Local rabbi helps expand kosher offerings at Vanderbilt

The growing numbers of Jewish students at Vanderbilt have an important ally in their efforts to maintain their cultural identity in an atmosphere where they are a minority.

Rabbi Saul Strosberg of the Sherith Israel Congregation, an orthodox synagogue near Vanderbilt’s midtown campus, oversees the university’s expanding efforts to offer kosher meals.

“The Nashville Jewish community is notable in that it is so dedicated to our success and to the success of Jewish life on campus,” said Ari Dubin, executive director of Vanderbilt Hillel. “Rabbi Strosberg’s efforts are central to helping Jewish students stay in touch with their heritage during these crucial years.”

Kosher offerings at Vanderbilt began in 2002 with the vegan café Grins in the Ben Schulman Center for Jewish Life, which has become a popular lunch spot at Vanderbilt as well as Nashville in general. In the past two years, weekly Shabbat dinners have been added, along with holiday meals at Passover. A kosher hot dog cart has added a daily kosher meat option. Frank Gladu, assistant vice chancellor for business services, is now working with Strosberg to stock packaged kosher meals.

“Vanderbilt has made incredible inroads to accommodate Jewish students,” Strosberg said. “For traditional Jews, it’s the law that they keep kosher. There’s also another group of students who keep kosher for the first time in college. Their parents didn’t keep kosher, but they want to try it. It’s important to me that it be possible to keep your Jewish identity at a first-rate secular university.”

Strosberg, a native of Schenectady, N.Y., moved to Nashville to become the spiritual leader of Sherith Israel in 2005.

“I came here thinking I was going to be rabbi of a small synagogue,” he said. “But when you’re an orthodox rabbi, in certain senses you have to serve a broader audience than your synagogue. Helping Vanderbilt serve its Jewish students is a tremendous honor.”

Strosberg is a familiar sight on campus supervising the preparation of kosher food, especially around high holidays such as Passover.

“We’ve expanded the past couple of years by offering Shabbat dinners, Friday night dinners where students can come in and celebrate the Sabbath together,” he said. “The meals are completely kosher supervised with a real nice three-course dinner with different meats and salads and desserts. Passover kosher is more detailed and complex than regular kosher during the year.”

Jewish students make up 15 percent of the Vanderbilt student body, up from around 3 percent six years ago.

Media Contact: Jim Patterson, (615) 322-NEWS

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