By Laina Sara Miller
Kosher observance varies among Jews, and Maryland Hillel provides day-to-day kosher meals for the kosher-observant students on campus.
Students who do keep kosher, however, are virtually unaware of the wealth of options just outside of the campus bounds.
This campus sits inside the bounds of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, an area connected by highways, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and several of Maryland counties’ public bus systems. This interconnected area allows students to easily travel to and from campus and nearby communities.
The D.C. area is also well known for its large Jewish presence. According to the Steinhardt Social Research Institute at Brandeis, 3% of American Jews in 2019 live in the D.C. area.
In the past several years, this collection of Jewish communities has flourished, resulting in the growing success of several kosher restaurants in the D.C. area.
The Rabbinical Council of Greater Washington lists thirteen individual kosher restaurants in the D.C. area, not including separate locations for individual companies. Seventeen different locations are listed on the page.
DC Kosher™, The National Synagogue’s kosher certification agency for vegan and vegetarian D.C. area restaurants, lists another thirteen locations.
However, students at this university could, at most, recall one or two kosher restaurants – if that.
“I know that there’s some kosher places in Silver Spring, and, I believe, Rockville?” Rhonda Traub, a junior public health science major from New York, said.
Eitan Galper, a sophomore mechanical engineering major from Newton, Massachusetts, said, “I’ve been to Char Bar, in D.C., and Ben Yehuda Pizza… I like them.”
Even students who are from Maryland didn’t necessarily know about many of the kosher options nearby.
Ryan Sweren, a junior business major from Baltimore, said that “Al Ha’esh is pretty good,” but acknowledged that none of the other local kosher options stuck out in his memory.
The Jewish community on campus puts time and effort into making Jewish students at this university feel welcomed and connecting out-of-state students with local communities and opportunities, but it appears that their efforts have not, as of yet, included the numerous kosher opportunities outside of College Park.
In more than one case, these restaurants are a mere bus ride away and even more convenient by car.
In August, the United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service’s FoodAPS National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey reported that Americans currently spend approximately 35.3% of their food spending on eating out.
Students at this university who keep kosher now have the option to spend at least some of that money in the same way that their non-kosher observant peers do: by going out to eat.