaire include whether students would take advantage of a kosher meal system, how many meals a week they would be willing to commit to and whether the meals should be served at a cafeteria in the Hall on Virginia Avenue or the Hillel building.

Fishman emphasized that the meal plan is in its preliminary stages, and that his organization first needs to determine whether there is interest in the proposal. Last summer, an attempt to open a kosher venue in the Hippodrome failed because the University said it would not make money on such a facility.

“While the University is not considering opening a kosher dining hall, we are interested in understanding the needs of our students who wish to keep kosher,” wrote Christine Fisher, assistant director of contract services, in an e-mail statement last week. “The questionnaire distributed by Hillel is one way for us to find out if we are meeting these needs.”

Fisher noted that the University provides kosher meals at District Market, which can even take meal orders from students with special religious needs.

Fishman, who replaced former Hillel director Simon Amiel in December, has also been involved in setting up a Jewish living and learning community on the second floor of the West End. The Kosher community, which will have 17 members in the fall, has been in the works since January, and opened up in time for housing registration.

“I know it wasn’t hard for me to get a kitchen on campus as a junior, but it is harder for freshmen and sophomores who want to cook kosher,” said Rachel Schoenkin, who worked with Fishman to set up the community.

Schoenkin said everyone in the community will keep a kosher kitchen, which involves cleaning the oven after cooking certain foods and having separate utensils for milk and meat.

In addition to holding Jewish cooking classes and ordering certain types of kosher food in bulk, Schoenkin said the group is planning a trip to Poland.

“It’s a great fit – we can live together and maintain a kosher kitchen,” said Sam Buchbinger, a freshman who will be living in the LLC next year.

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