Newsletter   /   May 2024
Culinary Connections: Exploring JoC Food Traditions with jkid4all

Sarah Kolker, the dynamic director of jkid4all, a program of Jewish Learning Venture (JLV), a Philadelphia-based organization dedicated to empowering Jewish families by making Judaism more meaningful and relevant to their lives, is leading a transformative initiative. With a keen focus on JoC (Jews of Color) family units—for young children, parents, and congregational educators—Kolker’s project, “We Belong At the Table,” harnesses the power of community programming, research, and web archival work to document, showcase, and disseminate diverse culinary traditions within Jewish communities.

Cultures and traditions are often passed down through the sharing of food and meals; this is true for the global Jewish community, where food is a direct means of religious and communal expression. On Passover, for instance, each food on the seder plate represents an element of our collective history. Jews of Color experience Jewish ritual practice and community as an intersection of various identities, and this is directly reflected in the diversity of culinary traditions and practices that exist among non-white Jews. “Food can tell such a story with just its ingredients,” Kolker explained. “It is an integral part of being human, so it’s really a great way to learn about different cultures and ethnicities within Judaism.”

Renowned food historian Michael Twitty eloquently captures the significance of food as an expression of cultural identity, stating, “Food is so important in understanding and preserving culture because it is something that connects us all… [It] is the best and worst of human history.” Indeed, food serves as a tangible link to the past, present, and future, embodying traditions, memories, and aspirations.

On April 7th, jkid4all hosted a cooking demonstration and workshop led by Jackie Jonas that was geared towards parents, caregivers, and grandparents. At the event, Jonas taught diverse Passover traditions and recipes, such as a Moroccan Pesach soup and two versions of charoset based on Sephardic and African American traditions. Kolker emphasized, “There is such a rich tradition and history of Sephardic dishes and African American traditions that tie into Passover.” A variety of programming and content has emerged in recent years that highlights the various ways racial and ethnic identities infuse Passover celebrations; for example, last month the LUNAR Collective hosted a series of Asian Jewish Seders that celebrated the beautiful intersection of Asian and Jewish culinary traditions. How family traditions and recipes can support the multiplicity of identities as they are passed between generations was a core element of this programming. 

Efforts to strengthen Jewish community bonds and celebrate cultural intersections within JoC families are aimed at creating a future where Jews of Color feel a deep sense of belonging in the Jewish community. By engaging with diverse age groups, jkid4all aims to cultivate self-love and confidence among individuals at various life stages through educational experiences that honor the multiplicity of Jewish identities.

Through its innovative programming, jkid4all is not only enriching Jewish learning but also paving the way for a more inclusive and equitable Jewish future. By recognizing and celebrating the diverse culinary heritage within Jewish communities, jkid4all is fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of the richness and complexity of Jewish identity.

Click here to contribute your family recipes and stories highlighting the power of cultural traditions to this project.

Date Posted

May 2024


Jews of Color Initiative