Dining halls offer kosher alternative

Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel koshers a cooking pan in the Lincoln Avenue Residence hall test kitchen, Feb. 7. Allen and Gregory residence halls will now be serving kosher food every other Wednesday for dinner. Beck Diefenbach

Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel koshers a cooking pan in the Lincoln Avenue Residence hall test kitchen, Feb. 7. Allen and Gregory residence halls will now be serving kosher food every other Wednesday for dinner. Beck Diefenbach

By Amanda Graf

Four-year-old Levi had his first meal at a University dining hall on Wednesday evening. In between slurps of spaghetti he paused to sing, “We’ll never, ever, ever eat milk and meat together, so join and sing the kosher song.”

Levi is the son of Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel, director of Chabad Jewish Center at the University. Chabad has partnered with the University to provide students who keep kosher with a more accommodating meal plan. Allen Hall, 1005 Gregory Drive, now offers a kosher meal in the dorm’s dining hall every other Wednesday night.

“Students, whether they’re Jewish or not, are looking for kosher meals,” Tiechtel said.

He said students come to campus wanting to keep kosher, but the options in dining halls and local restaurants make it difficult. Kosher food must be prepared according to Jewish law. Certain meats (most notably pork) may not be eaten, and animals must be prepared following specific regulations. Meat and dairy cannot be eaten together.

Tiechtel said he has seen students lose weight because their food options were so limited. Jonathan Panitch, sophomore in LAS, said keeping kosher is not only about eating right, it is a matter of “spiritual health” as well.

The test kitchen at Allen Hall is converted to a kosher kitchen every other week. Utensils and pots and pans used to cook the meal are boiled at a certain temperature or heated with a blowtorch if they have been used to cook non-kosher food.

“It’s not a spiritual blessing,” Tiechtel said. “It’s a science.”

Robbie Philipp, freshman in LAS, has always kept strictly kosher. He said he appreciates the effort the University has made to be more accommodating.

“(Keeping kosher) is an important part of who I am,” Philipp said. “I wasn’t about to stop doing that when I got to college.”

“We try to be as inclusive as possible in University housing,” said Kirsten Ruby, assistant director of housing for marketing.

Ruby said the University strives to assess students’ needs, so when Tiechtel approached her office about offering kosher meals they were willing to try it. The extra meals are funded through a private program.

“No cost is being passed along to dining hall members,” Ruby said.

The Chabad Web site, www.JewishUIUC.org, provides a list of other kosher meals offered on campus.