Dining With Dignity

By - Jennifer Freedman, second year Ryerson Journalism student

The concept of a “Free Pop Up Restaurant” was brought to the Ryerson campus on Tuesday, March 31 with a joyous event called Dining with Dignity, created and hosted by Ryerson Hillel student Rebecca Katzman. Katzman is an intern for the Israel Engaged Campus, a program led by Hillel at Ryerson. The Israel Engaged Campus project is unique and serves the nature of Ryerson University, where students are professionally focused from the start of their academic careers. This approach allows networking opportunities to the students and growth in their profession, as well as the opportunity to integrate their connection with Israel into their professional lives. It also engages many stakeholders in the program by involving faculty members, students and the entire ecosystem of the university in the project. The Israel Engaged Campus is a pilot project that is taking place at five Hillels across North America, including Hillel at Ryerson, and is a project supported by Hillel International and The Jewish Agency For Israel.
As an Israel Engaged Campus intern, Katzman’s goal is to engage Ryerson social work students in conversations about Israel in relation to their professional faculty of social work. With the input of her fellow social work students, Rebecca created a ‘Free Restaurant’ initiative on campus, modeled after one that takes place in Israel by an organization called Meir Panim. The goal of this concept is to provide food for those in need while ensuring that the recipients maintain their dignity and respect.
The Credit Union Lounge was set up like a restaurant, with tables dressed with tablecloths and eating utensils nicely set upon them. One participant even said that it “Almost looks like a high end restaurant.” The “Free Pop Up Restaurant” was created to have the décor and ambiance of a restaurant, modelled after the free restaurants in Israel so that people who are in need of food can dine with dignity and feel comfortable, as it creates a dining experience.
“I’m hoping the event will bring advocacy to campus and connect Israel to our faculty. It’s a Jewish tradition and if there were enough funding, I would even consider doing this weekly,” said Ryerson University student and Israel Engaged Campus Intern Rebecca Katzman.
The food that was served was Israeli cuisine from Elite Salads. Volunteers would plate and serve the food to participants who sat down at the tables on a walk in basis. On each table were posters with information about the ‘Dining with Dignity’ concept as well as other unique social service initiatives that Israel does to help people that are in need of food. Participants described the food as ‘delicious’ as they dug their forks into couscous, Israeli salad, hummus, falafel and pita. All the food was vegetarian and kosher so that there was something for everyone. While enjoying Israeli cuisine, the participants engaged in discussions with the volunteers, learning more about Israel and this initiative. Volunteers also created food packages and brought them outside to people in the Yonge and Dundas area, thereby including the Toronto community as well in this project.
“I knew about the event before it happened and a lot of the feedback is very positive. The food is what draws people in and it lets them experience how people dine with dignity,” said fellow Ryerson Student and Students Supporting Israel at Ryerson President Hadas Hait.
With a whopping 230 students, professors and the President of Ryerson University Sheldon Levy attending Dining with Dignity, the event was a great success.