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It may only be the fourth day of Sukkot—a Jewish holiday that celebrates the fall harvest—but it is the 16th day of the Harvard University Dining Services workers’ strike, which presents Harvard Hillel with unique challenges.
The Hillel dining hall, open to all Harvard undergraduates, serves kosher dinners every day and offers bagged lunches to students who order them. During Sukkot, Hillel also offers sit-down lunches so students observing the holiday can eat under a sukkah.
Because of the strike, Hillel does not currently have enough employees who know how to prepare kosher food working in the servery, according Talia Weisberg ’17, the co-president of the Harvard Hillel Orthodox Student Minyan. Instead, Hillel has been ordering food from Catering by Andrew, a local kosher catering company.
According to University spokesperson Tania deLuzuriaga, HUDS management is financing the catering.
“Food at Hillel is typically more costly to produce than that of other dining facilities, and there are some increased costs as a result of the current situation,” deLuzuriaga said.
Students say they have been pleased with the quality of Hillel’s catered food during the strike.
“There’s definitely less of a variety right now than there used to be—but there’s enough food and it’s good quality,” Edyt J. Dickstein ’17, the undergraduate president of Hillel, said.
“The catered food is really good. It seems markedly better than the food in the other dining halls,” Weisberg said.
The costs of the strike have not been solely financial. According to Weisberg, said the HUDS manager, Frank E. Kasprzyk, who oversees Hillel, has been working “insane hours.”
“Because of the holidays he has been staying even later—and we are all very sympathetic. He’s really exhausted. He’s trying to make sure the Hillel dining hall is running as smoothly as possible,” Weisberg said.
Dickstein also said she was disappointed by the changed atmosphere in the dining hall because of the HUDS workers’ absence.
“Because Hillel is a smaller community, everyone who’s very involved knows the dining staff, which adds a personal touch,” Dickstein said.
“The dining hall is very important to those of us who eat all of our meals at Hillel, because it’s the only place where we can eat kosher. We’re very close with the staff—we make them birthday cards every year and they know everyone’s allergies,” Weisberg said.
The strike has also affected Hillel events. “Cheap Eats for Grads,” a program at Hillel that offers dinner to all Harvard graduate students on Wednesdays and Saturdays for $5, was cut, according to Dickstein.
“Honestly, I just miss the Adams and Hillel dining hall communities—they both feel more like cafeterias than dining halls right now,” Dickstein, an Adams resident, said.
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