Ongoing series targets Indian Jews, culture
Congregation Tiferet Israel will hold its fourth installment in a series exploring Jewish life in foreign countries at 11 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 11. Jewish life in India will be the focus.
Each session in the series has featured presentations on the history of a particular Jewish community, its culture, and the experience of those who have lived in that country or have traveled there. A bountiful kosher buffet presenting a variety of dishes from each country to show how Jews incorporated local ingredients and cooking techniques into their traditional Jewish cooking has been a significant element of each of the programs.
Event Chair Debby Rubin, popular Dallas kosher caterer, has led the preparation of the buffets. She organizes the programs along with her committee: Nadine Bell, Esther Hazan-Cohen and Sonia Meltzer. Debby’s passion for interesting food combinations has made the events a spectacle of food from each of the countries studied.
The series began in May with the Jews of Morocco. In addition to exploring its history, several speakers including Debby Rubin related their own experience of living in Morocco. Jews have been in Morocco for thousands of years. Sometimes they were treated well and at other times miserably, depending on the policies of the government in power. Before the founding of Israel in 1948, 250,000 to 350,000 Jews lived in the country, which gave Morocco the largest Jewish community in the Muslim world. When Israel was established in 1948, its government arranged with the king of Morocco for the Jews of Morocco to move to Israel in exchange for cash payments. Today, fewer than 3,000 Jews remain. Tiferet’s Morocco event was held the day after Passover in honor of the Moroccan Mimouna festival held annually on that day to honor the friendship and unity of the Jewish and non-Jewish communities in Morocco. The buffet menu included mufletta, shakshuka, Moroccan spiced roasted carrot hummus, warm sweet couscous, metaxas (Moroccan baklava), and stuffed dates.
The Jews of Italy were the subject of Tiferet’s second event held in July. The program followed the same format of presentations on the history and culture along with a buffet of kosher Jewish Italian cooking. Jews have lived in Italy for over 2,000 years, beginning in the first and second centuries BCE when they arrived as merchants or were brought as slaves from territories conquered by the Romans. Like Morocco, how Italy’s Jews were treated was depended on who was in power. Today, there are about 45,000 Jews in Italy. The buffet menu included Italian marinated fried fish, butternut squash and zucchini frittata, dolce di tagliatelle (Italian Jewish apple noodle pudding), Jewish caponata, fried ricotta balls, pizza dolce Romana (Jewish dried fruit pie), sfratti (nut filled cookie sticks), and cannoli filled with sweet ricotta.
In September, the focus was the Jews of Mexico. Jews have been in Mexico since the early 1500s when they were expelled from Spain and Portugal. Initially, they were subject to the same Inquisition policies common in Spain and Portugal until Mexico gained its independence and a policy of religious tolerance was declared in the mid-1800s. Interviews with several individuals who lived in Mexico or visited family there regularly revealed that Jews were reasonably well treated as long as they maintained a low profile. This third event in the series included a Skype interview with Susan Schmidt from the website: www.mexicanjewish.com (also known as Challa-Peno). As she describes on her website: “I’m Susan, a Jew who was born and raised in Mexico City. I learned how to cook by standing on a chair and watching my Hungarian grandmother every Sunday. The other great influence on my cooking was my mother-in-law. Both my and my husband’s grandparents emigrated from Europe to Mexico in the late 1920s, bringing with them the traditions and flavors of the old country. Combining these with the fresh ingredients that were available in the mercado led to a unique fusion of flavors.”
The offerings of the Jewish Mexican buffet were characteristic of Jewish fare adapted to traditional Mexican spices and style of cooking such as chilaquiles breakfast casserole, salmon ceviche, mango salsa, Mexican rice pudding, Mexican wedding cookies, pumpkin flan, and bolitos de nuez (chocolate walnut balls).
Cost to attend the event about the Jews of India on Dec. 11 is $15. For more information, to see videos of the previous events, and to sign up online, visit http://tiferetisrael.org/jewish-life-around-the-world or contact Jennifer at Tiferet Israel at 214-691-3611 or Jennifer@tiferetisrael.org. This program is supported by a grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas.