Last week, Dartmouth sophomore Cameron Isen began circulating a petition calling for his school to provide kosher food options acceptable to all students who observe the Jewish dietary laws. The issue at play was complex: Though Dartmouth does offer kosher food, it is certified by Tablet-K, an organization whose standards are not widely accepted in the American Orthodox community. As such, the provided food is unhelpful for many of the students it is intended to serve. By contrast, all other Ivy League schools have long offered their students kosher fare that meets the highest accepted standards.
Isen’s petition, pushed by fellow undergrads Mayer Schein ’16, Matthew Goldstein ’18, and Eliza Ezrapour ’18, quickly garnered over 500 signatures in just one week. Supporters pointed out that not only was Dartmouth losing out on certain students due to its more restrictive kosher policy, but also on some kashrut-observant professors. At the same time, while sympathetic to student concerns over certification, Hillel director Rabbi Edward Boraz noted that the costs might be prohibitive.
The Dartmouth controversy is reflective of a broader trend towards kosher accommodation on college campuses. Today, 140 campuses offer some form of kosher fare, over a third of which launched their programs in the past decade. These developments have turned Dartmouth’s policy into an outlier rather than a mere oddity.
When Harvard, Yale and Princeton–not to mention countless state schools and other private universities–are offering top-of-the-line kosher options, it puts the absence of such a meal plan at Dartmouth into sharp relief. And when campuses are increasingly accommodating every student diet from vegan to gluten-fee, their growing populations of Modern Orthodox students feel both comfortable and entitled to ask for similar treatment.
Thus, last year, Heart2Heart, a grassroots organization aimed at promoting religious life on campus, launched an online kosher map to track which schools were offering what to their students–and to enable young Jews to make informed choices as they considered colleges.
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