As I stared into my plate of Gefilte Fish at my family's annual Rosh Hashana dinner (also known as the Jewish New Year), I realized that the grey fish ball and carrot eye were trying to tell me something. "Show some respect dude...I'm watching you..." Was it giving me attitude?! It was just a few days earlier at the Center for Jewish History that the Gefilte Fish was center stage as the star of a panel discussion called "Gefilte Talk". The panel discussed the road of the Gefilte from Eastern Europe to the streets of the Lower East Side and its recent arrival to the plates of modern hipster foodies.
And now it's the Brisket's turn to shine...
Next week the Center will host a panel discussion about Brisket, organized by food curator Naama Shefi. We used to be colleagues for years and she was my go-to person in terms of food. Not only did she inspire my culinary urges, but she also flipped my mind regarding Jewish food. And let me tell you, this young cool girl knows more about Gefilte Fish then my polish grandmother (god rest her soul, how can that be!)
Clearly Shefi is just one example of young people who find their connection to their heritage through food, and no surprise that the Center for Jewish History is jumping on the bandwagon.
The American Jewish community these days is trying its hardest to reconnect the young generation back to Jewish life. Almost every Jewish organization in the U.S. has done its research and the findings are somewhat concerning. Many young Jewish people have lost their faith; stopped going to synagogues, increased the rate of interfaith marriage and disapprove of Israel's policies. These are just some of the problems the community is handling. Trying to get young Jewish people back to their roots has been a top goal for these organizations; birthright is one answer, social media is another and now foodies.
Gefilte fish, brisket, falafel, and kosher food in general are becoming popular items on the menu, and restaurants such as Jezebel and Kutcher are truly hot spots for some modern era Jewish food. This Tuesday Julia Moskin, reporter for The New York Times, and Stephanie Pierson, author of The Brisket Book: A Love Story with Recipes, will be among the panelists who will discuss the new trends of Brisket and its way to stardom.
But will these events bring passion back to Jewish food? Can the weird taste of Gefilte Fish and sometimes too dry Brisket regain the appeal of foie gras or sushi?
"Passion for me is art, fashion, design and food. In every event I make I try to mix them all together" said Shefi over lunch at the East Village last week "At the Gefilte talk, we brought in an art installation and had a very successful Instagram and social media campaign. Another very important component is to connect the young Jewish community to the food, and simultaneously take the Jewishness out of it. It sounds funny, but imagine Daniel Delaney, owner of BrisketTown, who is doing Texan barbecues, comes to talk about brisket, and he then he brings a totally different perspective about this traditional meat. If history books are too demanding for those cool kids, maybe their cultural heritage will reveal itself through dinner plates."
As I'm standing in front of my closet thinking what would be appropriate to wear for a Brisket event, I understand that maybe this new trend of Jewish food events can be the new J-Date or at least a new breath of fresh air mixed into the day to day geo-political gala event at your local Jewish affiliated organization? I decide on a red knit bowtie which will go perfectly with the cow-shaped brisket-inspired cookies that I will politely pile on my plate while checking out all the hot crowed on Tuesday's event.