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Tartans 4 Israel hosts CoExistence Kitchen in CUC

Sophomore material science and engineering and biomedical engineering double major Rachel McCoy and senior business administration and information systems double major Carrie Weintraub served Middle Eastern food in the Jared L. Cohon University Center on Wednesday as part of Tartans 4 Israel’s mission to promote dialogue and knowledge between cultures.  (credit: Laura Scherb/Operations Manager) Sophomore material science and engineering and biomedical engineering double major Rachel McCoy and senior business administration and information systems double major Carrie Weintraub served Middle Eastern food in the Jared L. Cohon University Center on Wednesday as part of Tartans 4 Israel’s mission to promote dialogue and knowledge between cultures. (credit: Laura Scherb/Operations Manager)

On Wednesday, members of Carnegie Mellon’s Tartans 4 Israel club hosted a pop-up kitchen in the Jared L. Cohon University Center’s Wean Commons to give their own take on Conflict Kitchen’s Palestinian-themed food.

Serving kosher and halal falafel, hummus, pita, and other traditional foods from the Middle East and the contested regions, Tartans 4 Israel also had trivia relating to Israel and Palestine and distributed materials on coexistence in the Middle East, including “I [love] coexistence” stickers. There was also a board filled with sticky notes from students and faculty describing what peace meant to them.

The club hosted their CoExistence Kitchen not in an attempt to “put down any of the dialogue begun at Conflict Kitchen, but rather, an opportunity to bring the dialogue onto our campus, and be thoughtful about how we can engage in such complicated issues,” according to the event’s Facebook page.

The CoExistence Kitchen was sponsored by Hillel and a grant from the Israel Campus Coalition, with whom Tartans 4 Israel worked to put together the literature that they distributed, according to senior chemistry major and past Tartans 4 Israel President Danielle Schlesinger, who helped envision and plan the event. “The literature was filled with information about the Middle East, testimonies from different people who live in Israel regarding the peace process, and efforts for a two-state solution,” Schlesinger said.

Current Tartans 4 Israel president and sophomore chemical engineering and creative writing double major Naomi Sternstein said that she was extremely pleased with the events. “People were curious, asking questions, really seeking out new information, which made me really happy,” Sternstein said.

The analogous club at the University of Pittsburgh, Panthers 4 Israel, also hosted a CoExistence Kitchen the following day. The two joint events reached an estimated 400 students across both campuses. “We had really positive reactions,” Schlesinger said. “Everyone who came was willing to participate and thought that the conversation was interesting and important. We had a wide range of students as well.”

Sternstein was excited that people signed up to receive more information about hosting similar events and contribute to the education about these issues. “I was so happy that people were so engaged and wanting to know more,” she said.

Schlesinger said that the organization worked to make sure that all ethnic and religious groups — including Israelis, Arab-Israelis, Palestinians, Palestinian-Israelis, Christians, Druse, and Ethiopians — were included and respected.

“We wanted to be able to work with other on-campus organizations to co-sponsor the event, but unfortunately the timeline was too short to allow for that,” Schlesinger said. “However, the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) club at UPitt was able to contribute some language changes, which we were happy to incorporate.”

Hadeel Salameh, senior creative writing major at the University of Pittsburgh, is the president of Students for Justice in Palestine.

In an email, Salameh said that “SJP and I didn’t appreciate how Palestinians were constantly referred to as “Arabs” in the pamphlets and on the Facebook event page. Also, we had a problem with the Facebook page saying “Israeli and Middle Eastern food” as if Middle Eastern food is Palestinian food; it’s not, Palestinians have their own unique heritage and ethnicity although they are Arabs they are Palestinian Arabs.”

Salameh said, “SJP felt that CoExistence Kitchen failed to recognize Palestinians by failing to recognize that they are individuals separate from Middle Eastern and Arab terminology.

However, we told them that (both before and during the event) and during the event. When SJP representatives stood with signs saying so, the coexistence organizers approached us and heard our concerns and changed the terminology.”

According to Tartans 4 Israel leaders, the main point of the event was to keep up the dialogue that was started at Conflict Kitchen’s Palestinian-themed programming. Their goal, said Schlesinger, was to “expand that conversation onto our campuses, but concentrate more in the vein of coexistence. We wanted to look and talk more about what’s actually being done to support peace in the region. A lot of people on campus are not educated about what’s going on there unless they are directly involved. When Conflict Kitchen gives out information that is in-depth and intense, if you get it without context and background, it can be very overwhelming. We wanted to provide that context.”

“We wanted to show people that there are ways to expand the dialogue and learn new things while embracing all of the differences that exist there and spark conversations,” added Sternstein.

The Tartan also reached out to the co-director of Conflict Kitchen, Dawn Weleski (CFA '10) for comment. Weleski said that she and her co-director Carnegie Mellon art professor Jon Rubin were not contacted by the organizers of the CoExistence Kitchen.
They did not attend either of the events Weleski declined to comment on the grounds that they had no experiences upon which to comment.