Just before academics at Temple University formally welcomed a visiting Israeli scholar last week, students crowded into the Hillel building to munch on samples from a brand-new kosher cafe.
"Dude, habañero mustard!" Twenty-year-old Scott Rosnov waved a roast-beef sandwich toward a friend. "That's what I want!"
Rosnov said he doesn't usually keep kosher, but "when the opportunity arises, I do, so this is going to be a big help."
"It's pretty cool to have a place that suits religious needs and serves delicious food," he said.
The kosher eatery, dubbed Cafe 613, has been in the works since plans for the $7 million building began solidifying in 2002.
Though the building opened last fall, negotiations with the university food-service provider and other preparations delayed the dining-hall service, said Hillel director Phil Nordlinger.
Students can use their regular meal plans to purchase food at the cafe at no extra surcharge. The cafe is also open to the community and menus may eventually be posted online, said Nordlinger.
"It's been fulfilling to see so many students in and out of the building trying it," he said, estimating that more than 150 students showed up for the taste-tasting.
Nordlinger lauded the cafe as an opportunity for Temple to sustain its Jewish population, and perhaps attract new students who need kosher dining or simply like to have more facets of Jewish life on campus.
As Rabbi Howard Alpert, director of Hillel of Greater Philadelphia, put it, kosher dining becomes a "platform" for building community.
"The product is not kosher food," he said. "The product is Jewish community."