Our Aliyah Chronicle
By Shmuel Katz
I made my only planned overseas trip for the year this week, to help recruit for the upcoming yeshiva year. There are two basic kinds of trips that I make. Most of my past trips have been of the “one-to-three-city” variety. I may make a couple of one-day trips to “out of town” destinations, but the main part of the trip is based primarily in one major city for several days.
The other type of trip is what I call the “Arba Kanfos Haaretz” trips. On this type of trip, I do something like five cities in seven days. It is a very tiring trip, with lots of time spent on airplanes, but it is kind of fun to see all the different cities. This current trip is one of the latter.
I arrived in New York on a Thursday and went to the Israel Night event in Rambam that night. On Friday, I went to Toronto for Shabbat. On Sunday, I returned to New York for the YU Open House. I then drove to Pittsburgh to visit a school there on Monday. Monday afternoon, I flew to Dallas for another school visit. As of the time I write this article, I was supposed to have flown to San Diego on Tuesday evening and then returned to New York to drive up to Connecticut on Thursday.
I currently have Friday as an off-day, with Sunday as a travel day . . . to London, where I will spend a couple of days visiting schools there before returning to Israel just in time for Chanukah. Even though I am really only working for a few hours a day, all the travel—checking in and out, renting cars, and finding places (even with GPS)—is a bit draining. Then there is the need to find my satellite office for the city. (I have an office in every city in the U.S., where I can sit and work on my computer for hours on end and even enjoy a coffee or tea. I think you might call it Starbucks.)
A critical part of the day is finding a convenient place to grab a bite to eat. Most of the out-of-town venues have a bagel shop and kosher supermarket at the least. Many have a pizza store or burger joint. So I can usually find something to take with me for lunch/dinner on the plane or wherever I am staying.
However, the route from NYC to Pittsburgh looked to be devoid of any place to find a kosher meal or sandwich. That is, until I found the kosher cafeteria at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. And I am sure at least 95 percent of you are saying, “huh?”
With an excellent hashgachah (Star-K and Star-D), and only 20 minutes off the highway (not bad, considering that it was a six-hour drive), this cafeteria seemed to be a really good option for somewhere to stop and relax for a few minutes while grabbing a bite. So I decided to try it.
The kosher cafeteria is located within the school’s cafeteria wing. I walked in and found Geoff Rosenberg, the mashgiach on-duty at the time. I told him that I had never heard of the school before and asked how many Orthodox students they have that makes it worthwhile to have a kosher cafeteria. He told me that there are no more than four on any given day. This made no sense to me.
He then explained that the college is actually 35% Jewish, and that parents view the kosher facilities as a definite plus. Although they are not religious themselves, the many services the cafeteria offers, including kosher food, makes the school perhaps a bit more attractive. With a full tuition bill per student of $50,000, adding a few students to the school makes a big difference to their bottom line.
On top of that, with an “all you can eat” meal plan/price, students who don’t keep kosher are able to take food from the kosher cafeteria, which provides an added service for the students. Finally, since the kosher kitchen is part of the main school dining facility, they are able to minimize costs by piggybacking their order onto the main provisions order.
I got a couple of totally delicious sandwiches for the car, and I recommend considering a stop at Muhlenberg College on an upcoming trip. If school is in session and the place is open, you will probably enjoy a truly unique experience. I know I did. And I had a little “outside of Israel” adventure. v
Shmuel Katz is the executive director of Yeshivat Migdal HaTorah (www.migdalhatorah.org), a new gap-year yeshiva in Israel. Shmuel, his wife Goldie, and their six children made aliyah in July of 2006. Before making aliyah, he was the executive director of the Yeshiva of South Shore in Hewlett. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.