In November, Michael Lazarus, president of the Chabad Student Network (CSN) at the University of Ottawa, began bringing kosher food options to Pivik, the student federation’s convenience store. Through his efforts, and the interest of Pivik management, kosher food availability at uOttawa has become a reality.
Pivik now carries kosher sandwiches, brownies, cookies, cheese bagels and mandel bread from Rideau Bakery, and Lazarus said he’s working with both parties to expand the menu even further.
While Lazarus concedes that kosher food at the uOttawa cafeteria will not be possible, he believes this is a milestone for Jewish university students and says the initiative has been very well received.
Rabbi Chaim Boyarsky of CSN hopes one day to expand this kosher food initiative to uOttawa’s medical school and, perhaps, even get a food truck. In the near future, however, Rabbi Boyarsky hopes to bring more kosher food options to Carleton University, perhaps as early as this semester.
This will not be Carleton’s first encounter with a kosher food initiative. Lewis Novak, a recent Carleton graduate, started the “Kosher Food Project” with the hope of creating a sustainable kosher infrastructure at Carleton. He organized numerous days when the kitchens were made kosher and fresh brisket sandwiches were made available to students. Additionally, two kosher microwave ovens were purchased (and kept under lock and key to ensure that kashrut is maintained) for Jewish students to heat up their meals.
Novak welcomes the news about the uOttawa initiative and said that if even “one student is able to have kosher food because of [Lazarus’] actions, it’s a success.”
Novak said he admires Lazarus’ passion, and his positive attitude and optimism is what brings real change to the community.
Optimism is a beautiful thing, and success should be celebrated, but the question becomes: what is the long-term viability of this effort?
The initiative was welcomed by students on the CSN Facebook page, but talk – or Facebook “likes” – is cheap. The reality is that all the heartfelt congratulations in the world will not guarantee this initiative’s continuity.
While there is no concrete information on how many students at uOttawa actually keep kosher, it’s safe to assume the number is low. Factor in the reality that kosher food is more expensive than non-kosher food; and the possibility of Pivik losing money on its gamble and ending the agreement with the Rideau Bakery is a reality that cannot be ignored.
Therefore the Jewish student body at uOttawa must come together in support of this effort. Facebook likes aren’t going to keep kosher food on the shelves for years to come. It is using the service that will.
So I’m calling on every Jewish student at uOttawa to buy just ONE kosher product from Pivik each month. (Of course, if you adore the irresistibly tasty goodness of a Rideau Bakery cheese bagel, then, by all means, buy as many as you want, as often as you want.) The fact is that a lot of people buying something at least once a month will make a big difference in creating a stable enterprise.
I’m calling for a unified effort among Jewish students to foster a more inclusive university experience for everyone. This is an opportunity to create real togetherness among Jewish students. The reality is that it can be tough to find something that all Jews agree on. In a world full of divisiveness, it’s nice to find a cause that everyone can get behind. You can bring Jews together on campus and keep kosher food available for your fellow Jewish students for as little as the cost of a brownie!