New initiative will bring more Kosher options to Champaign-Urbana

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Courtesy: Dancing Dog in Urbana Courtesy: Dancing Dog in Urbana

CHAMPAIGN COUNTY – An initiative, headed by Illini Hillel and the Orthodox Union Jewish Learning Initiative on the University of Illinois campus, is helping local restaurants get Kosher certified.

Cold Stone Creamery, in Champaign, and the Dancing Dog, in Urbana, will receive the certification by the Vaad Hoeir of St. Louis this spring and summer. According to Illini Hillel representatives, these will be the only Kosher restaurants in the state of Illinois outside of Chicago. They hope the initiative will encourage more restaurants in the area to consider the koshering process and become more accessible to a growing population of Jewish students and community members.

University of Illinois senior Soloman Lowenstein says the increase in the number of Kosher establishments in the area will make it easier for students to keep with their religious practices.

“Keeping Kosher is an aspect of Judaism that is important to many students, and the increase of Kosher options in the neighborhood makes us feel more connected to the community,” Lowenstein explains.

The certification will be under the local supervision of Rabbi Shlomo Schacter, with partnerships overseen by Rebbetzin Ahava Schachter Zarembski and Hillel’s Executive Director, Erez Cohen.

“Eating is one of the basic social experiences as human beings,” Zarembski said. “We, the Jewish community, are thrilled to further build infrastructure in the Champaign-Urbana community to share good food with the broader community while staying true to the uniqueness of our tradition.”

Owner of participating restaurant Dancing Dog, Brian Behrns, says, by operating an establishment that primarily serves vegan food, he understands how hard it can be to find restaurants that meet a person’s ethical standards.

“I understand those who follow a kosher diet would like to enjoy the same pleasures and conveniences that the general population may take for granted.  If becoming Kosher can be mutually beneficial by providing ease of mind to the Kosher-keeping community, we are ready for the relationship,” Behrns adds.

Initiative representatives add another local restaurant is also in talks to start the certification process.

Restaurants in the campus area interested in becoming Kosher can contact Karembski at ahava@illinihillel.org or by phone at (217) 954-8782.

To learn more about the Jewish community on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus, visit Illini Hillel’s website.

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