University of Illinois fans who observe kashrut can now enjoy a hot dog with the rest of the Fighting Illini. The flagship campus at Urbana-Champaign has introduced a kosher food stand at basketball games this year.
The Associated Press reports that the kosher dogs, drinks, and snacks are thanks to the efforts of local Chabad Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel. Teichtel was dissatisfied that outside food was not allowed in the school’s State Farm Center, leaving observant Jews with few dining options.
The university has about 3,500 Jewish students out of 43,000 total, and it’s likely few of them keep kosher. Tieichtel confirmed that few of the stand’s customers on opening night this week were observant Jews. But he was excited that others have been eagerly enjoying the treat, including some observant Muslim diners, who must avoid pork hot dogs to observe halal. The food stand’s volunteers promote the hot dogs simply as “the best all-beef hot dog” at the arena.
Kosher food options are somewhat common in professional sports arenas, especially in cities with large Jewish populations; one blogger lists 31 professional stadiums with kosher food stands.
But these choices are much less common at the college level. The AP could find only one other kosher food stand nearby. Not coincidentally, it was founded by Tiechtel’s brother, Zalman, at the University of Kansas.