Kosher dining is returning to campus in a new form this year after one-and-a half years without the option in Foggy Bottom.
The Colonial Kosher Caf? will begin serving kosher lunches in the next two weeks every weekday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. out of a newly refurbished kitchen in Hillel’s basement. In addition to lunch, the new venue will serve kosher steak dinners on Thursday nights, Shabbat dinner on Friday nights and holiday meals, said Robert Fishman, executive director of GW Hillel.
“For a long time, both observant students and parents . have expressed the fact that both locally, and especially at GW, the kosher food options were extremely limited,” Fishman said. “Students who keep kosher have had a great deal of difficulty eating on campus.”
Rabbi Josh Ginsberg, assistant director of Hillel, said keeping kosher is the “Jewish spiritual discipline of eating” and that kosher dietary laws come from the Hebrew Bible and are elaborated on by Jewish tradition.
Kosher guidelines are extensive. Animals eaten must not be carnivores and must be killed in a humane way. In addition, Ginsberg said dairy and meat products must be kept separate and requires a kitchen and set of utensils for each.
The caf? will be open to the public, will accept GWorld and will offer take-out service. Fishman said he hopes the caf? will attract not only students but will also attract community residents and area workers from the Medical Center and the World Bank.
The first Shabbat dinner is scheduled for Friday night and Fishman said he hopes the caf? will be ready for business by the following Monday. He said Hillel is waiting on certification of the center’s new kitchen.
“One of the challenges on campus is that it was possible to keep kosher in past years, but it was either expensive or extremely difficult,” said Ben Balter, president of the Jewish Student Association. “There are not many options for the more observant students.”
J Street will also have food prepared by a kosher caterer on sale for students, Balter said. He added, however, that since this food will have no supervision by experts in kosher dietary laws, the food will not be strictly kosher.
“(W)hat we’re very excited for is that it will be an additional opportunity (for kosher food). if you’re not the most observant of the most observant,” said Balter, a junior.
Balter added that the inability to keep kosher often has less to do with desire and more to do with location and accessibility.
“If you live in New York City it’s easier to keep kosher. If you live in Idaho, it might be harder,” Ginsberg said.
Fishman said while it was not huge, there was a demand for this type of dinning option. “There is a very active community on campus that had a problem here.” He estimated that anywhere between 100 and 150 GW students will only eat kosher meat.
“It’s been a campus issue for many, many years,” Fishman said. “So, hopefully this situation will resolve it for a long time.”
Jason Lewis, a junior, keeps kosher with the exception of dairy foods. He said the new options are good. “The only place (available) now is a deli on (22nd Street).for anything else you have to drive to Virginia or Maryland.”
“I’ll probably go once every week or two, depending on how good it is,” Lewis said.
“It’s great,” said Emma McCormick, a sophomore. “Everybody knows there are enough Jewish kids at GW to keep it well in need.
McCormick said she was born Jewish but is no longer practicing and does not keep kosher but would consider going there.
“My mom’s a great cook, so I miss all that stuff,” she said.
Ginsberg said he is a vegetarian and keeps kosher.
“It connects me not only to my faith and to the divine, but I feel a connection to the generation of Jews that came before me, so I feel I’m continuing that. spiritual line,” Ginsberg said.