2023 cover picture with Jewish foods for Joel Haber's annual review of this past year's Jewish Food news.

2023: The Year in Jewish Food

Tradition… Tradition! My tradition here at The Taste of Jewish Culture is to write an annual post reviewing the past year’s developments in the world of Jewish Food. So on this final day of 2023, let’s look back at this year’s news…

Some of the Stories

To my view, the biggest Jewish story of the year has taken place over the past few months, following the inhuman assault perpetrated by Hamas on October 7. But to my eyes, the way that Israelis — and the Jewish community around the world — came together in response is heartwarming. I detailed some of the food-related responses here. Other stories about Israeli restaurants at this time include these two, covering aspects that might have been less covered in international media.

Beyond that, many of the “bigger” stories were actually somewhat small, but entertaining in the pop-culture realm. Jewish gamers were excited when the SIMS introduced Jewish foods. PBS show The Great American Recipe featured two popular Jewish contestants. And towards year’s end, Nabisco announced a special, limited edition Oreo cookie, inspired by a New York Jewish classic!

In the world of new Jewish Food books, one of them relates to that last point. Here are some notable books of the past year:

  • Iconic New York Jewish Food: A History and Guide with Recipes, by June Hersh
  • Shabbat, by Adeena Sussman (I have the honor of being quoted in this book)
  • 1, 2, 3, Nosh with Me, by Micah and Joshua Sivah (a cute, kids picture book)
  • Portico: Cooking and Feasting in Rome’s Jewish Kitchen, by Leah Koenig
  • Kugels and Collards: Stories of Food, Family, and Tradition in Jewish South Carolina, by Rachel Gordin Barnett and Lyssa Kligman Harvey
  • Totally Kosher, by Chanie Apfelbaum

Meanwhile, on the restaurant side of things, there were a few notable stories. Israeli celebrity chef Eyal Shani won a Michelin star for his New York eatery Shmone, and he also opened his first kosher restaurant in the States, a branch of his excellent kosher TLV restaurant, Malka. In Boston, the most exciting new Jewish food place is the Lehrhaus, a kosher tavern/beit midrash (house of learning), with an innovative menu that updates Jewish food classics. It opened just nine months ago, and had already been named as one of the top restaurants in Boston when it became the first kosher eatery to be named to Esquire’s annual list of the best new restaurants in America.

Towards the beginning of the year, a special edition beer was released to celebrate 400 years of Danish Jewry. But you can also now brew your own beer using yeast that made beer in Israel thousands of years ago!

In festival news, KosherFest announced they were shutting down, but they were quickly replaced with the more consumer-focused Kosherpalooza. And though not fully food-related, the Borscht Belt Fest launched this past year as well.

The Jewish Food world lost an important voice when Mimi Sheraton died. She had been a groundbreaking food critic for the NY Times, and also wrote (among other books) The Bialy Eaters, about an iconic Jewish food.

And in food-tech news, a few important stories show the changing face of Jewish Food. First, easing the potential accessibility of lab grown meat, the FDA approved cultured chicken for sale. In terms of how it might fit in to a Jewish context, an Israeli rabbi issued a ruling about its status as pareve vs. meaty, and the OU (the largest kosher supervision agency in the US) agreed that it would be kosher.

My Progress in 2023

I wrote fewer articles in order to focus on getting my book done. I am now about to begin writing the final chapter, in my initial draft. A big milestone, but lots more still ahead!

I completed two lecture tours, one this past Feb/Mar and one in Oct/Nov. Both were successful, and brought me to many new communities. I very much look forward to reaching many more places in 2024, with my next two tours tentatively scheduled for Feb/Mar and May/Jun. I also had the pleasure of speaking in three different cities in South Africa, in August. And online, I was honored to run an 8-part series for Chelsea, MA’s historic Walnut Street Synagogue. If you’d like to have me come speak in your area, please be in touch!

Finally, while I didn’t write many articles, I did write a few. This article about dates was for the Nosher, and I also had this piece in the South African Jewish Report. And in addition to those articles, I have had the pleasure to appear in various other media over the past year.

Let’s hope that 2024 brings peace, joy, and lots more good Jewish Food!

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