Skip to main content

This website is no longer being updated. Visit Dartmouth Now for all news published after June 7, 2010.


Dartmouth News
>  News Releases >   2002 >   January

New dining facility serves Kosher, Halal and Sakahara meals

Posted 01/08/02

While violence in the Middle East continues to make headlines, a quiet symbol of Muslim and Jewish cooperation celebrated its grand opening at Dartmouth College on Jan. 8.

The Pavilion, a campus dining hall jointly conceived and realized by the college's Jewish and Muslim students, officially opened its doors that day, offering a place for inter-religious community, as well as meals that accommodate the dietary restrictions of the two religions. A strict vegetarian menu, known as "sakahara," is also offered at the dining hall to accommodate students who observe vegetarian diets, such as some Hindus and Jainists.

"Jews, Muslims or those who follow sakahara can eat with confidence that a sincere effort has been made to make the meal acceptable to their religious tradition. And, we can eat together," said Amin Plaisted, a Dartmouth computer programmer and the Muslim student advisor. "Three communities found clear points of common interest and support. I believe this will stand as a powerful model of how it can be done."

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, some of the college's Hindu students who observe the strict vegetarian diet known in Sanskrit as "sakahara" also became involved, and the committee decided to include sakahara menu offerings as well.

All students, not just those who are religiously observant, may eat in the dining hall. In addition, like Dartmouth's other dining halls, the Pavilion is open to the general public. Pavilion manager Robert Lester expects the new dining hall will serve approximately 150 meals per day.

"The Pavilion symbolically embraces principles of community which Dartmouth considers a cornerstone of its institution. Everyone joined together out of a deep respect for each other's tradition," said Rabbi Ed Boraz, the Jewish student advisor. "My hope and my prayer is that this process will lead to a deeper level of understanding, mutual respect and friendship between peoples of different traditions, faiths and cultures."

College officials believe the Pavilion is the first dining hall to offer on-site preparation of food that rigorously observes all three disciplines in one location. While many colleges offer kosher dining, it is more unusual for Muslim students to have halal foods on campus. The two traditions share some requirements--pork is forbidden in both practices, for example--but the two diets are not the same. In kosher meals, dairy and meat may not be combined, nor may the utensils used for dairy be used with meat, and vice versa. Muslims are not required to separate dairy and meat, but are disallowed from using alcohol in any form. Even commonly used extracts such as vanilla are not allowed. By adding sakahara to the menu offerings, the Pavilion also took on restrictions that preclude using pots, pans and other utensils that have touched meat.

In cases where religious requirements differed, the committee decided the more stringent standard would apply, thus allowing diners to abide by the most rigorous interpretation of the tradition. For example, although Muslims can eat kosher meat without violating religious dietary law, meat certified halal is considered more proper. Thus, the Pavilion will serve both halal and kosher meat.

"Really, running The Pavilion and adhering to the three different disciplines is similar to running three restaurants in one location," said Lester.

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, The Pavilion features at least two of everything--including two kitchens, each with its own oven, pans and utensils. When sakahara dining was added, a third set of cooking and serving vessels and utensils was purchased. All items, from dish racks 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 observed. The Pavilion is certified Glatt kosher (the most rigorous standard possible) under the Orthodox supervision of the Vaad Harabonim of New England.

College officials say the new facility is another step in Dartmouth's Student Life Initiative, a multifaceted effort begun in 1998 to enhance the social and residential experience for students.

By TAMARA STEINERT

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.

Recent Headlines from Dartmouth News: