Hillel Changes Sign, All Again Welcome

Hillel Revisions
Karen Zhou

Harvard Hillel revised its sign leading into the dining hall to encourage students to respect the traditions of Kosher dining, while also rewording its message to emphasize Hillel’s inclusiveness.

According to a new sign placed at the entrance of the dining hall at Harvard Hillel on Friday, Harvard University Dining Services has officially reopened the kosher kitchen’s doors to all.

The new policy welcomes “students of all backgrounds and faiths” to dine at Hillel, while still emphasizing the kosher dining hall’s mission “to foster and share Jewish life, ideas, and culture at Harvard.”

This announcement retracts HUDS’ earlier decision to implement dining restrictions at Harvard Hillel due to budget concerns. The former policy, explained on a sign outside Hillel dining hall last Friday, said admittance was limited to “a member or an invited guest of Harvard’s diverse Jewish community.”

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.

Peter N. Hadar ’13, the vice president for education at Hillel, said that HUDS’ restrictions were widely opposed. “I think it’s good that Hillel is living up to its mission of being inclusive to people of all ethnicities and religions,” said Hadar, who does not keep kosher.

Sara Kantor ’14, the president of Hillel, said that everyone involved in Hillel was “taken aback” by the restrictions placed upon the kosher dining hall.

Kantor, who is also a Crimson arts editor, said that the executive staff of Hillel had discussed the matter with HUDS this week to reach a compromise that could satisfy both parties.

“It is unfortunate that under any circumstances we would have to limit access to the dining hall,” Kantor said. “However, if [HUDS] is going to insist on having something, I like that they’ve phrased this new [sign] as more of a recommendation than a policy.”