Faith in Food: Oneg Shabbat at Bradford Synagogue
A Wonderful Evening of Israeli Cuisine
Our first Faith in Food event took place at Bradford Reform Synagogue on Friday 16 September – the evening was a resounding success, and organisers were delighted to see the Synagogue full with people enjoying food and sharing conversation.
The festival is all about bringing people together, and one of our main aspirations for this year was to encourage places of worship across the district to open their doors and invite people from different backgrounds, cultures and faiths to share food and conversation.
Bradford Synagogue excelled in this, hosting a wonderful evening with a fantastic spread of dishes inspired by the Ashkenazi and Sephardi traditions of Jewish culture. We would like to thank everyone who supported the event, and especially to Bradford Council for sponsoring the Faith in Food programme.
The following is a copy of the talk given at the beginning of the evening. It provides a fascinating insight into the food served.
Oneg Shabbat at Bradford Synagogue on Friday 16.09.16
“The dietary laws of kashrut, which are written in the Torah, the five books of Moses, have been one of the most significant factors that have influenced Jewish styles of cooking. We all know that if something is hedged with prohibitions, it immediately becomes more interesting.
And Jewish culture involves an overwhelming interest in food. The proverbial Yiddisheh Mammah manifested her unbreakable and unconditional love for her family by constant and solicitous overfeeding, hovering, trying to arouse the appetite and asking,”Have you had enough to eat? Take a little more.”
Throughout the history of the Jews, observance created a spiritual atmosphere around food and gave it special importance. The Jewish Sabbath or day of rest, Shabbat, as do all festivals, runs from sunset the evening before till sunset the following day. Shabbat is welcomed every week in the family home. All the family gather from wherever they have spent their working week, to celebrate together, with a special meal, blessings, songs and prayers. The table is laid as befits a visit from a queen, as Shabbat is metaphorically seen as a queen. The best linen, dishes and silverware are used. There are two candlesticks with candles, a Kiddush cup with wine, and two plaited white challah loaves covered by a special cloth. No work may be done on Shabbat so all preparations are made beforehand. We call our celebration this evening ‘Oneg Shabbat’ which translates as ‘the joy of Shabbat.’
The food and culture of the Jewish people, united by the laws of Kashrut, was influenced by the geographical regions in which they happened to be living. There are two distinct cultural branches, Ashkenazi and Sephardi. The Askenazim are the Jews whose origin lies in Western and Eastern Europe and Russia. Ashkenaz is the Hebrew name for Germany. The Sephardim have roots around the Mediterranean, Middle East and Asia. The differences in the two styles of cooking have to do with the climate and soil and local produce. The Ashkenazi world is a cold world. It is a world of chicken fat, onion and garlic, cabbage, carrots and potatoes, freshwater fish, especially carp, and salt herring. The Sephardi world is a warm one of peppers, and aubergine, courgettes and tomatoes, rice and cracked wheat, saltwater fish and olive oil.
We have prepared dishes from both the Ashkenazi and Sephardi tradition. There is falafel and humus with Israeli salad and pitta bread. Falafel are little spicy balls fried in oil and made from ground chick peas. They are traditionally eaten in Israel with hummus and tahini sauce, a puree of cooked chick peas with garlic and sesame. As street food in Israel these are eaten enveloped in pitta bread with salad, and their origins are in the local Arab food. There is also couscous, which has become an Israeli favourite.
The Ashkenazi tradition is represented by salmon, potato salad, sauerkraut, pickled cucumbers and for desert zwetchenkuchen.
Enjoy your evening.”