Another food fight at Harvard

Ethel C. Fenig
The great minds at Harvard University just can't seem to get this diversity, pluralism and multi culti thing right. Not to mention inclusiveness.  And when combined with something as difficult as food--well, Harvard just seems to collapse.  

Recently, Harvard succumbed after an Arab student went on a hate filled rant, complaining that hummus wasn't Israeli but Arab, or at least Mediterranean; labeling it Israeli was another sign of
Israeli domination.

Then Harvard University Dining Service (HUDS) decided that because kosher food is more expensive than non kosher food--and it is--only Jews should be allowed to eat in the Harvard Hillel House's kosher kitchen.  Hillel, found on many college campuses, provides programming, resources and services for Jewish students, faculty and staff.  While naturally aimed at Jews, Hillels are welcoming and do not prohibit non Jews.

A sign posted Nov. 9 at the entrance of the dining hall limited entry to "a member or an invited guest of Harvard's diverse Jewish community," the Harvard Crimson reported.

"The most important part of Hillel's mission is hospitality," Harvard Hillel's executive director, Rabbi Jonah Steinberg, told the Crimson. "[The restriction] creates conflict with our inclusive and welcoming environment, but I understand HUDS's concern about its budget."

According to Steinberg, who has been in contact with HUDS, kosher meals at Hillel cost twice as much as meals in other dining halls. "I don't know how you could visually single out individuals as belonging or not belonging in a community," Steinberg said. "I just hope we will work out a way with HUDS to make Hillel both a cost-efficient and a welcoming institution."  

While keeping kosher has many advantages, cost efficiency is not usually one of them.  But the problem has been solved in a Harvard way--just a misunderstanding, "inartfully worded"..."regret the confusion" and oh by the way, this is why we did it, according to an update from the student paper The Harvard Crimson.

The earlier sign prompted consternation among Jews and non-Jews alike. But a joint statement released by Associate Dean of Student Life Kimberly A. Pacelli, David P. Davidson from Harvard University Dining Services, and Rabbi Jonah C. Steinberg from Harvard Hillel said that the previous statement had been misunderstood.

"In an effort to continue fulfilling the kitchen's primary mission, a sign was posted that many mistakenly interpreted as restricting the facility solely to members of Harvard's Jewish community. This was never our intention, the sign was inartfully worded, and we regret the confusion it apparently engendered," the three wrote.

The joint statement also clarified the reasoning behind the policy, explaining that the kosher dining hall, intended to serve approximately 90 to 100 people per night, has seen recent spikes in attendance. On average, more than 200 students per night have dined at Hillel since the beginning of this year, often making it difficult for the small kitchen to accommodate students both with and without dietary restrictions.

Although the statement explains all are welcome at Harvard Hillel, it also asks that students be respectful of Hillel's purpose as a kosher dining hall. Most students who dine at Hillel said they were against the changes implemented by HUDS and supported the return to Hillel's former inclusiveness.

Next, to prove their dining diversity and food inclusiveness, HUDS will finally offer authentic Native American cuisine based on heirloom recipes from prized Native American scholar and now senator elect, Elizabeth Warren.

The great minds at Harvard University just can't seem to get this diversity, pluralism and multi culti thing right. Not to mention inclusiveness.  And when combined with something as difficult as food--well, Harvard just seems to collapse.  

Recently, Harvard succumbed after an Arab student went on a hate filled rant, complaining that hummus wasn't Israeli but Arab, or at least Mediterranean; labeling it Israeli was another sign of
Israeli domination.

Then Harvard University Dining Service (HUDS) decided that because kosher food is more expensive than non kosher food--and it is--only Jews should be allowed to eat in the Harvard Hillel House's kosher kitchen.  Hillel, found on many college campuses, provides programming, resources and services for Jewish students, faculty and staff.  While naturally aimed at Jews, Hillels are welcoming and do not prohibit non Jews.

A sign posted Nov. 9 at the entrance of the dining hall limited entry to "a member or an invited guest of Harvard's diverse Jewish community," the Harvard Crimson reported.

"The most important part of Hillel's mission is hospitality," Harvard Hillel's executive director, Rabbi Jonah Steinberg, told the Crimson. "[The restriction] creates conflict with our inclusive and welcoming environment, but I understand HUDS's concern about its budget."

According to Steinberg, who has been in contact with HUDS, kosher meals at Hillel cost twice as much as meals in other dining halls. "I don't know how you could visually single out individuals as belonging or not belonging in a community," Steinberg said. "I just hope we will work out a way with HUDS to make Hillel both a cost-efficient and a welcoming institution."  

While keeping kosher has many advantages, cost efficiency is not usually one of them.  But the problem has been solved in a Harvard way--just a misunderstanding, "inartfully worded"..."regret the confusion" and oh by the way, this is why we did it, according to an update from the student paper The Harvard Crimson.

The earlier sign prompted consternation among Jews and non-Jews alike. But a joint statement released by Associate Dean of Student Life Kimberly A. Pacelli, David P. Davidson from Harvard University Dining Services, and Rabbi Jonah C. Steinberg from Harvard Hillel said that the previous statement had been misunderstood.

"In an effort to continue fulfilling the kitchen's primary mission, a sign was posted that many mistakenly interpreted as restricting the facility solely to members of Harvard's Jewish community. This was never our intention, the sign was inartfully worded, and we regret the confusion it apparently engendered," the three wrote.

The joint statement also clarified the reasoning behind the policy, explaining that the kosher dining hall, intended to serve approximately 90 to 100 people per night, has seen recent spikes in attendance. On average, more than 200 students per night have dined at Hillel since the beginning of this year, often making it difficult for the small kitchen to accommodate students both with and without dietary restrictions.

Although the statement explains all are welcome at Harvard Hillel, it also asks that students be respectful of Hillel's purpose as a kosher dining hall. Most students who dine at Hillel said they were against the changes implemented by HUDS and supported the return to Hillel's former inclusiveness.

Next, to prove their dining diversity and food inclusiveness, HUDS will finally offer authentic Native American cuisine based on heirloom recipes from prized Native American scholar and now senator elect, Elizabeth Warren.