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More people keep kosher during Passover so attendance at Hillel lunches and dinners should be especially high. Are financial burdens keeping students from eating at Hillel?

Credit: File Photo

For many students, Penn Hillel provides a welcoming home to eat meals that are kosher Passover. But these meals come at a price — one that is higher than for the rest of the year.

Meals at Hillel’s Falk Dining Commons in Steinhardt typically cost one meal swipe and three Dining Dollars. During Passover, this increases to one swipe and seven Dining Dollars for dinner and one swipe and five Dining Dollars for lunch on Thursday through Sunday. For students not on the meal plan, lunch and dinner cost around $20 each. Registration is required for Passover meals and free Seder dinners.

“Some people, while they may not keep kosher all year round, might be more likely to do so during Passover,” College sophomore Elena Prieto explained. “So technically there should be more people coming to Hillel for Passover than any other time of the year.”

Despite this potential increase in students, Prieto finds that some are discouraged to dine at Hillel because of the steep price. Prieto explained that Passover involves highly specific restrictions on food. For instance, meals must be made in a kosher for Passover kitchen, which is only available on campus at Hillel. This is especially difficult for freshmen who might not be able to cook in their dorm and thus have nowhere else to go.

Prieto also said the issue lies in timing; since Passover is near the end of the semester, some students run low on Dining Dollars.

“There are people who eat at Hillel every single meal because it is the only place to eat, so the fact that you have to pay more to begin with is not exactly fair.”

Penn Dining said the increased Passover prices are a direct result of the increased costs of preparing the resource-intensive meals.

“The ingredients required for Passover meals are substantially more expensive. Additional steps are also required for preparing the meals. There are specific guidelines for extensive cleaning which require, in some cases, that equipment be totally replaced,” Penn Director of Hospitality Services Pam Lampitt said in an email. “Penn Dining has worked with Hillel to minimize the financial impact of these requirements.”

During her freshman year, College sophomore Emily Lurie said she only ate once or twice at Hillel during Passover because of the price. She is not on a meal plan this year and does not need her food to be prepared in a kosher for Passover kitchen.

“I can go to Sweetgreen and get a salad for less than I would be able to go to Hillel,” she said.

Lurie finds that during a religious holiday with dietary restrictions, it is comforting to have a community where people are in the same situation. For many Jewish students, Hillel provides this community. But too many Penn students, Lurie said, are turned away by the pricing.

“Especially during the holidays, in my mind, that is a time to be more accommodating instead of less accommodating,” Lurie said. “There has to be some way to make [Hillel during Passover] more inviting.”

College freshman Ariela Stein keeps kosher and eats all of her meals at Hillel.

“Hillel is literally the only place in Philly where I can eat,” Stein said.

Stein mentioned that certified kosher for Passover food is difficult to find in a supermarket. Though she understands that Passover meals can be expensive, Stein still sees issues with Hillel pricing.

“The majority of students who go to Hillel are freshmen and don’t have access to [those things],” Stein said. “It is concerning for a lot of kosher students.”