You wake up hungry for something to eat. Your friends are about to indulge in bagels and pastries in Danforth Dining Center while you are forced to sit out because you are adhering to the dietary restrictions of  Passover. What do you do?
For many Jewish students, this sort of situation is common not only during the holiday of Passover, but also in a daily effort to follow the rules of Kashrut, or more colloquially known as “keeping kosher,” year-round.
These rules stipulate which foods that can be eaten as well as how food is prepared. Certain animals cannot be eaten; meat and dairy cannot be mixed, and the utensils used to prepare meat and dairy respectively cannot be contaminated. Some of these rules date back to ancient texts that dictate the laws of the Jewish people.
Specifically in the wake of the Jewish holiday of Passover, students on campus find themselves asked by Jewish law to surrender chametz, avoiding leavened breads and foods made with oats, spelt, rye, barley, and wheat unless labeled otherwise.
For those who observe the laws of Kashrut year round, or for those that solely observe the rules specific to Passover, it can often be difficult to adhere to these rules when living on a college campus.
At UR, there is a plethora of options to satisfy the needs of all types of eaters. From vegetarian and vegan options, to lactose and gluten free foods in both Danforth and Douglass Dining Center, students have a variety of options regardless of any dietary restrictions.
Similarly for those following the laws of Kashrut, the Kosher Korner in Douglass Dining Center offers kosher options daily, including soups, sandwiches made with kosher meats, and hot meals.
Despite these options, students strictly following kosher rules often find it difficult to stay properly nourished on campus.
“If someone is really trying to keep strictly kosher, UR does not make is as easy at it could be,” freshman Jossie Forman said of the struggle. “I don’t mean to say UR needs to make an all-kosher dining hall or anything, but we could definitely use more options.”
During this time, many students turned to campus dining facilities in search of Passover-approved food. However, this feat proved to be quite difficult for many.
“Perhaps [Dining Services could implement] pre-packaged kosher meals like the packaged sandwiches they sell at Connections or in the Pit, or a kosher station in Danforth as well,” Forman said.
Over the eight-day period, the Kosher Korner served kosher options but did not adhere to kosher for Passover rules and continued to serve leavened bread. While unleavened bread, or matzah, was available per request, serving both at the same station negated the purpose of keeping kosher.
“Keeping kosher for Passover requires re-certifications; it has never been done before,” Dining Services Marketing Manager Kevin Aubrey said in response to the discrepancy of serving both leavened bread and matzah during Passover in Douglass.
Aubrey added that converting the Kosher Korner or, for that matter, any location in a dining center into a kosher for Passover station is not efficient for staffing purposes and could not be logistically done.
While UR Hillel offered a buffet-style option for students observing Passover in the Interfaith Chapel daily, some students found this offer more of a struggle than an opportunity.
“As a freshman with an Unlimited dining plan living in [Susan B. Anthony Residence Hall] it was an inconvenience for me to be forced into trekking over to the Interfaith Chapel for meals where I would have  to spend my declining money as opposed to going downstairs to Danforth,” Samantha Levin said.
In the many eating centers on campus, normal practice was not altered to cater to those observing Passover.
During the period of Lent in prior weeks, however, Dining Services adopted “Fish Frydays” to observe the dietary rule that prevents those celebrating from eating meat on Friday. On Fridays, fried fish options were offered in the Pit so that students abiding by such rules would have other options.
According to Aubrey, despite the improvement from last year in resources and programs offered to students celebrating the holiday of Passover, “it is easier to offer a fish fry instead of getting a station kosher for Passover.”
“With options such as Hillel [offering kosher for Passover meals] to Hillside converting its front display to feature kosher goods… it is not a solution, but we’re looking into introducing new stations to cater to student dietary restrictions,” Aubrey said.
An example of this improvement due to student feedback can be seen in the introduction of Halal options on weekends in Danforth for students who honor these rules. For students who honor kosher laws however, there is room for improvement.
While Passover 2013 proved to be a challenge for UR students, Dining Services hopes to improve their resources in the future.
“The fact that we don’t have a lot of kosher options keeps a lot of more religious Jews away from our campus,” Forman said. “Adding kosher food could just make the school more attractive to more people.”
Freshman Aaron Marans agrees.
“[A kosher meal plan] would allow the Jewish community on campus to grow and diversify,” he said. “For many American Jewish high school students, the question of whether a college has full kosher dining available is often [a factor] that indelibly influences the process of school selection.”
With the numbers of student enrollment growing each year, steps to accommodate people with different needs will help to diversify campus and distinguish UR from comparable institutions of higher learning.

Lerner is a member of
the class of 2016.

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