Legislation seeks to ensure halal, kosher foods available in hospitals, schools

By Madhu Krishnamurthy

As suburban families prepare to come together this week for Thanksgiving meals, among the meat options they might find at the grocer are halal and kosher turkeys.

Halal (permissible) and kosher (pure, proper or suitable for consumption) meats and foods must follow specific requirements related to their slaughter and preparation as prescribed by Islamic and Jewish laws. Though such options are available at grocery stores and some restaurants throughout the Chicago area, that's not the case in settings such as prisons, hospitals and schools.

One Muslim nonprofit is trying to change that.

The Illinois Muslim Civic Coalition is urging faith communities to come together in support of proposed legislation that would ensure all state-run facilities, including prisons, hospitals and public schools, offer halal and kosher meal options upon request.

The Faith by Plate Act - HB1574 - is expected to be considered by state lawmakers when they resume their fall veto session after Thanksgiving. The measure was supposed to be reviewed in the Senate last spring but was moved to the House after a few amendments, including adding the kosher piece, said Maaria Mozaffar, the coalition's director of advocacy and policy.

Mozaffar said members of the Chicago-area Muslim and Jewish communities have come together to draft the language and advocate for the legislation.

According to the coalition's Illinois Muslims Report, 74% of those surveyed said halal food is important to them and almost 36% of parents with school-age children said their kids don't have access to halal food in their schools. Mozaffar said the hope is to get the legislation to pass a House Rules Committee review.

"We just want it to be heard in the next legislative session before inauguration," she said. "We want it to be able to go through now versus when the new class (of elected officials) comes in. All these legislators have been educated on it."

Presidential hopefuls:

Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove has selected three finalists for its next president - the fifth in the college's history.

Among them are Mark Curtis-Chávez, provost at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, and Jamal Scott, vice president of strategy and community development at Waubonsee.

Either candidate's selection would make history as the college's first Latino or Black president, respectively.

Curtis-Chávez is an Aspen Institute 2020-21 Rising Presidents Fellow. He serves as the board secretary of the National Community College Hispanic Council.

Scott serves on the boards of the Morton Arboretum and the Aurora Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, and chairs the Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The candidates will advance to the next step in the search process, which includes on-campus interviews.

Whoever is chosen will take over from Christine Sobek, who is retiring in early January after 33 years with the college and more than 21 years as president.

Palestinian convention:

American Muslims for Palestine's annual convention returns for its 15th year this Thanksgiving running Thursday through Saturday at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare Chicago Hotel, 9300 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., in Rosemont.

It's the largest family-oriented U.S. gathering for Palestinians with special tracks for college activists, youth and young children. It draws thousands of attendees each year, including dozens of activists, guest speakers, community leaders, panel discussions, workshops, exhibits, displays, film screenings and folkloric entertainment.

For tickets, visit

Police classes in Spanish:

The Aurora Police Department will begin accepting applications for its Spanish-language civilian police academy in February.

The department recently marked its first group of academy graduates.

The academy teaches participants how the police department and its officers function on a daily basis. It explores a variety of interactive topics including the difference between criminal and civil law, gang and drug awareness, use of force, investigations and juvenile law. Participants also engage in practical exercises covering building searches, crime scene processing and traffic stops.

The academy is free and open to anyone 21 or older who lives, works or owns property in Aurora. For more information, visit

College success:

Elmhurst University junior Angel Garcia of Rolling Meadows took first prize at the fall Bluejay Tank Pitch Competition.

Garcia's idea for a nonprofit that would host summer programs for high school juniors and seniors from underserved communities won $1,500. His Bluejay Hatchlings: The Elmhurst Experience pitch was among six business concepts by student entrepreneurs. It aims to improve students' college experiences, leading to higher graduation rates and greater employment success.

Students vied for $3,000 in prize money and real-world business advice from a panel of Elmhurst faculty and working entrepreneurs.

Jessica Pavliukovecas, a junior from ­­Des Plaines, won second place and $1,000 for her pitch, Tuneup. The free car service app would give reminders for regular services, diagnosing problems and finding the best repair shop in the area.

Juniors Miftha Syed, of Lombard, and Aaliya Khaja, of Addison, won third place and $500 for their pitch, Instapark. The app is geared toward colleges and universities and would be funded by them. It would help students find parking spots using geolocation.

Supporting artisans:

Aurora University's Latino students are selling handwoven pulseras - bracelets - to benefit Nicaraguan folk artisans.

The annual sale supports the Pulsera Project, a Charleston, South Carolina-based nonprofit that educates, empowers and connects Central American artists with students in more than 3,000 U.S. schools.

Since its founding in 2009, Pulsera Project volunteers have raised more than $5 million to create jobs, empower Central American communities and provide educational programs.

Students in Aurora University's Spanish Language Association will sell the bracelets from 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. today in the Dunham Hall lobby, 1400 Marseillaise Place, and 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Tuesday in the lobby of Institute for Collaboration, 1347 Prairie St. The sale is open to the public. Bracelets are $7, while purses and headbands are $15.

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Mark Curtis-Chávez
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