Pita Plus — College Park’s only kosher eatery — closed yesterday, leaving many Jewish students no alternative to the Hillel Center’s dining hall and calling for another option.
The university’s Orthodox Jewish community, which follows specific religious guidelines for food preparation, lamented the loss of a restaurant that served both as a hangout and a place to grab a good meal.
“Obviously I was disappointed because that was where, if I wanted to eat out, that’s where I’d go,” said Nina Calmenson, president of Kedma, the Orthodox student group at the university. “I was disappointed and surprised; they’re the only kosher restaurant in College Park. Now, you would have to drive to Silver Spring or Rockville, and in my opinion that’s a far drive.”
Students who can’t travel that far must come up with other food options. They will need to rely more on self-prepared food and the cafeteria at Hillel, a Jewish student group, they said.
And although Hillel offers kosher meal plans and a new market — with better food than before, some students said — some see dining there as a last resort.
“There was only one kosher place in all of College Park, and now we have to eat [at Hillel],” sophomore business major Jeff Rosenblum said. “Open that shit back up.”
It was not immediately clear what had caused the closure of the restaurant — located in downtown College Park on Lehigh Road next to Marathon Deli — but its disappearance caught some students off-guard.
“I was there a week before, and everything seemed normal,” junior psychology Eliana Sudikoff said.
Banners posted on the storefront yesterday advertised a Krazi Kebob restaurant — featuring “the best kebobs in town” — as “coming soon!” Pita Plus owner Liora Dahan declined to comment on the closure yesterday, and owners of the incoming restaurant couldn’t be reached for comment last night.
Since the university has a large Jewish population, some students want the Student Government Association to take action.
“Pita Plus was the only chance for kosher students to eat, except Hillel,” sophomore engineering major Ezra Weisel said. “The SGA, which is 30 percent Jewish, should do something to open something else up.”
It wasn’t just the Jewish student body that patronized Pita Plus, which featured Mediterranean-style shawarma, falafel and salad, junior neurophysiology major Adina Schwartz said.
“You could take your parents there when they came to visit,” Schwartz said. “It was a place to go with your non-Jewish friends.”
Not all students were up in arms about the loss of the restaurant. Some argued Pita Plus’ closing will increase students’ awareness of Hillel and promote more participation in Jewish culture on the campus.
“At the same time though, this helps Hillel’s business,” junior marketing major Avi Weinstein. “The Hillel could definitely use the promotion. To be the sole kosher place close to campus, it’ll bring a lot more people. They’ll be more involved. [Pita Plus] was too expensive for the college town it was in.”
But as a whole, many students lashed out against what they perceived as Pita Plus’ abandonment of the Jewish community.
“When you think about it, it’s really selfish,” senior history and individual studies major Tamara Burger. “They cared more about themselves rather than the thousands of students here who are kosher.”
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