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Our Southern kitchens are where Black and Jewish traditions come together

(JTA) — We grew up in South Carolina in the late 1960s and ’70s, one of us from the capital city, Columbia, and the other from the small town of Summerton. The foods served on our respective tables were a blend of Southern and Jewish, menus long ago established by our immigrant grandmothers and the African-American women who cooked for their families. Kashrut was observed in our grandmothers’ kitchens, and Southern recipes recrafted for a kosher table mingled quite comfortably with the stuffed cabbage and tzimmes. Favorite family recipes were handed down from generation to generation — l’dor v’dor.

Our Southern Jewish table — where crispy fried chicken sat next to a sweet and sour brisket, where chopped liver was served during the cocktail hour, and where bowls of steaming hot rice and fresh vegetables graced our table — is a part of our collective lived experience.

As women pulled by the force of both our region and our religion, we recognize the expressive power of food. In researching and writing our new book “Kugels & Collards,” we have grown far more aware of nuances in Southern Jewish foods and connections spanning cultures, races, pantries and people.

And we have discovered the presence of boundaries — cultural, dietary and physical — that have existed historically and, in some instances, remain today. As Marcie Cohen Ferris writes in the book’s foreword, “Southern Jews revealed who they were and what they believed through the foods they ate — and did not eat — in a region where treyfe (nonkosher) pork, shellfish and wild game were at the center of local cuisine.”

In one of the stories in our book, Aaron and Eli Hyman, owners of the acclaimed seafood restaurant Hyman’s in Charleston, share their memory of catching blue crabs on Sullivan’s Island as young children with their grandfather. Aaron recalls, “We were not allowed to bring the crabs in the beach house, which had a kosher kitchen, but we steamed them and ate them outside on newspaper out of respect for our great grandmother.”

The diversity of ingredients found in our favorite meals reflects the contributions of individuals underrepresented in or absent from earlier accounts of Southern Jewish cuisine. What we consider “typical Southern fare” reveals the culinary legacy of Africans brought against their will to the American South centuries ago. On many Southern Jewish tables, it is not unusual to have African-American staples such as collard greens, black-eyed peas and rice alongside European Jewish dishes like brisket, tzimmes and kugel. The aromas, textures and tastes of these meals made their way into the homes of our immigrant grandparents through generations of Black South Carolinians working in traditional Jewish kitchens.

One of these women is Charlestonian Annie Gailliard, whose recipe for okra gumbo we share in “Kugels & Collards.” Like many great cooks, Annie cooked by taste and passed her recipe verbally down to her employers, the Firetags, Lyssa’s grandparents. Annie and her husband, Walter Gailliard, and their children shared a backyard in Charleston with the Firetags, for whom she began working in 1933. Aside from the requirement that she cook kosher, Annie controlled the kitchen, cooking three meals a day.

For the Firetag family, she made the okra dish kosher, which meant no bacon or bacon grease. Although traditional gumbos have a roux base, Annie’s recipe is more like a succotash. Lyssa in turn has given the recipe a Jewish touch, with a dollop of shmaltz and olive oil, served with the Jewish grain dish called kasha varnishkes rather than white rice.

Annie died in 2003 at the age of 99, and Lyssa attended her funeral with her mother and other family members. Annie’s is one of many beloved “family” recipes created by — and appropriated from — skilled Black cooks.

On the Southern Jewish table many cultures are savored. Food is a vital part of the South’s Jewish geography and foodways stretching across state lines to shape Southern culture.

In our own Southern homes, and certainly through the process of writing “Kugels & Collards,” we have come to appreciate how food marks time and place, season and generation, tragedy and trauma, milestones and memory.


The post Our Southern kitchens are where Black and Jewish traditions come together appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Online Live Chat Service for Jews to Connect With Rabbis Sees 300% Increase Since Oct. 7 Attacks

A protester wrapped in an Israeli flag at a rally against antisemitism at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Photo: Reuters/Lisi Niesner

A live web service provided by Aish.com that allows users to speak directly with one of the Jewish organization’s leading rabbis has seen a 300 percent increase in usage since the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel.

More than 5,000 chat responses (over 225 per day) are received each month, according to Aish, which added in a press release that many of the chats turn into extended conversations, sometimes on WhatsApp, in which rabbis help unaffiliated or disconnected Jewish users reconnect with their Jewish identities and form bonds with other Jews.

The Jewish organization said it believes the increase in usage of its live web chat service is due to the global rise in antisemitism and a newfound curiosity about Israel following Oct. 7, as well as a “yearning for meaning and community in the face of life’s uncertainties, and a desire for deeper meaning and spirituality in the face of a fast-paced modern culture where spiritual needs have been put on a backburner for too long.”

“We’re hearing from so many Jews who feel profoundly disconnected, whether due to living in areas with little Jewish community or lack of affiliation growing up,” said Rabbi Tzvi Broker, who oversees Aish.com‘s Live Chat. “The personal nature of these interactions, coupled with their anonymity, creates a safe space to ask questions and begin exploring. Having a live rabbi to connect and share with, has been a draw for many, and we’re seeing lives transformed as a result.”

Among their efforts, Broker and his team have helped people on the chat slowly incorporate Jewish rituals and traditions into their lives, and have connected them with peers through the organization’s new online community Aish+ so they can continue learning and engaging with other Jews.

“It’s amazing to witness lives being transformed in such profound ways,” said Broker. “Jews around the world are finding threads of connection to their heritage, and tapping into the depth and wisdom of our tradition to find meaning, community, and resilience in these challenging times.”

Bob Diener, the founder of hotels.com and the seed funder of Aish.com’s live chat, added in a statement: “The chat has been a powerful way for people to connect one-on-one with a spiritual leader and have their unique questions answered in a non-threatening and non-intimidating way. The chat’s rabbis are connecting so many people to their roots who otherwise don’t know where to go for guidance.”

“The chats have had a deep impact on many disconnected from the Jewish community,” said Aish CEO Rabbi Steven Burg. “Each of the people we connect with demonstrates a broad yearning to explore Jewish spirituality, peoplehood, and identity and that is why they have been turning to Aish for connection and guidance. We are happy to provide both while connecting them with local Jewish communities in their area, if there is one, to continue their journey.”

The post Online Live Chat Service for Jews to Connect With Rabbis Sees 300% Increase Since Oct. 7 Attacks first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Jerry Seinfeld Ridicules Anti-Israel Heckler Interrupting His Show in Australia: ‘You Moron, Get Out of Here’

Jerry Seinfeld attends the premiere of Netflix’s “Unfrosted” at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles, California, US, April 30, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/David Swanson

Jewish comedian and actor Jerry Seinfeld roasted an anti-Israel protester who tried to disrupt his comedy show in Sydney, Australia, at the Qudos Bank Arena on Sunday night.

Videos from the scene showed a male heckler in the audience repeatedly shout, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a slogan that has been widely used as a call for the destruction of Israel.

While the disruptive audience member continued to chant in support of Israel’s extermination, Seinfeld ridiculed him, sarcastically telling the audience:  “We have a genius, ladies and gentlemen! He’s solved the Middle East! He’s solved it: It’s the Jewish comedians, that’s who we have to get! They’re the ones doing everything.”

“Go ahead, keep going,” Seinfeld told the anti-Israel heckler as the audience laughed and cheered. “They’re gonna start punching you in about three second so I would try and get all of your genius out so we can all learn from you. It’s a comedy show you moron, get out of here.”

The heckler was eventually escorted out of the arena by security personnel and as he walked out of the venue, Seinfeld mocked him some more by sarcastically saying: “You’re really influencing everyone here. We’re all on your side because you have made your point so well and in the right venue. You’ve come to the right place for a political conversation. Tomorrow we will read in the paper: ‘Middle East, 100 percent solved thanks to man at the Qudos Arena stopping Jew comedian.’ They stop him and everyone in the Middle East went, ‘Oh my god, let’s just get along.’”

The “Seinfeld” creator then jokingly suggested that to solve issues with “indigenous Aboriginal people and the white people” maybe he should harass Australian comedian Jim Jefferies during a comedy show in New York because “if this works, that will work.”

“You have to go 20,000 miles from the problem and screw up a comedian. That is how you solve world issues,” Seinfeld quipped.

Seinfeld had a number of his comedy shows recently disrupted by anti-Israel activists because of his support for Israel since the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks. Seinfeld’s commencement speech at Duke University was also interrupted by similar protesters, who staged a walk-out shortly after he was introduced on stage.

During an interview last month, Seinfeld addressed protesters by saying: “It’s so dumb. In fact, when we get protesters occasionally, I love to say to the audience, ‘You know, I love that these young people, they’re trying to get engaged with politics … we just have to correct their aim a little bit.”

The post Jerry Seinfeld Ridicules Anti-Israel Heckler Interrupting His Show in Australia: ‘You Moron, Get Out of Here’ first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Ratted out: Phoebe Maltz Bovy on the end of feeling a need to ask if every contrived pop-culture trend is good for the Jews

As an expert (self-proclaimed) in the female heterosexual gaze, I took note of the trend of the “hot rodent man.” Does this mean you’re attracted to the friendly mascot from Orkin Exterminator Co.? Maybe you do, maybe he’s tremendous, but no, “hot rodent man” refers to what is essentially the male equivalent of jolie laide, […]

The post Ratted out: Phoebe Maltz Bovy on the end of feeling a need to ask if every contrived pop-culture trend is good for the Jews appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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