Kosher meals are now available to students in the dining halls of West Virginia University, in Morgantown, thanks to the efforts of one Israeli student and a Chabad rabbi.
Sharon Sinay, a freshman accounting major originally from Tel Aviv, started school at WVU last spring. Sinay moved into the dorms, where the purchase of a meal plan is obligatory, but because he keeps kosher, he found it very difficult to eat there.
“I complained a lot,” Sinay said, “but they told me there was nothing they could do.”
Sinay made do by eating fish, and tuna sandwiches that he requested be made with clean gloves, rather than ones used to make sandwiches of nonkosher meat.
But he wasn’t happy.
“It was hard to do Passover. I ate a lot of vegetables,” he said. “I knew that I wasn’t keeping 100 percent kosher.”
Sinay finally sought the help of Rabbi Zalman Gurevitz, of the Chabad Jewish Center at WVU.
Gurevitz, who has been running the Chabad Jewish Center for the last three years, said he has been telling students for some time to request kosher food in the dining halls.
“I told them, if no ones asks, they’re for sure not going to do it,” he said.
While Chabad offers students four hot, free, kosher meals a week, prepared by Gurevitz’s wife, Hindy, and the rabbi’s home is always open to students for meals, “it isn’t practical for them to come to my house three times a day,” he said.
After hearing of Sinay’s complaints, Gurevitz contacted the senior manager of dining services at WVU. Although Sinay had been complaining to the dining hall workers, those complaints had never before reached senior management.
Gurevitz then met with David Friend, director of WVU dining services, and requested that frozen kosher meals be brought in as an option for the students. Friend, after having the concept of kashrut explained to him, was happy to comply.
“The nice thing about it,” Gurevitz said, “was that they saw one student in need, and were happy to help him out.”
Gurevitz said he knows of at least three students who are taking advantage of the kosher option so far. There are fewer than 1,000 Jewish students at WVU, out of a total student population of about 27,000.
While it is costly to put in a kosher kitchen, the school might consider that option, depending on how many students request the kosher meals, Gurevitz said.
In the meantime, Sinay is enjoying his kosher food.
“This makes the difference for me,” Sinay said. “It makes me want to stay [at WVU]. Without Rabbi Zalman, I couldn’t make a Jewish life here.”
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)