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Muslim and Jewish students gather for opening of inter-religious dining facility

Posted 12/21/01

While violence in the Middle East continues to make headlines, a quiet symbol of Muslim and Jewish cooperation will open officially at Dartmouth College on Jan. 8. The Pavilion, a campus dining hall jointly conceived and realized by the college's Jewish and Muslim students, will officially open its doors that day, offering a place for inter-religious community, as well as meals that accommodate the dietary restrictions of the two religions.

The grand opening and dedication ceremonies, from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Jan. 8, will include tours of the new facility and opportunities to sample foods from The Pavilion menu. Dartmouth College President James Wright will offer remarks during the event. The opening is free and open to the public.

The dining hall originated last year with representatives of the Muslim and Jewish student groups. They joined together on a committee with faculty and staff to research the possibility of creating a dining hall dedicated to providing meals that meet the religious dietary laws of Islam and Judaism, known respectively as halal and kosher. In recent months, the College's Hindu students became involved as well, and the committee decided to also include menu offerings that meet the strict vegetarian requirements known as "sakahara" in Sanskrit.

Many colleges offer some kosher dining options, but it is much more unusual for Muslim students to have access to halal foods on campus. Also, because of the rigor required to observe kosher, most colleges either buy pre-prepared kosher foods or cater in kosher meals, rather than offering meals prepared on-site.

"Really, running The Pavilion and adhering to the three different disciplines is similar to running three restaurants in one location," said Robert Lester, Manager of the Pavilion. For example, in kosher meals, dairy and meat may not be combined, nor can the utensils used for dairy be used with meat or vice versa. No alcohol in any form is allowed in halal, so even commonly used extracts such as vanilla can not be used. Sakahara has restrictions that preclude using pots, pans and other utensils that have touched meat.

Maintaining these disciplines requires strict attention to detail at every stage of the process, from setting up the kitchen, to meal planning and preparation, to clean up. To accommodate kosher restrictions on mixing dairy and meat, for example, The Pavilion features at least two of everything--including two kitchens, each with its own oven, pans and utensils. When sakahara dining was added as well, a third set of cooking and serving vessels and utensils were purchased. All items, from dish racks to cutting boards to serving spoons, are color-coded to prevent them from being mixed together. Trained student supervisors, called "mashgiach," are present at all meals to make sure kosher rules are followed.

The Pavilion will be open to all students, not just those who are religiously observant, as well as to the general public. Lester expects the new dining hall will serve approximately 150 meals per day.

The Pavilion is certified Glatt kosher (the most rigorous standard possible) under the Orthodox supervision of the Vaad Harabonim of New England.

Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.

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