Kosher Halal Co-op Vital to OSCA, Oberlin Community

Eva Sachs, Contributing Writer

Imagine Oberlin without vegan dining options. Or without vegetarian options. What if vegans and vegetarians were required to undergo regular review of their eating habits? Given our student body, the results would be rather disquieting, and no doubt garner more than a little protest. And yet, when the Kosher Halal Co-op, which caters to the dietary needs of Jewish and Muslim students, faces similar obstacles, there is very little noise made about it.

The Oberlin Student Cooperative Association, of which KHC is a member, recently informed KHC that they wish to reinstate a long-unenforced policy “that the relationship between OSCA and KHC will be reviewed annually” — an extra ordeal that no other Oberlin co-op is forced to deal with. In addition, OSCA has ex- pressed frustration with the lack of 24-hour access to the co-op for inspections, as inspectors need to be accompanied through the co-op’s facilities due to kashrut ( Jewish kosher laws) and halal (Muslim dietary laws).

But, as Conservatory junior Emily Ostrom, a member of KHC, noted in a conversation after lunch on Wednesday, “24-hour policy won’t solve anything. It won’t make anything cleaner.” She argued that offenses cited by the General Management Team and OSCA board were many years old, and that cleanliness would not be changed by hypothetical 3 a.m. inspections. (The co-op had, in fact, gotten a “nearly pristine” evaluation from an inspection that morning, only getting marked down by two points.)

To add insult, there is clear misunderstanding of Jewish and Muslim custom. In a letter to the OSCA membership, three members of the GMT state that it accommodates the co-op “by not inspecting KHC on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, or Jewish holidays known as Chag,” when there is no reason that health inspectors should avoid the space on Fridays before the start of Shabbat, which does not occur until an hour before sunset, or on Thursdays. In fact, in a response letter, KHC states that, “We do not know how or why this entered into Continuing Policy.”

Being part of OSCA also means that KHC is more accessible to many people. Not only is it cheaper than CDS rates, but many people who would not otherwise join, and who are not necessarily Jewish or Mus- lim themselves, become members of KHC. When I ate with the co-op again for dinner on Wednesday, only three of the seven people I spoke with afterward said that they would have joined KHC if it were not for OSCA. But all of them insisted that they were very happy that they were in the co-op, and had remained in OSCA with the explicit intention of participating in KHC.

Besides, the relationship between OSCA and KHC is not merely one-sided. The co-op provides an accessible safe space and place to eat for people with very specific dietary needs and provides a good image for OSCA. “It makes negotiations with the College easier because the College does not like dealing with OSCA, but KHC makes the College look good,” says KHC member Nicole Siderits. “We have a Kosher and Halal eating space where Jews and Muslims eat together.”

But for all the frustration that the co-op’s members have expressed, many of them have hope.

“I have great respect for Paul DeRonne [president of OSCA], who’s handling this very well. I think this is nothing that can’t be worked out,” KHC member Nicole Siderits says. “I think that both parties are very committed to this, to OSCA, to the diversity within OSCA.”

Hopefully, she is right. It would be a very sad day were the Kosher-Halal Co-op to be torn apart by unwillingness to tolerate the minor difficulties that come along with dietary restrictions. The co-op members put it best in their letter to OSCA: “KHC is OSCA. KHC members are OSCA members, and we love it being that way.”