Adventures in cooking with Rabbi David Weis – Jewish Community Voice

Posted By on February 11, 2022

Jews from all over the world have their own distinct history, culture and customs. Some countries have large Jewish populations, while in others, the Jewish population is quite small. Those living in each nation have their own stories about how they settled and what life is like. For Jewish people living in the diaspora, many people find themselves wondering: How did Jews end up in places like India? What separates Eastern European Jews from Sephardic and Mizrachi Jewry? These are the questions Rabbi David M. Weis is exploring with his students and their families through cooking in Kulanu this trimester.

Each Tuesday, students and their families have the special opportunity to cook together with Rabbi Weis as their teacher. With recipes in hand from Jewish Federations newly published community cookbook Kugels By the Shore Let My People Eat (chaired by Ilene Daniels), Rabbi Weis is able to lead students and their families on a culinary journey around the world, exploring the nuances of the varying Jewish experiences in different countries.

In developing this class, Rabbi and Susan Weis, Board of Jewish Educations executive director, wanted to honor the far reach of Daniels community cookbook and knew it was the perfect vessel for the class. Daniels said, When Susan called me, I was over the top excited! Its incredible to see that the cookbook has taken on a whole new direction, and is being used to teach and is used on a learning adventure.

It turns out, kugels are an extremely approachable dish for families to cook. Weis said, Kugels are low barrier, easy to make foods, and are not meant to be overwhelming recipes for our students. They are easy for most kids to do and are delicious. Students will learn to make standard potato kugels, vegetable kugels, and sweet noodle kugels. They will also explore non-kugel recipes from around the Jewish world, including blintzes.

All of the dishes featured in the class were meticulously selected in order to generate teachable moments. Each week, I look for something in the recipe that allows me to teach some nuance of the variety of the Jewish experience, said Rabbi Weis. For instance, one week the group cooked a raisin-curry kugel. This gave Rabbi Weis the opportunity to talk about Indian Jews who migrated from countries like Yemen and Iraq. He added, A kugel with curry allowed me to teach about Indian Jewry and its culture. I taught about their history and showed a short video of an Indian Jewish wedding. We dont often think about the story of Jews coming to India, and it is a part of the history of Jewish people that might not be known.

In another class, the students and Rabbi Weis made a blintz souffl and Rabbi Weis used that to teach the history of French Jewry and introduce students to Rashi, one of Jewish historys most important rabbis and a French Jew.

Teaching this class raises an important question: What exactly is Jewish food? Jews have migrated to countries all over the world and their cuisine has evolved, blending many different cultures together. In the case of the raisin-curry kugel, foods of Yemen mixed with Indian flavors to make a new cuisine that still featured flavors and techniques of their Jewish roots.

On the first night of this course, Daniels spoke to the students about her inspiration for the cookbook. She said, I literally woke up in the middle of the night and knew I wanted to do something just for kugels. Like that, the idea was born. Daniels cookbook has made its way across the community and beyond, allowing families to preserve and share their most loved recipes across hundreds of households.

Daniels shared her experiences cooking in her grandmothers kitchen every Friday with her grandmother and a community of women making everything from blintzes to kugel and chicken soup. It was here that she learned not just how to cook but about Judaism and the importance of family, a value which she is happy to pass along to families of Kulanu as they share moments together in the kitchen.

Rabbi Weis also shared about the class thus far, It is natural and normal for people to imagine that everybody is just like me. Studying different cultures opens up a world of diversity and connection. Many Jews think that all Jews are the same. This class is proving how different Jews are around the world, but how similar they are too.

Kulanu offers a wide array of electives to enhance Jewish learning and perspectives. In addition to the cooking class elective, some students selected a Jewish yoga experience based upon movement and yoga practice connected with Jewish values and prayer to help center you physically and spiritually. It is taught by Ava Gadon, a Kulanu graduate. In Becca Weis photography class, students are learning about photographic composition while exploring Jewish values and our connection to the environment.

Some students are enrolled in an elective with Jewish game designer Sari Kopitnikoff, where they discuss the history of board and card games, benefits of game play, an analysis of the components of games, and testing and rating various games. The class culminates with creating an original game. In a separate elective, students have the option to play Jewish Dungeons & Dragons, where they are able to join forces and explore new territories, wrestling with ancient mysteries and confronting fiendish enemies.

For more information about BJE, Kulanu, or Jewish education in the community, please contact Susan Weis at

To purchase a copy of Kugels By the ShoreLet My People Eat, please contact Becky at Jewish Federation by calling (609) 822-4404. Pickup is available at the JCC Margate, 501 N. Jerome Ave, Margate City, NJ 08402 or by mail for an additional fee. Each cookbook is $18, or two or more can be bought for $15 each.

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Adventures in cooking with Rabbi David Weis - Jewish Community Voice

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