My Jewish Family History Told Through Food

Cathy Shufro speaks with Rachael Cusick during the Fi2W food journalism workshop. Photo: Rachael Bongiorno

Naomi Tomky‘s parents raised her with a strong sense of her Jewish identity.  Using a silver kiddush cup she got as a gift when she turned 13 is enough to remind her of her family traditions. But for Cathy Shufro and Anna Mindess, making the connection to their Jewish heritage is more difficult.  For both Cathy and Anna the Holocaust destroyed crucial connections to the past. Anna’s mother was so traumatized by the war that she hid her war experiences from her daughter. Cathy, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, never met her grandparents and has no family heirlooms, so she adopts old things out of her yearning for links to the past.

Listen to their stories.

My Kiddush Cup

Even though Naomi Tomky’s family ate spaghetti most nights when she was growing up, she’s kept some Jewish culinary traditions. Wine is key, and she always makes her guests have one glass of Manischewitz before they move on to other courses. Naomi tells Hali Bey Ramdene how a kiddush cup, a traditional silver wine goblet, reminds her of who she is.

Adopted heirlooms

As Cathy Shufro holds up a blue and white floral Wedgwood plate she found at a Goodwill store, she explains to Rachael Cusick why she cherishes it, “this plate expresses a wish to have heirlooms, because I don’t have any.”  When the Nazis took over Austria, Cathy’s mother fled Vienna at age 13 on the kindertransport to the safety of England. Her mother’s parents didn’t survive the Holocaust and her father’s parents died when Cathy was a young child. Through adopted treasures, she’s trying to fill the gaps in her family history.

The Missing Spice – by Anna Mindess

During World War II, my mother was a hidden Jew in Budapest, Hungary. The traumas she endured left such deep emotional scars that when she moved to California in her late 20’s, she attempted to make a complete break from her past. Later, this included an understanding that I was not to ask her to recount her experiences, which left me with many unanswered questions and a hunger to connect with other immigrants. In writing food stories, I found a surprising outlet.

If you enjoyed these stories you can hear more here.

These stories are part of our series of audio snapshots from Feet in 2 Worlds’ recent food journalism workshop held at The New School in New York City. The workshop included audio training, editing and story development. Participants were asked to bring items that represent their culture or family histories.

Funding for the workshop comes from The International Association of Culinary Professionals’ foundation, The Culinary Trust, and its Growing Leaders Food Writing program.

Fi2W is supported by the David and Katherine Moore Family Foundation, the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation, the J.M. Kaplan Fund, an anonymous donor and readers like you.

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