My name is Joel Haber, and I live in Jerusalem, the beating heart of the Jewish people. I’m a licensed professional tour guide here, specializing in culinary tours in the city’s famous open air Machane Yehuda Market (“the shuk”).
I grew up in New Jersey, attending a “Modern Orthodox” Jewish day school and went on to study at Yeshiva University. Growing up, I was blessed with a mother who was both a great cook, and a cosmopolitan one. Yes, my family is 100% Ashkenazi in origin, and we ate many traditional foods of that culture (particularly on the holidays when my mother associated those days with the foods her mother made). But my mother loves foods from other segments of Jewish culture (such as Persian gondi) as well as other world cuisines (Indian, for example).
This gave me a diverse palate, and an adventurous spirit when it comes to food. It also opened my eyes to the diversity of Jewish culture beyond the “Ashkenormative” society that is so prevalent in the America of today.
As an adult, I lived for many years in New York City and then Los Angeles, working primarily in the film industry on the screenplay side of things. And through that whole time, I maintained my love of food, and used cooking it as another creative outlet. I love entertaining, and one of the highlights of my year is the annual Passover seder that I host (somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty so far, with countless friends and strangers over the years).
While I respect tradition, and do enjoy the “classics” my Mom makes for the holidays, I took on a different mission at my seder — to broaden people’s minds about what “Kosher for Passover” can be. My seder foods explore a broad range of flavors and cultures, while still tapping into some deep aspects of the holiday. (For a bit more on this, see my article on Passover recipes, on my Press Page.)
My diverse tastes met their perfect habitat when I moved to Israel (and Jerusalem in particular) in 2009. As someone who keeps kosher, I’ve never had as wide a variety of eateries to choose from in my life! Eating your way through the restaurants of Israel is like a gustatory ramble through the Jewish diaspora.
And it is that very exploration that has led me to research more and more about the foods of Jews from around the world. I’m writing this book because I’m fascinated by the subject, and passionate about it. I hope and trust that you’ll be as captivated as I am.