There are so many ways to be Jewish, and that is truly wonderful. Each of us can choose a path and be committed to our Jewish identity in many ways: Some go to synagogue to pray, some go to classes to learn and some go to the J to play basketball (and there are lots more ways). Each of these, however, is doing.
Judaism is a doing religion, although there are a few of what we call “Cardiac Jews” — I don’t do anything Jewish but I feel it in my heart. I am happy for all types of Jewish identity because a famous Jewish educator once said that when asked whether we do a particular observance, our answer should be, “Not yet.” Leave the possibility open.
One of the most popular forms of being Jewish is the “Gastronomic Jew.” Eating Jewish food is definitely a way to stay connected. As a confirmed picky eater, this one doesn’t work for me. However, I must share a myjewishlearning.com article from Jan. 23 by Shannon Sarna. She writes The Ultimate Ranking of the Grossest Jewish Food. Here is her list without the pictures:
Ptcha is best described as calf’s foot jelly, or an aspic. That’s right, it’s meat gelatin, and it seems to be the most offensive traditional Ashkenazi Jewish food we could find. It is almost universally reviled and not commonly made anymore.
Herring can be sweet and creamy, or it can be more savory and briny, and it evokes a lot of opinions.
Gefilte fish, or stuffed fish, is both a loved and loathed traditional Ashkenazi dish.
Schav: Russian cuisine has no shortage of chilled soups, but none is so reviled as schav, a soup made of sorrel.
Tongue: Many Ashkenazi Jews associate tongue with a sweet dish made with apricot or other dried fruit. Tongue can also be pickled and served like deli meat. It grosses a lot of people out, mostly because tongue, when cooked, still looks like a big cow tongue, which is a bit much to swallow.
Shuba, also known as “herring in an overcoat,” is a dish that is both loved and hated. It’s a layered Russian salad made of chopped egg, beet and herring.
Al Mazieh is a Syrian cornstarch pudding, made from cornstarch, rose water and nuts.
Kishke (meaning “gut” in Yiddish) is also known as stuffed derma or helzel, which is actually stuffed chicken skin. Kishke is a stuffing made out of vegetables, schmaltz and some kind of starch, such as matzah meal, crackers or bread — all stuffed inside a cow intestine.
Now many of you will say you love one item or another — for me, nothing looks great, although I will do gefilte fish at Passover. The most important message from Sarna’s article is this: These dishes might be gross, but they also tell a story of our people.
Think about that and keep telling the stories.