Kosher life at Hillel and CSU’s Kosher Bistro

Keeping kosher or “kashrut” in Jewish life is a staple for many, though we know Jews are very diverse within their practice of Judaism. Not all Jewish people keep kosher, but many do. Whether we keep kosher for ourselves (or not) it is important to know the right and wrong way to stay kosher as well as some of the ways CSU Hillel keeps kosher a priority. 

The basics of “kashrut” or kosher is that anything that naturally grows is kosher. A vegetable like a carrot is kosher, but it gets more complicated when foods are processed. 

“Basically anything that naturally occurs is kosher, but when you process these foods that’s when it is more difficult. Sometimes you don’t know in factories what is mixed with what so that’s when you have to watch for kosher label markings,” said CSU Hillel director Alex Amchislavskiy 

Having a keen eye for kosher label markings is an important aspect of keeping kosher, especially if you are cooking for large amounts of people like CSU Hillel does. It’s why at the Hillel house we have separate dairy and meat kitchens. The meat one is downstairs, and the diary kitchen is upstairs. In each kitchen there are separate silverware sets and dining ware. All meat and dairy kitchen serving bowls or platters are labeled with a red “M” marking for “meat” or a blue  “D” for “diary” on the bottom to indicate which kitchen it belongs to.

Leadership team member Zack Josephs knows all about keeping kosher and the value two kitchens provides for the Hillel house and the student leaders who have 24/7 access. 

“Having two kitchens is very important because it gives us the ability to keep kosher and prepare kosher meals without necessarily the difficulties that come along with trying to do that with one kitchen, such as ‘will the dishwasher be meat or dairy,’ which makes cooking and cleaning more seamless,” said Zack. 

CSU Hillel is also very unique compared to Hillels around the country in that our Hillel home is an actual house. This allows for two kitchens and the required space for Hillel leaders to cook Shabbat meals.

“We are very unique in that we have a Hillel house that resembles a actual house. At bigger Hillel’s they have private chef’s cook the meals and it is essentially catered. Those Hillel leadership teams are more ‘hands-off.’ I think that we are unique in that we have two kitchens and have our students prepare meals which separates us in a positive way. It also cultivates bonding among our leadership team when cooking together,” he added.

Hillel downstairs kitchen (Meat).

The rules for keeping kosher are more complicated than just separation of meat in dairy. When it comes to items in both categories the determination is even made down to the way the animal is killed. 

“The determinants of kosher animals according to the Torah are that the animal needs to be a ruminant (chews their own cud) and to have split hooves. This is important because these are indicators of being herbivores. In kashrut none of the things we eat are predatory animals. Philosophical reasoning for this is we as Jews want to be peaceful people. It’s also why kosher butchers want the sharpest knife possible so they hopefully don’t harm the animal much, if at all, during the killing,” Amchislavskiy said.

There is one man who never needed a kosher 101 lesson because of his roots in Israel learning from his parents. 

Right across Laurel street and the CSU Hillel house is one of the only Kosher restaurants on a U.S. college campus. 

Across the street is Parmalee Hall’s “Kosher Bistro.” There you’ll taste an array of food styles. The master behind it all is chef Yotam Khalepari. 

Kosher Bistro — Parmelee Hall.
Head Chef at Kosher Bistro: Yotam Khalepari

Everyday Yotam is creating healthy, colorful and tasty kosher meals for hundreds of students and staff. 

When asked what his favorite meal to cook was Yotam was animated. 

“Anything I cook people like [pauses to laugh] because it is different from the other dining halls. Also the mediterranean and middle eastern style of food I make is not at a lot of other places,” Khalepari said.

One of benefits of kashrut is that the foods are naturally sourced. The cleanliness of the foods is a cleanse for your soul. Yotam says this is one of the biggest benefits of kashrut, besides the fact that all Jews should already be doing so. 

“First of all it’s for your health, second it’s to keep your soul clean.” When eating non kosher animals your soul becomes not pure anymore because you ate a non kosher animal,” Khalepari said, before adding, “If you are Jewish you have to eat kosher….it’s a command from Hashem.“Hashem is another term for “God” when not reading the Torah. 

Even if some of us don’t keep kosher every meal, it is nice knowing we have wonderful options of kosher foods for all  fellow Jews on campus. The kosher bistro is one the top locations among dining hall options too. We should remind ourselves the special work CSU and folks like Yotam do for making places like our kosher bistro possible. It has given back to many at CSU and certainly CSU Hillel has had their fair share of meal swipes as well. If you would like to join us for a meal please contact hillel@colostate.edu.

My name is David Kravitz. I’m a senior journalism major and this semester I’m writing stories for Hillel. I love to tell stories and write. I’m originally from Washington state. I enjoy cooking, writing, laughing with friends and enjoy dogs more than people. 

CSU Hillel serves as an important bridge from the Jewish kid world to the Jewish adult world. We empower students to become leaders, and provide a warm and welcoming home-away-from-home for every student. Additionally, at CSU Hillel we take pride in cultivating a strong community with our weekly shabbats, sustainability projects and community mitzvahs around Fort Collins, as well as, helping our students learn about Judaism and Israel in whatever capacity most comfortable to them. To learn more about CSU Hillel visit our website and make sure to follow us on social media on Facebook at CSU Hillel and Twitter @CSUHillel.