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Peninsula Mason Hall looking to go kosher

New dining for Orthodox Jews, plus some additional student housing proposed

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Jewish students returning to the College of Charleston could soon have a kosher alternative to the Holy City's many gentile offerings.

The local Masonic Temple Association, which has a difficult time selling their former event hall, is negotiating a deal that would turn the property at 145 St. Philip St. into a small dorm and a kosher cafeteria.

Orthodox Jews require a specific diet, where certain meats are forbidden and those allowed have to be prepared in a special way.

Within walking distance from the CofC campus, the property was occupied by the Beth Israel Synagogue for more than 100 years until 1951, when the church moved and sold the property to the local Masonic order.

The large Masonic temple that fronts the property was built in the early 1960s, but two smaller structures from the Synagogue days still stand at the back of the lot. The fraternal organization recently moved, but zoning regulations limit uses of the facility to religious groups, making it a hard sale.

Last month, the city's zoning board approved a special exception for the proposed dorm/cafeteria.

Maxine Bier, the Jewish student life coordinator, says that the kosher opportunity would draw more religiously observant students.

"We would be opening all new doors with recruiting," she says.

Martin Perlmutter, the director of Jewish Studies at the college, says the school has close to 700 Jewish students, and that some prospective students are lost over kosher concerns.

"I regularly have calls from parents who want their children to go (to CofC), but they don't because they have religious eating restrictions," he says.

The new use for the Masonic temple has faced some concerns from neighboring churches over parking.

"It's wonderful to believe that those students aren't going to necessarily need parking," says Kim Jackson, a member of Morris Brown AME Church. "The truth is that we have for years dealt with the perception that (the church lot) is free parking."

To address the issue, the local synagogue has agreed to provide additional parking when necessary. —Greg Hambrick

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