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Food and the Stories They Tell – Mit a Yiddish Ta-am (with a Jewish flavour)


Food and the Stories They Tell

Mit a Yiddish Ta-am (with a Jewish flavour)

On Friday, November 25, 2016, JSA’s first Empowerment Series in partnership with Jewish Museum and Archives of BC was held at the Peretz Centre. Gyda Chud welcomed the people gathered to learn about and to taste of the theme selected for this year’s series, Food: The Doorway to our Culture. Ken Levitt, President of JSA, wished all a ‘Gutehn Taug’, Boker Tov, thanking Gyda Chud as an example of koach, strength in all she did.

Michael Schwartz, Coordinator of Programs and Development of the Jewish Museum of BC described how they concentrate on collecting and caring for documents, photographs, artifacts and oral histories which chronicle all facets of Jewish Community History. Their theme this year is “Feeding the Community,” thus partnering with the JSA whose theme centered on food was natural fit. Food represents identity, acceptability and relationships.

Shanie Levin’s first story was an excerpt from “Rhapsody in Schmaltz” by Michael Wex in which he listed the various blessings to be said before and after consuming foods. Levin revealed that Ashkenazy Jews remained close to their customs of origin however Sephardic Jews more often adapted their food preparation according to the country in which they found themselves.

A crowd favourite was ‘The Chicken Tale’ by Rabbi Daniel T. Grossman which had everyone laughing, hearing about the rabbi who travelling with a group of Jewish choir singers, found himself in a town which knew nothing about the customs of Jews. His hostess had done her research and informed the rabbi that she knew that rabbis kill chickens, therefore there was a chicken in the yard and townspeople were waiting to witness the kill. However, the horrified rabbi said that he was not that kind of rabbi but a praying and teaching rabbi. So that night they all ate fish.

It was written about the time the Jews were expelled from Spain, eventually to relocate to Tsfat.  The shul caretaker, Jocabo, was desperate to know if he had found favour in God’s eyes. Knowing his wife was an expert Challah baker, he asked her to bake 12 loaves which he then placed in the Torah ark thinking that if they were gone in the morning then he would know God had accepted his offering. In the meantime the shamash who had not been paid for many weeks and had a hungry family, was pleading with God to show him a sign in the Torah ark that his prayers were heard. Imagine his joy upon discovering the loaves of bread as he thought them to be a definite sign. This joy was echoed by Jocabo the next morning. Seeing the challas were gone, he felt God had accepted them. Levin’s excellent reading held the listeners’ attention enabling them to envision the action as each story enfolded.

The musical program followed consisting of Debby Fenson, Deborah Stern Silver and their accompanist Elliot Dainow.  Introducing their program Deborah Stern Silver said the songs being presented will be of Ashkenazy sources. ‘Tiereh Malkeh’ is a Yiddish drinking song included props of a drinking cup and an empty bottle of wine. The audience eagerly joined in with the chorus of ‘Bulbehs’ (potatoes), which bemoaned the daily eating of potatoes. The third song transported everyone to the Israeli market place ‘Shuk Ha’Carmel’. ‘Rohzhinkehs mit Mandlen’ a lullaby sung to children, brought tears of recognition and nostalgia.

It is impossible to capture the warm feeling of shared chavershaft (camaraderie) prevailing in the room, a Fahrgenigehn, a deep pleasure and enjoyment. It was a superb session which left everyone spiritually nurtured and nourished, encompassing all that gladdens the Jewish heart within each one of us. A Hartziken Dank tzu Alemehn!

Binny Goldman– JSA



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