Feeding Women of the Talmud, Feeding Ourselves is the second volume of the cookbook series that Jewish Food Hero started in 2020 with Feeding Women of the Bible, Feeding Ourselves. This blog post is all about sharing a behind-the-scenes look at how and why this latest volume was made, and who by! Feeding Women in the Talmud, Feeding Ourselves took on a life of its own. I really had no idea of what I was getting into when I started…
What are these books about?
“Cookbook/studybook” feels like the best word to describe Feeding Women of the Bible, Feeding Ourselves and Feeding Women of the Talmud, Feeding Ourselves. These books are all about exploring and deepening our connections with our Jewish texts, traditions and loved dishes. For example, each chapter of Feeding Women of the Talmud, Feeding Ourselves pairs a modern, expert close reading of a female Talmudic heroine’s narrative with dishes created to honor her story.
Creating a community cookbook during Covid-19 isolation
I worked on the Feeding Women of the Talmud, Feeding Ourselves project during parts of 2020 and 2021, during COVID-19 lockdowns. Looking back now, it’s easy to forget what uncertain times those were, and how little we knew about how things would pan out. On a very practical (and important) level, having this project to throw myself into kept me busy and connected through otherwise eerily quiet and lonely times.
Being able to work with 128 other women on this meaningful book during this period of increased social isolation was emotionally comforting and intellectually inspiring. In a way, it was a perfect COVID project – I was in the process of leaving Cambodia, where I had lived for 8 years, and moving to France. After the move, in addition to being stuck at home due to COVID, I knew very few people in our new town of Paris. This project really stabilized and inspired me during that lonely and uncertain time of transition and new beginnings.
My personal motivation for making these books
I had a desire to learn more about female stories in our Jewish texts. Creating Feeding Women of the Talmud, Feeding Ourselves and Feeding Women of the Bible, Feeding Ourselves, gave me an opportunity to learn and study alongside other women in our community.
When I started the project, I did not know anything about the real and imaginary women in the Talmud. By the project’s end, not only had my knowledge grown significantly, I even felt very attached to these female stories. The most surprising thing was how emotional this project felt. These women and their stories are now part of the landscape of my thinking, after spending such intentional focused time reading, re-reading and understanding their stories and the contributors’ responses to them.
My three main takeaways from this experience:
- Work can be a powerful stabilizer during uncertain times
- How important it is that women work together, rather than against each other
- In this moment of hyper individualism, focusing on group work and collective creation feels freeing!
How I feel about our Talmudic women now
Each woman in these stories is a world of her own. Reading about them brought up a wide range of emotions, at times inspiring curiosity and surprise, at others anguish and even disgust. Some of the situations faced by the women in the Talmud feel jarring and removed from our modern experience and sensibilities, while others pivot on chronic and enduring themes, giving them a frustrating familiarity.
The Talmud was written during the first century CE, yet the female stories contain many contemporary hot button cultural issues such as gender and reproductive health. Apparently modern concerns, societies –and particularly women in society – have wrestled with these issues for millennia.
Who is Feeding Women of the Talmud, Feeding Ourselves for?
Sadly, one review of the book said that it would only appeal to observant Jews. I disagree.
Reading the stories and the dilemmas confronted by the heroines in the Talmud can be inspiring and intellectually compelling for anyone, regardless of their religion or gender.
The cookbook/studybook hybrid creates true food-for-thought by retelling the stories of women in Jewish texts and honoring them with our contemporary thoughts and recipes. These books seek to add more Jewish female stories and delicious vegan and plant-based foods to our tables, so we can connect to Judaism and healthy food at the same time. Even though I no longer identify as exclusively vegan or plant-based, I still love all the vegan and plant-based recipes in this book.
An inclusive community effort
Every contributor was essential, as is the case in society and everyday life. Everyone has something unique to contribute.
My goal was to include diverse female voices from the global Jewish community in this “community cookbook”. These books projects are collective efforts: Feeding Women of the Talmud, Feeding Ourselves is the co-creation of 129 Jewish women. Rabbis, Rabbinical students, Jewish teachers and emerging thought leaders contributed to the Talmudic narratives, and female professional chefs and passionate homecooks contributed the recipes.
All of the contributors, including me, volunteered their time and intellectual energy. Jewish Food Hero’s profits from the sale of this book will be donated to a Jewish nonprofit every year.
Let’s meet some of the contributors to Feeding Women of the Talmud, Feeding Ourselves!
Allegra Benitah, a chef based in London, created a Wild Red Rice and Roasted Vegetable Platter with Pomegranate Molasses and Fresh Herbs. This lush platter features wild red rice, roasted sweet potato, butternut squash, eggplant and zucchini topped with fresh herbs, tangy pomegranate molasses dressing and sour dried cranberries. I love the variety in this dish and how visually stunning it is.
Ora Weinbach is a graduate student at Yale Divinity School, a participant in the Wexner Graduate Fellowship, and the Community Educator at The Jewish Center in Manhattan. She holds a BA in Jewish Education from Yeshiva University where she was a Legacy Heritage Fellow. She taught Limmudei Qodesh for seven years at the Abraham Joshua Heschel High School. Ora currently teaches human sexuality to both teens and parents and consults with Jewish day schools on sexuality education. She enjoys yoga, cooking, and eating!
Nelly Shulman is a journalist and writer currently based in Berlin. She has a MA in Hebrew and Jewish Studies from the Leo Baeck College in London. She is an author of four popular historical novels in the Russian language. She is working on the fifth novel in this series and on her first English-language novel, a historical thriller set during the Siege of Leningrad. She is the winner of the three literary awards for her essays and short stories.
Hannah Greenberg is a Jewish educator studying at the Pardes Institute’s Center for Jewish Education in Jerusalem. She has her Masters in education in Exceptional Children & Youth with a concentration in autism and severe disabilities from the University of Delaware. Hannah is currently learning daf yomi (and sharing about it via her instagram account “dafyomiadventures”) and enjoys studying Talmudic aggadah.
Tiki Krakowski works as a freelance translator, editor and writer. Her love of Jewish text has led her to translate primary Jewish texts for such projects as The New Koren Tanakh: The Magerman Edition (out in 2021), and the Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization: Volumes 3 & 4 (release date TBA). In addition to her work as a translator, Tiki is adept at geekery, baking, writing, animals, and feeding other people. She lives in Jerusalem with a most excellent roommate, and her neurotic dog, River.
Hannah Jacobson-Hardy is the founder of Sweet Birch Herbals, a holistic health coach and community herbalist. She is devoted to providing western Massachusetts with high-quality plant-based medicines that are locally grown. All of her plant medicines are sustainably wildcrafted and cultivated to ensure abundance for future generations. Hannah serves a wide range of clients and offers herbal medicine classes and apprenticeships. She creates custom blended formulas that she ships to her global clientele and provides specifically tailored protocols that include nutritional guidance and lifestyle suggestions.
Fabienne Viner-Luzzato is French-born, with Jewish Tunisian and Italian origins. The youngest of seven children, the kitchen was the centre of her childhood home. She remembers waking up on Fridays with the smell of couscous, harissa and the homemade challah she plaited with her mother Fortunée, her inspiration. After training and working in business administration and human resources for over 10 years, she met her British husband Paul in Israel in 2000. They moved to London in 2001 where she set up her catering and cookery school. They have three children, Yael, Leah and Elie.
Rabbi Robyn Ashworth-Steen serves as rabbi at Manchester Reform Synagogue. She studied at Newnham College, Cambridge for a degree in Theology & Religious Studies. Before becoming a rabbi, Robyn was a human rights lawyer and is a passionate social justice activist. Robyn is interested in creating relational, textured, activist communities which are deeply connected to their locality and other communities.
Rabbi Chasya Uriel Steinbauer is the devoted spouse to Ahava Steinbauer for 22 years and the mother of Hannah Devorah and Shaiya Ben Ami, ages 10 and 7. She serves Hashem and others as the Founder & Director of Kehilat Mussar at The Institute for Holiness, and as Faculty at The Mussar Institute. For the past 25 years, Mussar with Mindfulness Meditation has been her daily, spiritual practice, opening the hearts and hands of her students and Mussar groups throughout the world. She is blessed to share her love of Judaism, Mussar, the land of Israel, and the Jewish people with her intentional community at Kibbutz Hannaton in the Galilee, where Kehilat Mussar is ho
Hélène Jawhara Piñer holds a doctoral degree in Medieval History and the History of Food from the University of Tours, France. In 2018, she was awarded the Broome & Allen Fellowship of the American Sephardi Federation. She attended The Great Big Jewish Food Fest (May 2020). Her cookbook Sephardi. Cooking the History of the Jews from Spain and the Diaspora from the 13th century to Today, and her academic monograph Jews, Food and Spain: The Real Culinary History will be published by Academic Studies Press (Spring 2021). She teaches live historical cooking classes for the show “Sephardic Culinary History”.
Esther Daniels was born in Bombay India, to a Conservative Jewish family. The youngest of four sisters, she credits her mother, Jerusha, with transmitting skills and creativity with food. Esther met her Canadian husband Ken at an army program in Israel and together they have a son Joshua. They resettled in Melbourne Australia to be closer to family. They are active members in the Melbourne Jewish community. They currently own and operate the canteens at the King David School, where Esther is always creating innovative kosher recipes for the students and teachers.
Mitten Lowe lives in Boulder, Colorado, USA, and is a mother of two, a wife, and a committed community member. She is a biologist, clinical herbalist, medicine woman, intuitive healer, and owner of Journey to Wellness. She provides one-to-one guidance and facilitates healing and nourishment groups with a focus on food as medicine, plant medicine, and intuitive healing.
Sibel Pinto was born and raised in a Sephardic family in Istanbul, Turkey. She holds a post graduate diploma in Taste, Gastronomy and Table Arts from Cordon Bleu Institute and University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne, France. Passionate about traditional Sephardi family recipes, Sibel is a chef-instructor and the author of a book about Turkish Sephardic food history. Founder of Action Kashkarikas Wasteless Kitchen Mission Sibel is World Chefs certified ‘Sustainability Education Trainer’, anti-food waste coach and consultant. She shares her recipes on her Instagram page and in her online workshops. Sibel is married, loves to walk, travel, write, read, share, and teach.
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