Healthy Sephardic Cooking | Kosher, Traditional, Easy, and …

Posted By on February 12, 2018

Jackie: Where did your interest in Jewish community start?

Jackie N: Ive always been lucky to live in places with a strong Jewish community. I attended Jewish day school, went to aCuban-Jewish Sephardic synagogue (yes they do exist!),and grew up in a very traditional home.

When I went to college at the University of Florida (go Gators!)it really propelled my interest in getting involved withtheJewish community.Up until that point, I had lived in Miamiwhich made me take Jewish practices andcommunal life for granted. For the first time in my life, Iwas living on my own without my family nearby. It felt very unnerving to nothave Shabbat dinner every Friday andalthough I loved my new friends at schoolI missed Jewish life. I started getting involved by going to UFs Hillel and Chabad and by the time I graduated I sat on Chabads board and was very active in Jewish life at UF.

When I moved to DC in 2008 I didnt really know too many people and had no family in the area, so the Jewish community was an easy and a greatway to make friends. I realized that manyof my friendswere also alone up here without our families nearby.So I decidedto step up and take the lead and host the major holidays and Shabbat for my friends. It also felt more intimate, fun, familiar and less stressful than going to a large holiday event with hundreds of people. From there, my dinners grew tremendously and I became known for hosting Shabbat dinners.

A friend approached me in 2013 about co-hosting a Sephardic Shabbat service/dinner. I agreed to do it and it was a massive success! From there I began hosting monthly Shabbat dinners through my organization Sephardic Jews in DC.

Jackie: Can you tell me about your love of food?

Jackie N: Ive always loved to cook. Ive been cooking ever since I was a small child and I used to help my mom out in the kitchen all the time. Shes an even better cook than I am, but hopefully one day Ill be as good as her! I especially love learning about the history and evolution of food.Im fascinated by what ancientSephardic Jewish communities ate, how they lived, andhow their lives differed from the rest of the population and why. Im constantly tinkering in the kitchen, researching different kinds of recipes and cuisine, and making it for my friends. I even have a food blog which contains many of my recipes.

Jackie: What is your favorite Sephardic meal to cook?

Jackie N: Oh way too many! I love cooking Turkish Sephardic food, especially borekas, keftes de prasas (leek latkes), abondigas de prasa (leek meatballs), and sofrito. I also love cookingPersian food and my favoritedish to make isfesenjoon (a walnut/pomegranate stew). I also love Moroccan food and love to make Chraime (Moroccan fish), hamim(cholent) and Moroccan carrot salad.

Jackie: How did you get the idea to start Sephardic Jews in DC?

Jackie N:I was raised in a traditional Sephardic home and grew up going to a Sephardic synagogue. I really love the customs, heritage, history, and cuisine of the Sephardic world, but almost all of the synagogues and Jewish events in Washington DC are Ashkenazi, with the exception of a few synagogues in suburban Maryland.

I started the organization because thepreservationofSephardic culture, traditions,heritage and cuisine is very important to me.I want to ensure that Sephardic culture doesnt die out, but rather will continue to evolve andbe celebrated for its many contributions to Jewish life.

I spent many years frustrated that most Jewish organizations in DC didnt address the Sephardic world, so I decided to take the lead and create a community-based organization to fill this void.My goals with this organization are not just to feed people delicious food (certainly an added benefit), but rather to create a robust Sephardic community in DC and educate people on Sephardic/Mizrahi culture, cuisine, history,liturgy, and traditions.

I believe that sharing a meal helps bring a community together and keeps traditions alive. Plus, learning about something is always easier when you have delicious food close by.

I, of course, have to acknowledge that it takes a villageand use this opportunity to thank the people and organizations that have assisted me throughout the years. My fellow Sephardic leaders Ari, Aaron, and Jen. Alsoorganizations like Chabad (Rabbi Levi and Menachem Shemtov), 6th and I (Rabbi Scott Perlo), Mesorah DC (Rabbi Teitelbaum), and Moishe House Arlington/DC for their partnerships.

Jackie: What are ways for people to get involved with your organization?

Jackie N: Im always looking for people who are interested in volunteering their time to help nurture and grow a Sephardic community, whether it be helping to cook for events, leading or participating in services, generating ideas for events, or just attending and helping out at events. Thus far we havebeen a community lay-led organization with no major sponsorship. Im hoping that in the future Ill be able to work with larger Jewish organizations and be able to create an organic Sephardic Jewish community in DC. If youre interested in learning more about coming to one of our monthly Shabbat dinners please visit our page on Facebook Sephardic Jews in DC.

Finish the sentence: When the [Sephardic] Jews Gatherthere will be delicious food, good conversation, and fun times.


Healthy Sephardic Cooking | Kosher, Traditional, Easy, and ...

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