Rabbi Yitzi Steiner, the director of the University of Minnesota Chabad, said that the new option will be available when school starts next month. Steiner said the move happened after many hours of discussion with the University Dining Service and school officials.
“It’s a very large university and there are so many departments involved. And the UDS is a huge department,” Steiner said about why it took so long.
The Kosher options will be an option in the dining halls. There will be Kosher frozen meals available on request in all residential dining restaurants. Coffman Union marketplace will also have them for sale. Kosher freezers and microwaves have been purchased. The Coffman Union will also have salad and sandwich “grab-and-go” items will be available from Prime Deli & Restaurant for purchase. Packaged microwavable meals will also be available for purchase.
Benjie Kaplan, the executive director of Minnesota Hillel, said the university should be credited with its willingness to be inclusive.
“I hope it’s a sign for other communities with dietary restriction, including halal and vegans,” he said. “For me, it’s nice because it’s aimed at our community. But it’s a great sign of trying to be more inclusive.”
Steiner said that even with his and Kaplan talking with the U, that the student senate did the heavy lifting to get it done. Sam Levin — who graduated in the spring and won’t get to eat the fruits of his work — authored the resolution, and student president Trish Palermo helped get it passed.
Both Steiner and Kaplan said they hope a long term goal for is to have a Kosher kitchen on campus, not just having meals produced elsewhere and brought in. Steiner said that he isn’t sure how many students will eat the Kosher food, but he said that isn’t the point.
“It’s a statement that we welcome Jewish students and we want Jewish students,” he said.
The announcement comes on the heels of The Forward, a national Jewish news website, releasing the first Forward College Guide, which gives data that helps students looking to find more about Jewish life on campuses.
The guide is the creation of editors Aiden Pink – a St. Louis Park native – and Laura Adkins. Pink came up with the idea while he witnessed his brother struggle to find information regarding Jewish life on campuses when applying to colleges, he said.
While his brother could find out about Jewish clubs, Shabbat attendance, kosher food opinions, etc. by asking every Chabad or Hillel director on campus, Pink said he saw this was an inconvenient process. This year’s guide launched on August 8, so it does not include the news of the Kosher options at the U.
The guide features 171 colleges and universities including all Big Ten schools, Pink said. “According to our records, the University of Minnesota is the second-best public school in the Midwest and the fifth-best in the region overall.”
Pink and Adkins plan to update the list with feedback from Hillel and Chabad professionals as well as new data each year. They hope to be the go-to resource for anyone looking to learn about Jewish life on college campuses, he said.
While the Kosher options didn’t help the U this year, it may in next year’s iteration. And Kaplan said that certainly, future students will take notice.
“We may not have the population today, but in the long run it makes the U more inclusive,” he said.