Happy Hanukkah!

photo by sandcastlematt on Flickr, via creative commons
photo by sandcastlematt on Flickr, via creative commons

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah. Though it’s a fairly minor Jewish holiday, it seems to get more press than the more important ones simply because of its proximity to Christmas. I worked for Hebrew Union for a while in college/grad school (plus my minor was Judaic Studies), so the theme of Jewish holidays isn’t lost on me: they tried to kill us, they failed, let’s eat!

Cincinnati has an incredibly rich Jewish history.  Did you know that Cincinnati is the home of Reform Judaism? Check out The Jews Of Cincinnati, by Jonathan Sarna and Nancy Klein (which you’ll have to get at the library since it’s out of print) or Jews of Cincinnati by my very good friend and teacher, Fred Krome and John Fine (which you can find at any bookstore in town, and I believe Urban Eden has copies as well, or can get them).  Or, you can just read this entry in the Jewish Virtual Library.)

Speaking of eating, Cincinnati has a great Jewish food history– did you know that?  Manischewitz was founded here as a small matzo bakery in 1888.  Fleischmann, the company that first commercialized yeast, was founded here too, in 1868.  One of the most famous meals in American Jewish history, the Treif Banquet, was held here, at Hebrew Union College’s first ordination in 1883– and it’s significant that it was held in Cincinnati, a city that at the time was known more for its pork processing than anything else, though the menu featured items like shrimp and crabmeat, followed by meat and dairy courses (if you’re not familiar with Kashrut law, shrimp and crab are considered treif, or nonkosher.  It is also against Jewish law to eat milk and meat in the same meal, based on a law that prohibits eating young cooked in its mothers’ milk. It’s complicated.).  This caused about half the guests to leave in protest, which resulted in Cincinnati’s Jewish community firmly positioning itself in modernity.

Didn’t know I was into history, did you?

Joan Nathan is considered the queen bee of Jewish cooking. She’s completed quite a bit of research in the American Jewish Archives, which are located on the HUC campus (and where I used to work!).  Here is a link to NPR, which profiled her Jewish Holiday Cookbook a few years ago.  When I’ve hosted Hanukkah gatherings, these are three dishes I always include.  The key, as Nathan notes, is cooking with oil– the miracle of Hanukkah is that oil in the lamp at the Temple lasted for eight nights– it should have only lasted for one.

And speaking of Hanukkah…

Or, if you prefer…

(Thanks @MrGuilt for that one!)

12 thoughts on “Happy Hanukkah!”

  • Thanks for the post and especially for the info about the Treif Banquet. I had never heard of it, but the sentiment behind it is so close to the way that I was raised and the way that I relate to my heritage that I intend to celebrate the Treif Banquet with family and friends every July 11th hence . Food should sometimes be in your face 🙂

    I found a copy of the “treif menu” at Library of Congress: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/haventohome/images/hh0192s.jpg

    Happy Hanukkah!

  • Wild. I did see the exhibit (on the way to the menu).. but it’s nice to know that you worked on it. Maybe we’ll have to figure out a proper celebration. We have until July (we have a nice stove and lots of pots). Now I have visit The Archives.

  • And your comment about Cincinnati’s Jewish community “firmly implanting themselves in Modernity” is incredibly offensive. Yes, Reform Jews make up the largest part of our population, but there are many Conservative, Modern Orthodox, Orthodox, and, yes even Reform Jews who observe Jewish dietary laws. We are firmly planted in modernity I can assure you. The treif banquet’s greatest legacy is that it helped lead to the founding of Conservative Judaism and the founding of The Jewish Theological Seminary.

    • “planting firmly in modernity” is a common statement used in many, many references to the Treif banquet. I did not intend to insult non-Reform Jews with that statement, so I apologize. No theological debates here.

  • Julie, when you prattle on about that which you know nothing about then it is offensive. I fail to understand how calling you on your errors is engaging you in a “theological debate.” I have never heard that phrase used, but since you have and you used it without quoting your source then you are guilty of plagiarism as well. Stick to what you know and learn to write better.

    • You obviously have a bone to pick far beyond what I’ve said here. Comparing what would become Reform Judaism and what was then orthodoxy is a lot different than saying that orthodoxy in 2009 is stuck in the past (which I didn’t). Using the phrase “firmly in modernity” is extremely common in Jewish theological and cultural discourse, whether it’s about the discussion of Israel as a state or the divide between different sects of Judaism, or even cooking methodology. That’s not plagiarism, last I checked, but using a vernacular common to a discourse community. I think you want a fight– and I don’t intend to provide it– so unless you’re commenting on topic with no personal attacks, I reserve the right to not authorize your comments. Correcting my errors is one thing– I make mistakes daily, and I’m sure you do too– but the personal attacks are another.

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