Donor provides Jewish students meal options

Michelle Ma

Not unlike his ancestors, who roamed for 40 years in the desert before they arrived at their Promised Land, Jeremy Meisel travels a great distance — from his North Campus dorm to Allison Hall’s dining hall — to eat a warm kosher meal five times a week.

It’s a trip he’s willing to make. But if Meisel were here last year, more than half of his South-Campus journeys would have been for naught.

Meisel, a Weinberg freshmen who eats only according to strict Jewish dietary laws, is one student who benefits from a gift to Northwestern, allowing dining services to offer more kosher food selections — five meals a week, increased from two — this school year.

An NU alumnus from the late 1970s donated a “significant” amount of money to the university for the specific goal of increasing kosher meals on campus, said Amy Kahn, associate director of major gifts in the Office of Alumni Relations and Development.

“The donor felt this would be an area (in which) he could make a gift to enhance Jewish life on campus,” Kahn said.

Kahn said the donor wishes to keep his identity and amount donated anonymous.

Last year Allison offered two kosher meals a week prepared fresh in the dining hall. Now Monday through Thursday lunches and a Thursday dinner offers students more variety, said Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein, director of the Tannenbaum Chabad House, who organized the kosher food program on campus.

“It’s more integrated,” Klein said. “Now students can eat with friends of all cultures since kosher food is here.”

This is the fourth year kosher food is offered on campus as part of the meal plan. Previously students could go to various kiosks in dining halls to self-prepare kosher meals, and students had to pay an extra fee for these meals in addition to their regular meal plan.

“It was a hard program to maintain, so we started looking into other avenues,” Klein said.

NU has lagged behind other universities in providing kosher food options, Klein pointed out, noting that “all competing schools” have started offering all-kosher food programs over the past five years.

Some students wonder if it’s practical for a strictly kosher student to be on a university meal plan. Although kosher students on the meal plan now have five options a week, they will still lose seven meals on the 13-meal-a-week plan.

In order to avoid the meal plan, many strictly kosher students move into off-campus apartments to be able to prepare kosher food, said Evangeline Su, a Chemistry graduate student.

In addition to losing meals each week on the meal plan, for some strictly kosher students, traveling to Allison for meals is difficult.

“If you’re in Tech, for lunch you aren’t going to run down to Allison,” Su said.

But preparing kosher food in other dining halls wouldn’t be practical or cost-effective, because currently Allison is the only dining hall that offers the space and tools needed to respect the religious kosher preparation methods, Klein said.

Despite these limitations, most students who eat kosher food, as well as the Evanston community, said they welcome the changes. Students living off-campus and about 10 people in the community periodically eat at Allison because the dining hall offers the only hot kosher meal in Evanston, Su said.

“I don’t think there’s a single kosher-eating student that doesn’t appreciate this,” Su said.

Many students who eat strictly kosher and those who enjoy kosher food preparation and taste have praised the changes in Allison dining hall, Klein said.

“We’ve had a lot of ‘thank yous’ from students, especially upperclassmen,” Klein said. “We have even had e-mails from alumni who are happy with five meals a week.”

Reach Michelle Ma at [email protected]