by Daniel D. Stuhlman©2003 by Daniel D. Stuhlman. All rights reserved.
Happy News Kosher Food on Campus
In September 2002 CBS News wanted to report some happy news. I found their report while looking for an idea for my students to search in the on-line searching class. CBS reported on the kosher kitchen at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, CA. On the meal card that comes from Caltech Dining Services they state that Kosher and Halal meals are available along with vegan, vegetarian, and meat choices. I interviewed, chef and supervisor Joel Weinberger via e-mail.
For years, Caltech has been known for solving difficult problems. When the university found a talented high school student who was considering MIT over Caltech because MIT had a kosher food plan, they tired to solve the problem. Working with the Los Angeles, based Rabbinical Council of California, they spent more than $70,000 to establish a kosher kitchen. The new kitchen included everything from new a stove to pots and pans and all the support equipment. Joel Weinberger worked with the university food service to make sure meat and vegetarian lunches and dinners are prepared. The university meal plan does not cover breakfast, however, it does have dry cereals, milk, and juice available.
It not only became a big success with Jewish students. Since the kosher meals adhered to the Muslims' dietary requirements, they began to eat at the new cafeteria as well. The kitchen provides kosher meals for the Jewish students and halal dishes for Muslim students. It provided a place for people who would not normally associate with each other to eat lunch together. Faculty and staff are able to participate in the social life on campus, by being able to order a meal for a lunch meeting, a formal banquet, or to have lunch with a student or colleague.
The kitchen is the only kosher caterer in the area and is able to supply meals for the community. Because it is able to take care of the needs of Muslims and Jews, it has enabled the university to be more accessible to visiting lectures and guests. The staff is recognized as the experts in their field and consulted by others in the university food service industry.
The kitchen at Caltech also provides kosher and halal meals for the nearby Jet Propulsion Laboratory. To make a kosher program economically viable, Joel Weinberger also prepares vegetarian and vegan meals. He can certify that the meals contain no meat or dairy ingredients.
This is a story of competing for top students. Some eastern universities have kosher meal plans that are decades old. At MIT Hillel serves kosher meals that can be paid for with an MIT meal card or cash. Additionally kosher food items are available through MIT's food service on campus. The student run Kosher Ko-op provides hot meals using the services of Boston-are kosher restaurants. Monday through Thursday each night features a different venue. One difficulty is that reservations must be made by 9 AM for that day's dinner.
In the 1940's and 50's Princeton University had a reputation for being anti-Semitic and unfriendly to Jews. In an effort to change that perception in the 1960's they tried to attract more top Jewish students. Princeton has some rather interesting policies to promote the social activities of its students. First they have eating clubs. They are both private and university run. All freshmen and sophomores are required to participate. For a while any kosher students had to purchase the meal plan and not use it. They survived on what food they could eat in their rooms. In 1972 Adlai Stevenson Hall started a kosher dining facility. Membership grew in the first four years from 35 to 145. This was the first Ivy League school to have a kosher meal plan as part of its university food service. In fact in 1972 very few other universities had kosher plans that were part of the university food service plans. One alum even said that Stevenson Hall for a long time had the best Kosher restaurant in the State of New Jersey.
The earlier reputation antisemitic admission's policies but that was decisively changed by the administrations of Princeton University Presidents Goheen and Bowen. The current president of Princeton is Harold T. Shapiro, a Jew.
Today the university is kosher and shomer Shabbat friendly. I saw notices for 20 year reunion reservations with an option for kosher food. I have a friend with a daughter there who told me about the freshman orientation retreat. Not only did they have a kosher option, but they asked about Shabbat observance and made sure to allow plenty of time for the students to return before Shabbat. This along with rather liberal scholarship offers makes Princeton a very attractive place for bright Jewish students.
Touro University Makes Waves
One kosher program that may in the years ahead serves as a model for other campuses is at Touro University, on Mare Island in the Bay area in Northern California, just across the bridge from Vallejo. The school which has programs in the health sciences, including a medical school, and a podiatry school is located on the site of an old US Navy installation that is said to date back to President Abraham Lincoln. According to Rabbi Aharon Simkin, who supervises the exclusively kosher kitchen, "this is the first such program anywhere in the West Coast (with the notable exception of the University of Judaism)."
I was told by a CRC member that day school graduates are being actively recruited by top colleges because the students generally very bright and accustomed to a heavy academic load. In New York many students are turning to state universities and closer private colleges to save money. Active kosher food programs in Ithaca (Cornell University and Ithaca College), State University of New York at Buffalo, State University of New York at Binghamton and State University of New York at Albany help recruit these students. In Illinois the CRC supervises the kosher food program at University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and CRC member, Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein, supervises the kosher kiosk meal plan at Northwestern University. For many universities Kosher food programs are win-win propositions. The university gains top students, is seen as friendly toward religious and dietary needs, and their students, faculty, and guests have a place to eat. I find the whole story uplifting.
Daniel D. Stuhlman is president of Stuhlman Management Consultants, Chicago, IL, a firm helping organizations turn data and information into knowledge. We are looking for new clients and opportunities. Visit the web site to learn more about knowledge management and what our firm can do for you. Previous issues of Librarian's Lobby can be found at: http://home.earthlink.net/~DDStuhlman/liblob.htm. Reach him via e-mail at: DDSTUHLMAN@earthlink.net.
Last revised August 22, 2011