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Jewish Identity and Food

Renee Eder on Tuesday, January 20, 2015

When you think of Jewish culture, what is one of the first things that comes to mind? Of course, it's food. Food is a large, important part of our culture, and we can't imagine it not being a core part of our Jewish identity.  In fact, we are famous for lox and bagels, latkes, white fish salad, challah, and matzo ball soup, and we are proud to be. I don't know about you, but I am getting hungry!

For Jewish people, food tells us a lot about our identity, our values, and our history. It gives information about the roles men and women have played in the family and the Jewish community. As we learn about food, we learn how Jewish families survived as an economic entity in different periods of history.

Here is a sampling:

  • For Jewish women, the story of food preparation is a story of our strength and our leadership in Jewish families. Women have been the chief preparers of food in many traditional Jewish homes. Generations of hardship and oppression honed the survival skills of women so they became fierce in their struggle to feed their children and give them the best shot at surviving and thriving.
  • For men this is also an important story. In the past, it was the men who were the food merchants, bringing different ingredients to communities around the world. Their literacy and the common languages of Hebrew, Yiddish, and other dialects made it possible for Jews to set up trade routes around the world. In contemporary times, many men are also enjoying cooking more in Jewish kitchens.

You can learn a little more about Jewish history and get some recipes for some traditional Jewish foods at Judaism 101.

Since food plays such an integral part in our lives and history, it is important that we celebrate it at the J. And guess what? For two weeks, that is exactly what we are doing. The Art of Jewish Food is an inaugural event of theatre, film, music, chefs, cookbook authors, plus cooking demonstrations and tastings, spanning from Saturday–Sunday, January 31–February 15. Events include a Tu B'Shevat seder, an event that celebrates wine and chocolate, a make, take, and bake event, and much, much more. Check out “The Art of Jewish Food” webpage and view this flier for more details. We hope to have a “nosh” (snack) with you there!


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