Jewish Diversity: Travels of Jewish Foods and Jewish Families - Lesson Plan for Family/Congregational Education
This lesson plan is part of a larger guide entitled “Jewish Diversity and Innovation: the View from the Kitchen.”
Notes to Leader/Facilitator
- A map of the world (with general contours of all the continents) on a really big sheet of butcher paper
- The recipe for “Moroccan Pumpkin Soup with Chick-peas in Massachusetts,” from Joan Nathan’s Jewish Cooking in America written out on butcher paper
- Colored markers
- Signs with one of the following ingredients written on each sign: pumpkin, onion, chick-peas, beef, water, cinnamon, sugar, chicken soup.
Pre-assign adults (or children with adult help) to act out the parts of the different ingredients in the soup using the information provided in the handout for this lesson. Actors hold a sign telling who they are.
Exploring Jewish Journeys
Explain to the group that you will be studying Jewish history through food, recipes, and ingredients during the lesson. You will be basing the lesson on the recipe for Moroccan pumpkin soup found in Joan Nathan’s Jewish Cooking in America. This recipe tells a story of Jewish journeys across many countries, over many centuries.
Together, read this short excerpt from one of the first Jewish journeys, the exodus from Egypt, from the Torah: Numbers/Bamidbar 11:1-6. (Read in small groups—each family together, or mixed up, in groups of 4-8 adults and children.)
Discuss the following questions, either as a whole group, or in the small groups who have read the text together:
- What is happening in this passage?
- What foods are mentioned?
- Who is missing them, and where are they located?
- This passage foreshadows much about future Jewish history after the Bible. Even while wandering in the desert as free people, the former slaves look back nostalgically at the foods they ate in Egypt. Even though their situation wasn’t very good in Egypt, they miss it. How is our situation in any way similar to theirs?
- What foods make you feel at home?
- What foods do your parents/other family members make best?
- Have you ever been somewhere where you couldn’t get a favorite food to eat? How did that make you feel?
Narrate the next activity, saying: “Let’s turn to today’s recipe for Moroccan pumpkin chick-pea soup. Ingredients, could you please stand up and come to the front of the room? Were any of you mentioned in the biblical passage? If so, you must be very old. Could you please each share your history?” Call on them on at a time. (Ingredient actors should use the handout.):
- pumpkin, butternut, or calabaza squash
- chicken soup
As each ingredient speaks, draw on your butcher paper world map where this ingredient comes from and a path that indicates its journey.
Mapping Family Journeys
Invite each family to discuss their own journeys (going back as many generations as they know) from various countries to America, and within America. First they should confer as a family, and then send a delegate up to the front to draw lines (each family in a different color) on the world map for their family’s movements from country to country, to America, and within America. While drawing, they can explain some of their family’s history to the group. Remember that adopted children’s stories, and stories about countries of origin for non-Jewish parents are important parts of this narrative.
Journeys and Recipes
Ask everyone: “While traveling, we have picked up ingredients from many locations, and added them to local new ingredients to create dishes. Can you think of any Jewish or American foods that can be made with some of the ingredients standing at the front?” As people list foods, encourage the ingredient characters to move around to form groups representing the different suggestions. Here are a few examples to get the group rolling:
- pumpkin pie with pumpkin, sugar, and cinnamon
- chicken soup with the chicken soup stock and onion
Read Batsheva Levy Salzman’s story from the recipe aloud. Discuss the following questions:
- What special foods/stories/items has your family carried from one place to another?
- How does that help you remember your history?
- Ask children to share what special wisdom they have learned from their parents on any topic. Ask parents to share what special wisdom they have learned from their children on any topic.
Jews have traveled all over the world, and picked up foods and other customs along the way. Today, we have looked at how our own family stories relate to the broader narrative of the Jewish people, and how food fits into this picture.
Additional Activity Possibility
Make a recipe book or start a blog featuring recipes brought by participants, as a follow-up to the day.