To offset an operating budget deficit, Harvard University Dining Services has implemented a dining restriction at Harvard Hillel that will curb the number of non-Jewish students eating at the kosher dining hall.
A sign went up on Friday at the entrance of the dining hall, limiting admittance to only those who are “a member or an invited guest of Harvard’s diverse Jewish community.”
“The most important part of Hillel’s mission is hospitality,” said Harvard Hillel Executive Director Rabbi Jonah C. Steinberg. “[The restriction] creates conflict with our inclusive and welcoming environment, but I understand HUDS’s concern about its budget.”
Preparing kosher meals at Hillel costs twice as much as preparing other meals in House dining halls, according to Steinberg, who has been in communication with HUDS.
HUDS Spokesperson Crista Martin declined to comment.
The sudden change to the dining restriction has created confusion and even some uproar among students.
“Nobody is happy about it,” said Arun A. Viswanath ’13, former president of Hillel’s steering committee. “This is not a question of who is Jewish and who isn’t, but more about how HUDS is going to pay for the meals.”
Viswanath added that some students are actively protesting the restriction, while others are waiting for the news to settle and planning discussions around the issue.
“It’s very unfortunate that HUDS has to deal with the deficit,” he said. “But I can’t say I support the restriction because it conflicts with our mission.”
Likewise, Sara Kantor ’14, the current president of Hillel, said the decision was an “unfortunate one.”
Kantor, a Crimson arts editor, also added that she worries about some students interpreting Hillel as an exclusive institution.
“This is hard to understand without context, but we want to emphasize that Hillel is an inclusive, open community,” she said.
On any given night, Hillel attracts anywhere between 90 to 145 students, Steinberg said. Because Hillel is “not a community that has a membership card,” Steinberg said that he does not know the exact breakdown between Jewish and non-Jewish students.
Despite some concerns, other students said that they see the restriction as being reasonable.
Hideko Tachibana ’13, a non-Jewish student who frequents Hillel about once a week, said that even though she is disappointed about the restriction, she admits that the dining hall gets very crowded during dinner.