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Why do we eat Sufganiyot on Chanukah?

Renee Eder on Tuesday, December 4, 2018

It's Chanukah -- a time for latkes (potato pancakes), chocolate gelt (coins), and sufganiyot (jelly donuts). We know that we eat fried foods, such as latkes during this holiday, as a reminder of the miracle of the oil lasting eight days. But, why jelly donuts?

Sufganiyot are typically deep-fried and filled with jam, and then topped with powdered sugar. Besides the fact that they are fried in oil, if you are wondering why we eat them on Chanukah, here's the history:

The tradition of eating deep-fried pastries on Chanukah was considered even in the time of the 12th-century rabbi Maimonides, whose father, Rabbi Maimon ben Yosef, wrote that "one must not make light of the custom of eating sofganim [fried fritters] on Chanukah."

It took thousands of years, however, for sufganiyot to become a staple for Jewish people during Chanukah. In fact, the custom began in the late 19th century before the advent of the state of Israel. Sufganiyot were originally called bimuelos by Sephardic Jews, and ponchik by Ashkenazi Jews.

During that time, Polish immigrants brought the ponchik to Israel, where they eventually took the Hebrew name sufganiyot, from a ‘spongy dough’ mentioned in the Talmud.”

At first, jelly doughnuts were not widely eaten in Israel, even on Chanukah, as they were difficult and intimidating for many people to make. It was in the late 1920s that the Israeli labor federation championed sufganiyot as a Chanukah treat because they provided work – preparing, transporting, and selling the doughnuts – for its members.


So, in a nutshell, this is why sufganiyot take their place on the holiday table alongside latkes! For an easy sufganiyot in a bag recipe, please check our Facebook feed. We hope to see you at the menorah Lighting at Mosaic tomorrow night at 5:30 PM!



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