Cooking up some Jewish identity!

30 May, 2017

By:  Lauren Kirshenbaum


As a second semester freshman at Indiana University this past school year, I decided that I wanted to take a “fun class” in addition to the required courses for my majors. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to take, but when I heard about the Jewish Cooking class at our Hillel, a few of my friends and I registered for the course and an hour a week of good conversation, Jewish learning experiences, and an opportunity to expand our Jewish involvement on campus.


The Jewish Cooking class, taught by our Israeli shlicha (fellow), met on Thursday afternoons at our Hillel building on campus. Typically at the beginning of class, we would learn about our culinary assignment for the day and its influence in Jewish culture, and then we were free to explore–experimenting with different ingredients and how they should be prepared, as well as talking to classmates about the personal traditions that come with each recipe. Within the semester, we made a variety of Jewish treats, from falafel, Israeli salad, and shaksukah to kugel, hamentaschen, and challah.


This class and the opportunity to be in a kosher kitchen during the school year offered a much more intangible experience than an afternoon snack. After just one class, I realized that the cooking experience away from home offered that missing time around the table; a traditional time in Jewish culture where family and friends bond through the experience of cooking, baking, and most importantly, eating. Cooking is an aspect of Judaism that allows our culture to survive throughout generations. Although I wasn’t making my grammy’s matzo ball soup recipe, I was able to connect with my college peers and share stories and values that would have been present in my kitchen at home.


Each class, my group would talk about our customs and impressions of the dish we were making. Our discussions about seders and Shabbat dinners were meaningful, but the most passionate narratives always centered around camp. With each recipe, it seemed like there were more camp stories to come, and as the class came to a close before finals week, I realized that while many Jewish experiences center around food, it is the cooking aspect that fosters Jewish dialogue and ties the participants’ past and values to their present and the creation of new traditions.


My experience at camp and in school have only made me more excited for the beginning of the teaching kitchen at Herzl. This will be my eleventh summer in Webster, and at the end of the summer, I will be reaching my 52nd camp Shabbat, meaning I have spent a year of my life in the camp bubble that cultivates friendship, uniqueness, and the power of tradition within the Jewish culture. While I have spent nearly a year at the table in the chadar, surrounded by amazing people, I am so excited for the evolvement of Herzl Camp kitchen.


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