Friday, February 16, 2024

Breaking Bread: The Development of Kosher and Halal Dining at Dartmouth

Brightly colored brochure advertising the Pavilion station and showing its location on a map

“[A] joint Halal-Kosher dining venture on campus … would significantly advance Dartmouth’s vision for its future.”

1999 was an important year in the history of food inclusivity at Dartmouth. President emeritus James Wright and the Board of Trustees introduced the Student Life Initiative (SLI) in February of 1999. The main goal of this initiative was to make Dartmouth’s campus more socially inclusive and welcoming, and administrative leaders found that centralizing dining and renovating campus dining facilities would help them achieve this objective. Jewish and Muslim student leaders similarly determined that the creation of a Halal-Kosher dining facility would advance the SLI’s inclusivity mission.

Jewish and Muslim students in the late 20th and early 21st centuries began working together to research the logistics for creating a Kosher-Halal-friendly dining option. They eventually formed a committee, which included the President of Dartmouth Hillel, the President of the Al-Nur Muslim Student Association, and former Dartmouth Rabbi Edward Boraz. This committee collaborated with Dartmouth Dining Services (DDS) to determine what was possible for the future of a more inclusive dining experience. The committee finalized their research in a report titled “The College Committee’s Report on Kosher and Halal Dining.”

Final page of the committee report on Halal and Kosher dining, signed by three committee members

The committee determined that a “dedicated dining facility that would meet the needs of Muslim and Jewish students” would “[e]nable those with religious dietary requirements to feel more at home.” It would “creat[e] a better sense of inclusivity for those who wish to observe these [religious dietary] laws.” Other students who do not follow these requirements would also benefit. A Halal-Kosher facility would “[a]dd to the array of dining options and thus encourage the development of cross-cultural interaction among students.”

In the late 90s and early 2000s, Kosher and Halal dining options at Dartmouth were flawed, limited, or non-existent. The student committee reported that “there [were] no Halal products presently available.” Committee leaders acknowledged the efforts of DDS and Hillel but relayed that “existing facilities [did] not satisfy orthodox standards of Kashrut.” Barring “religious holidays and Friday evening services, Kosher dining [at Dartmouth was] marginal at best.” Dartmouth offered “Kosher sandwiches and microwavable dinners,” but the use of non-Kosher products in microwaves “render[ed] both the microwave and food subsequently warmed in it to be unfit.”

Students adhering to Kosher policies faced additional barriers during religious holidays, despite the Roth Center for Jewish Life serving Kosher-compliant food. Dartmouth Hillel, in response to the “increased demands for improved quality and greater supervision” of Kosher food, “retained Andrew Wiener Catering Service of Boston, an orthodox certified kosher caterer, to provide meals for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and post-fast meals.” However, the “dramatic increase in costs” forced Dartmouth Hillel to “charge half of its cost to the students’ meal plans.” In other words, there were economic obstacles that made dining less accessible for students with certain dietary needs.

Dartmouth administration, working towards inclusivity, began focusing on resolving these issues and accommodating more dietary needs. A Student Life Initiative planning document shared that in November 2000, the College announced that “‘Muslim and Jewish students forge[d] a ground-breaking agreement for a joint Halal-Kosher dining facility’ to be located in Thayer Hall.” This dining facility would later become known as the Pavilion, which still serves Kosher and Halal food options today. The SLI document also stated that College leaders advocated for this dining outlet’s placement in the Collis Center, Robinson Hall, or Thayer Hall: they found that it should reside in a “primary campus dining venue.” Administrators wanted those with these dietary requirements to feel fully integrated into the campus community. This indicates the College’s efforts to make dietary needs — and religious identities — welcome at Dartmouth.

To read the “The College Committee’s Report on Kosher and Halal Dining,” visit Rauner Library and request “The College Committee's Report on Kosher & Halal Dining” in Box 30887 from collection DA-798. For access to the Student Life Initiative planning document, ask for folder “SLI Social Dining” from Box 30373 from collection DA-8.

Posted for Thomas Corrado '25, recipient of a Historical Accountability Student Research Fellowship for the 2024 Winter term. The Historical Accountability Student Research Program provides funding for Dartmouth students to conduct research with primary sources on a topic related to issues of inclusivity and diversity in Dartmouth's past. For more information, visit the program's website.