Rabbi Shmuel Tiechtel

Chabad at ASU Rabbi Shmuel Tiechtel stands in the new location for the kosher kitchen, which is undergoing renovations.

Starting in August, when the 2018-’19 fall semester begins, Jewish students attending Arizona State University’s Tempe campus will have new options when it comes to purchasing food on campus.

After years of planning and conducting research, the university announced it will be offering kosher prepared lunches and dinners at the Hassayampa Academic Village Dining Hall. While the university already has an array of restaurants and markets for students to choose from, this is another step in ensuring they are being inclusive and responsive to all students who attend the school. Until now, students who keep kosher and wanted a full meal have had to leave campus and visit one of three Jewish organizations.

Rabbi Shmuel Tiechtel, who operates Chabad at ASU and serves as the campus rabbi for the 3,000-plus Jewish students who attend the university, said the realization of kosher prepared meals has been a long time coming. For years, students and parents have voiced their concern that the university’s food options were too limited for Jewish students.

“Chabad and the ASU administration, from President Crow and his entire leadership staff, have been working since 2009 on adding a private kitchen that could handle the guidelines of preparing kosher-type meals to students and staff throughout the day,” he said. “When students return to school the week of Aug. 10, they will no longer have to worry about not eating because there will be plenty of kosher food to choose from.”

Arizona State is ranked No. 1 in the country by U.S. News & World Report for being the leader in innovation when it comes to public schools, and Tiechtel thinks the new kosher dining initiative is in line with that reputation.

“When students suggest the school would benefit from having something new, President Crow listens,” he said. “He works hard at making sure that the university is meeting the needs of every student.” Adding ASU’s name to the list of universities that offer kosher dining, Tiechtel noted, “certainly shows why the school is top for innovation.”

Sam Zigman, community assistant for the Hassayampa dorms, thinks bringing kosher meals to campus is “definitely a great idea.” It may even encourage currently non-kosher Jewish students to partake. “As a student who doesn’t really keep kosher and works in the dorms,” Zigman said, “I’m excited to see what options they have for us.”

It will broaden the options for other students as well.

“Since the kosher dining area will be inside the main eatery hall,” Tiechtel said, “students who are not of the Jewish religion are also welcome to experience a kosher meal if they so choose to. We wanted to bring something special to campus that all the Jewish students can enjoy and make it a place where they could bring their friends as well.”

The new kosher dining options will be available to students who live on campus and have a meal plan through Sun Devil dining. The full menu will be released when students arrive for the new school year, but an article on ASU’s website mentions examples such as grilled Jamaican jerk chicken, fajitas, Thai curry and vegan mac ’n’ cheese.

“We are so pleased to get this up and running on the Tempe campus this semester and that’s where our focus is right now,” Tiechtel said. But other campuses won’t be neglected: Jewish students and staff are working on getting kosher food to the Downtown and West campuses as well. JN

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