By Camille Chrysostom, for the Mitzpeh, @Mitzpeh
Maryland Hillel, the home to kosher dining at this university, recently made changes to its Tuesday lunch menu in order to test out different dining options for students on its meal plan.
Although Hillel traditionally reserved Tuesday exclusively for dairy meals, the organization implemented a new method at the beginning of March that offered both meat and dairy options. This was the first time Hillel served both meat and dairy meals on the same day, said Emily Minton, operations associate for Maryland Hillel
Student reactions to the change were initially mixed, said junior criminology and criminal justice major Jared Ebrahimoff, a member of the Hillel dining committee.
“Many [students] loved the idea, but thought it wasn’t executed well as there was no variety offered,” Ebrahimoff said.
The previous Tuesday menu allowed students to pick from a range of different dairy options, and although the new menu advertised several dairy and meat selections, some students criticized the dairy menu for its lack of choices.
“I didn’t really like [the change],” junior bioengineering major Rachel Golan said. “I prefer when we have dairy in the main dining area because they have more options.”
Golan said she would occasionally bring her own lunches from home because of the limited choices.
The new lunch schedule also created logistical problems because students who ate different kinds of meals could not eat together.
The Va’ad of Greater Washington, an organization of Orthodox rabbis who oversee kosher dining facilities, supervises Maryland Hillel’s dining service. In order to comply with their rules, Hillel keeps the dining areas for meat and dairy separate. When Hillel served only dairy on Tuesdays, friends could sit and dine together. However, with the new menu, students who choose to eat dairy on Tuesdays can not eat in the dining hall as they would normally do.
“People eating the dairy food felt socially isolated because most diners ate meat in the dining hall,” Ebrahimoff said.
People who ate meat lunches primarily ate in the main dining area while students eating dairy sat outside the cafeteria, in the vicinity of Bobb’s cafe.
Sophomore mechanical engineering major J.J. Rosenberg said the changes to the Tuesday lunch menu were confusing and caused separations between students.
“I had friends who had to eat lunch in different areas,” Rosenberg said. “I preferred when there was a certain day for dairy meals. They didn’t need to serve meat every single day. That’s a lot of protein.”
Despite these issues, Hillel continues to look for the best ways to serve its kosher students, said Minton. She said the change to the Tuesday lunch menu is only temporary.
“It’s a testing period to see if we can provide both dairy and meat meals to our kosher diners,” said Minton. “I believe it’s too early to tell if it worked. We’ve only done it three times.”
Minton said that Hillel wanted to provide more kosher protein to its diners because kosher meat is difficult to come by.
“Students with kitchens can make their own dairy food, but preparing kosher meat is more time consuming,” Minton said. “Kosher meat is hard to come by. Hillel gets its meat all the way from Silver Spring.”
While Hillel served only meat options in preparation for Passover, the dining service will continue to listen to student opinions to decide whether or not to continue the new Tuesday lunch schedule.
“Student input makes a big impact on kosher dining at Hillel,” Ebrahimoff said. By continuing to voice their opinions to members of the dining committee, students can influence Hillel to create the best kosher dining experience possible, he said.