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Rabbi's Week in Review - 4/1/2024

04/01/2024 03:25:35 PM


Fay and I saw a wonderful movie last week, The Taste of Things. A gourmet, Dodin, and his cook, Eugenie, develop a beautiful romance over 20 years, with food being at the center of their lives. The dialogue is sparse, but it is the sounds made in the cooking involved and the spectacular meals (extravaganzas involving many, many courses) that take center stage in the film.

While we longed for smell-a-vision, as well as just a taste of all the incredible food, we found that just being exposed to the sounds of the kitchen left us enthralled. Truly, food — both the cooking and the eating of it — is a five-senses, all-in experience.  

With this week’s Torah portion describing what is or is not considered kosher food, our upcoming cooking class on brunch and blintzes led by Lois Balk (yes, in the interest of full disclosure, my mother-in-law), and with Passover on the very near horizon, food is very much on my mind.

I love the relationships that develop over food. We have had the gift of connecting with people in the restaurant business over a shared love and appreciation of food — the restaurant owner in Santiago, Chile, who described what it is like to raise kids and run a restaurant, along with graciously giving a taste of any food we asked about; the barista/bartender in Prague, who shared his skills with enormous pride; and many local servers and restaurateurs, who work ridiculous hours because of their passion, which they have shared with us over food.

Food is important year-round in the Jewish world. At no time of year, however, is food more important to us than during Pesach. Our Passover table leads us through the story of who we are as Jews.  

Lately, I have touted the relationship we at Congregation Kol Ami have with Baba’s Pantry. As many of you know, Baba — Yahia Kamal, an extraordinary Palestinian chef — was the first presenter in our Kol Ami cooking series, co-chaired by Brad Ordo and Fay. Baba, as he is known by his kids (and really everyone), gave of his time in teaching the class, refusing payment both for his time and for the kosher chicken he bought as part of the class.

With some naivete, I’m sure I do believe in the power of food to bridge differences, to connect to cultures not our own and to transform lives. At this time of terrible war and violence in Gaza, where leadership on all sides of the conflict have failed us, we need to explore whatever touchstones we can to find a better path forward.  

We will continue to bring in Baba’s wonderful food for our Kol Ami events. Let the bridge of food guide us as we approach Passover this year of 5784. As we recall our time as “strangers in the land of Egypt,” so that we do not oppress the stranger and indeed love the stranger, as we are commanded in Torah, let us commit to loving the stranger.

Mon, July 15 2024 9 Tammuz 5784