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Tutor's Letter Prompts Sharp Response

Berry Promises Not to Remove Toaster Oven From Dunster Kosher Table

By Stephen E. Frank

A Dunster House tutor's complaint about the use of University funds to purchase a toaster oven for Dunster's new kosher table has prompted a sharp response from the director of Harvard Dining Services and from several Orthodox Jewish students.

In a letter submitted to Dunster Dining Hall Manager Gerald A. Ardolino, non-resident tutor Noel Ignative called for the removal of either the oven or the sign labelling it "for kosher use only."

"It is my opinion that, while providing kosher food is a commendable effort to meet the wishes of Harvard's diverse community, the purchase of a toaster oven, reserved exclusively for kosher use, is an example of improper partiality towards one group," Ignatiev wrote.

The Dunster tutor added that, while kosher food is available to all members of the Harvard community, "including those who prefer their bagel with ham," the kosher toaster cannot be used for non-kosher purposes.

"I cannot see the justification for spending what in this context are public funds for an appliance whose use is restricted on sectarian grounds," he wrote later in the letter.

In response, Dining Services Director Michael P. Berry wrote that the table was set up as a pilot project "to meet the legitimate dietary needs of a sizable number of Harvard-Radcliffe students." He noted that the decision to provide kosher food at Dunster came after several meetings with undergraduates.

"[The toaster] was purchased with departmental funds, which are not for this purpose, or any other purpose, considered `public,'" Berry wrote. "We make discretionary use of our funds on a daily basis, and will continue to purchase food and equipment as we see fit to meet our food service programmatic needs."

Berry--who invited Ignatiev to meet with him to discuss the issue--added that he presently has no plans to change his policy regarding the toaster. "In the meantime, you can assume that we will neither remove the toaster oven nor the sign," he wrote.

In an interview with The Crimson yesterday, Berry said that he did not understand the logic behind Ignatiev's letter.

"I was bothered by [the letter]," he said. "If he wished to push the point, I'm adamant that the department acted in a prudent and I'd say pretty fair manner."

Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57 said having a kosher table at Dunster is consistent with the University's program of meeting individual dietary needs.

"It strikes me that we do try within the dining services...to try to provide appropriate food and appropriate special items for people who have special dietary or other [needs]," Jewett said. "So it strikes me that this falls within that kind of effort."

Several Orthodox Jewish students said they were upset by Ignatiev's remarks.

"It's astounding and upsetting that a...tutor exhibits such a lack of sensitivity and feeling towards other members of the community," said Crimson editor Allan S. Galper '93, who met with Berry several times to request the new kosher food service.

"Dunster House prides itself on its opennessand its tolerance, and a man who shows such anapparent lack of concern for those who don'thappen to eat the same food he does community,"Galper said.

Hillel Coordinating Council Chair Shai A. Held'94 said that Ignatiev's argument makes no senseto him.

"To provide kosher food without a kosher ovenis equivalent to not providing any kosher food,"Held said.

Under Orthodox Jewish dietary restrictions, anoven used to heat kosher food cannot be used fornon-kosher food.

"I don't know whether to be offended, annoyed,or simply to laugh," Held said. "I'm disappointedthat anyone would betray such a lack ofunderstanding of the issues at hand."

Ignatiev--who declined to comment on his ownreligious beliefs--said yesterday that hiscomments were not intended to offend anyone.

"I consider myself very sensitive to issues ofdiverse groups," he said. "I do not consider theletter to be in the least bit intolerant of anyperson's views, religious or otherwise."

The tutor added that he was motivated to voicehis concerns by a belief in the need to maintaindistinctions between religion and education.

Church-State Separation

"In a certain sense what I'm talking about isthe separation of church and state," saidIgnatiev, who is a tutor in the Committee onDegrees in History and Literature.

But Ignatiev said that he would not object toJewish students purchasing a toaster oven forkosher use out of their own funds.

"I would have no objection whatsoever to peoplewho wish to keep kosher pooling their money to buya toaster oven or accepting the donation of afriend who wants to by it for them," he said.

Dunster House Master Karel F. Liem saidyesterday that he has offered to pay for the ovenhimself, although he said he did not agree withIgnatiev that the University's purchase of thespecial toaster "is against any principles."

"I personally wrote out a check to cover thecost of the toaster oven," Liem said, adding thathe was not sure whether Berry would accept themoney.

Berry said last night that he has not heardfrom Liem. But he said that although he mightaccept a donation, he would do so reluctantly

"Dunster House prides itself on its opennessand its tolerance, and a man who shows such anapparent lack of concern for those who don'thappen to eat the same food he does community,"Galper said.

Hillel Coordinating Council Chair Shai A. Held'94 said that Ignatiev's argument makes no senseto him.

"To provide kosher food without a kosher ovenis equivalent to not providing any kosher food,"Held said.

Under Orthodox Jewish dietary restrictions, anoven used to heat kosher food cannot be used fornon-kosher food.

"I don't know whether to be offended, annoyed,or simply to laugh," Held said. "I'm disappointedthat anyone would betray such a lack ofunderstanding of the issues at hand."

Ignatiev--who declined to comment on his ownreligious beliefs--said yesterday that hiscomments were not intended to offend anyone.

"I consider myself very sensitive to issues ofdiverse groups," he said. "I do not consider theletter to be in the least bit intolerant of anyperson's views, religious or otherwise."

The tutor added that he was motivated to voicehis concerns by a belief in the need to maintaindistinctions between religion and education.

Church-State Separation

"In a certain sense what I'm talking about isthe separation of church and state," saidIgnatiev, who is a tutor in the Committee onDegrees in History and Literature.

But Ignatiev said that he would not object toJewish students purchasing a toaster oven forkosher use out of their own funds.

"I would have no objection whatsoever to peoplewho wish to keep kosher pooling their money to buya toaster oven or accepting the donation of afriend who wants to by it for them," he said.

Dunster House Master Karel F. Liem saidyesterday that he has offered to pay for the ovenhimself, although he said he did not agree withIgnatiev that the University's purchase of thespecial toaster "is against any principles."

"I personally wrote out a check to cover thecost of the toaster oven," Liem said, adding thathe was not sure whether Berry would accept themoney.

Berry said last night that he has not heardfrom Liem. But he said that although he mightaccept a donation, he would do so reluctantly

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