Dartmouth to open dining hall for Jewish, Muslim students

Posted: Friday, March 16, 2001

HANOVER, N.H. (AP) -- The Torah and the Quran provide gastronomic inspiration for Dartmouth College's newest dining hall.

For Yousuf Haque, however, inspiration also comes from a simpler source: being sick of tuna fish sandwiches. And regular twinges of guilt.

''When you see that you can eat lawful meat, it's a big relief,'' said Haque, a junior who is president of the Dartmouth's Muslim student association, Al-Nur. ''I think people will really go for it.''

For Muslims like Haque, lawful meat means meat slaughtered under Islamic dietary laws called halal.

For Jews, dietary laws and rules are called kashrut, or kosher. Come September, Dartmouth will join a growing number of colleges and universities offering kosher- and halal-prepared meals for its students.

Moreover, at Dartmouth, not only will the college offer its Jewish and Muslim students kosher and halal foods, it will build a single, separate facility, outfit it with separate dishwashers, stoves, counters and dishes, and hire and specifically train kitchen staff. It will cook and serve kosher and halal foods together.

Halal lasagna. Kosher chicken soup. Halal pizza. Kosher sandwiches.

''First of all and most importantly, it just makes sense,'' said Jason Spitalnick, a junior who was president last fall of the Dartmouth Jewish student organization Hillel and helped spearhead the effort for a kosher-halal dining hall. ''The dietary laws are virtually identical.''

''I didn't see it as symbolic. I see it as a very practical thing for us,'' said Haque.

Halal and kosher laws are very similar, though there are subtle differences. In halal, which roughly translates from Arabic as ''permissible,'' some of the central rules concern how cattle and other animals are slaughtered, and the meat prepared. Prayers must be spoken, blood from the animal must be drained, and no alcohol must be used in preparing the meat. Pork is haram, or ''forbidden,'' as is alcohol, even to drink.

Under kosher laws, pork is forbidden, though alcohol is permitted. Dairy products should never be mixed with meat products.

Kosher laws forbid kosher food from being served on or with any utensil or dish that has touched non-kosher food, even if the utensil has been thoroughly washed (excepting halal). Halal only requires the utensils to be thoroughly washed.

Several colleges and universities, including most Ivy League schools, Stanford, Syracuse and several State University of New York campuses, already offer a mix of meal plans that accommodate Jewish and Muslim students in different ways.

At Oberlin College in Ohio, Jewish and Muslim students have bought, prepared and served kosher and halal food in a co-op dining kitchen since 1994. Middlebury College in Vermont will offer halal meat several days a week to its students beginning this semester, and Cornell University is setting up a school-operated kosher-halal dining facility, like Dartmouth's, next fall.

At Brown University, junior Hashim Mehter of Seattle, said the seven-year-old kosher-halal plan there is more expensive than regular plans, by about $200. Despite the cost, though, he said just having halal meat is an acknowledgment from Brown of its Muslim students.

''It just shows more awareness that the size and breadth of Muslim communities on universities is growing,'' he said.

For Jewish students, kosher food has been offered on U.S. college and university campuses in one form or another for years, either unofficially through a co-op, or as a regular school-funded cooking facility. At Dartmouth, which has roughly 500 Jewish students, a separate center for Jewish students has provided a kosher space.

For most Muslim students in the United States, halal meat used to be available only at schools in larger cities, where halal butchers could provide it. Otherwise, students would just settle for kosher foods, which for Muslims is guilt-free, though not ideal. Some decline to eat kosher, and settle only for vegetarian foods.

For Dartmouth, which has some 60 Muslim students, to offer the halal-kosher kitchen and dining hall is a tremendous step, said Haque, who is from the United Arab Emirates.

Tucker Rossiter, director of dining services at Dartmouth, said the new facility will likely cost the school about $100,000 to build, while annual operating costs could reach $170,000. A committee made up of Muslim and Jewish students is meeting to come up with menus and sources for ingredients, he said.

Could the dining hall contribute to understanding between two groups often deeply divided?

Amin Plaisted, a programmer at Dartmouth who is adviser to the Muslim student association, said there was more than just practical meaning to having Jewish and Muslim students dining side-by-side.

''It is fair to assign a greater significance to this. In its own small way, it's building confidence,'' Plaisted said. ''This is a good environment for this type of test, a small community like Dartmouth.''

''Of course,'' said Rabbi Edward Boraz, who advises Dartmouth's Hillel group, ''the first law of any dining hall is that it just tastes good.''

End Adv for Friday, March 16



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