In many ways, food brought me to Judaism. My husband was born in Israel; several years ago, he took me to visit his homeland for the first time. I was exposed to the incredible Israeli food culture, and I quickly fell in love with the rich history of Middle Eastern cuisine. I came back from that trip with a mission—to recreate the amazing flavors I’d tasted in our home kitchen. I began cooking for our Jewish holiday celebrations and baking challah for Shabbat. As I immersed myself in the ritual tradition of cooking, learning to make dishes that are centuries old (and in some cases even older), I finally felt at home… like I was returning to a place that made my spirit happy.
Last Thursday, I completed that journey home by converting to Judaism. Surrounded by family, under the guidance of my rabbi, I embraced the Jewish faith. I faced the beit din, was immersed in the mikveh, and felt the ancient echoes of our ancestors ring through me. I found my tribe. It was a powerful, beautiful day—one I will never forget.
This journey started back in college, long before I met my husband. I was not raised in a religion; my parents gave me the gift of choice when it came to spirituality. I’ve always known on a deep level that God exists, but the context for understanding my Creator was unclear. For many years I felt adrift, doing my best to find peace in the midst of chaos. Then I took a college writing course called “The Holocaust,” in which I was asked to examine this most heinous event in human history. Signing up for this class proved to be a life-altering choice. I was consumed by memoirs like Night, The Diary of Anne Frank, and All but My Life. I yearned to know the Jewish people better — to understand their faith, optimism and hope, even in the darkest of times. I left the class full of curiosity, my heart open and ready to learn more. It was the beginning of my spiritual awakening, a journey that finally came full circle last week.
For me, becoming Jewish is about joining a larger family and community. What drew me to the Jewish faith was the focus on family, tradition, and reaching out to help others in need. A big part of being Jewish is acknowledging a responsibility to your fellow humans by spreading positive energy in this increasingly complex world. I have accepted that responsibility, and it makes my heart very happy.
I’m sharing this experience with all of you because I feel that food is more than just sustenance. Food is a way of communicating; the energy we pass on through our cooking feeds the body as well as the soul. By writing this blog, and taking a journey into the history of food, I hope to spread positive energy. In the same way a good meal makes people happy, I hope that this blog… and the recipes and stories you find here… make you happy. Every kitchen has a heritage; every recipe has a writer. Knowing the story behind the food– the ancient history, or the family history, or even the history of one particular ingredient– can infuse a dish with meaning. And then a meal becomes more than just food, something that fills you up physically. Food takes on a spiritual significance, and ultimately becomes more nourishing.
I used to call this blog The Shiksa in the Kitchen, and it’s still a nickname that makes me smile. But times change and people grow; as a reflection of me, this website must also evolve to proudly reflect a new stage in my life. You’ll see some changes coming to the site over the next year, and hopefully those changes will more clearly reflect who I am as a person and as a new “member of the Tribe.” I am thrilled to have you join me on this journey.
If you read my blog, you are probably somebody who loves food. That’s something we all share. A good meal can bring warmth and joy to anybody, no matter who you are or where you come from. I welcome all faiths and backgrounds to join me on my journey into the heart of food history. Everybody is welcome here. Our diversity makes us stronger!