Dartmouth Opens Inter-Religious Dining Facility
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 last month.
The Pavilion, a campus dining hall jointly conceived and realized by the college’s Jewish and Muslim students, offers 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,” also has been added to the dining hall’s offerings at the request of the college’s Hindu students.
The grand opening and dedication ceremonies included tours of the new facility and opportunities to sample foods from The Pavilion menu.
“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,” says Amin Plaisted, a Dartmouth computer programmer and the Muslim student adviser.
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 sakahara also became involved, and the committee decided to include those menu offerings as well.
All students, not just those who are religiously observant, are able to eat in the dining hall. In addition, like Dartmouth’s other dining halls, the Pavilion will be open to the general public.
“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,” says Rabbi Ed Boraz, the Jewish student adviser. “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.
“Really, running The Pavilion and adhering to the three different disciplines is similar to running three restaurants in one location,” says Robert Lester, manager of the new dining hall. Lester expects the new dining hall will serve approximately 150 meals per day.
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.
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