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Jewish Recipes Offer Culinary Journeys into History

Published: March 11, 2014

Although there were a few renowned cookbooks by and for Jewish families published in America prior to WWII, the post war period saw a dramatic increase in books of this genre. In fact, Jewish groups from around the country became prolific writers of community cookbooks, usually for the purpose of raising funds for various causes such as the Hebrew Sheltering Guardian Society of New York Orphan Asylum. The books represented a new pride in identity that was intimately tied to Jewish suffering during the Holocaust.

“Community cookbooks gave voice to Jewish women who otherwise were not recognized as members of society,” said Dr. Megan J. Elias, of the Department of History, who spoke on the topic to colleagues and guests at the National Endowment for the Humanities Colloquia:Jewish Community Cookbooks: A Part of the Holocaust in a Global Context at the Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center and Archives (KHRCA) on March 5.

Working with the significant collection of Jewish Community Cookbooks at the Dorot Division of the New York Public Library, the research seeks to put these cookbooks into the context of postwar American culture and the emerging sense of global citizenship.

Biographical Information

Dr. Megan J. Elias, who teaches U.S. History before 1877, American Women’s History, African-American History and Food History, addressed the cultural norms of the midday meal in America at the 2010 Spring Presidential Lecture Series. She is the author of several books including Food in the United States, 1890-1945 (2009 Greenwood Press), chosen by the American Library Association as one of the Outstanding Academic Texts of the year.

Dr. Elias received a B.A. degree in American History and Poetry from Cornell University, an M.A. degree in History from San Francisco State University, and a Ph.D. in History from The City University of New York Graduate Center.

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The Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center and Archives at Queensborough Community College was selected by the National Endowment for the Humanities as a national demonstration model to show how community colleges can better integrate their cultural resources into the curriculum.

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