Adaptation, Immigration, and Identity: The Tensions of American Jewish Food Culture Public Deposited

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  • February 26, 2019
  • Moss, Mariauna
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • While Holocaust survivor food culture did not change as a result of the Holocaust, American Jewish food culture did. As Jewish holidays and their accompanying food rituals became less linked to religion and more to culture, American Jews incorporated modern, secular events into their holiday food rituals. The narrative of the Holocaust met American Jewish food culture through the insertion of Holocaust memorials into Passover haggadot, the instruction manual for the Passover seder. By linking the memorials to religious precepts, the Holocaust became a legitimate Jewish event. Chapter 1 explains how American Jewish food culture developed, by following the food journeys of incoming immigrant waves and their American-born children from 1820-1939, just before the outbreak of the Second World War. Using both Jewish cookbooks published in the United States and Jewish immigrant narratives, it argues that with subsequent American-born generations and their food acculturation, American Jewish identity became linked to Jewish food, most specifically Jewish holiday food, because of its connection to both the old world and an ancestral past. Chapter 2 follows the lives of three Holocaust survivors who migrated to the United States in the late 1940’s, after World War II. Using oral histories to evaluate how their food culture changed in light of migration, and how their first-generation status influenced their perception of “American food” and American-born Jews, it argues that Holocaust refugees who migrated to the United States after the Holocaust did embrace elements of American Jewish food culture, but could not attribute their Jewish identity to food because they experienced an old world, religious-based Judaism first hand. They did not need to link their Jewish identity to food because their Judaism was inherently connected to the “authentic” old world. Chapter 3 turns back to American Jewish food culture, analyzing how American Jews altered Jewish food ritual in light of the Holocaust. Using Passover haggadot written by Reform, Reconstructionist, and non-denominational congregations, it argues that American Jews inserted Holocaust memorials into the Passover seder by making it a redemptive event, linking it back to religion by citing it as part of God’s original promise to Abraham. Linking the memorials to religious precepts gave them legitimacy and served as yet another link to the ancient past. Thus, the incorporation of these memorials into Jewish holiday food ritual exemplifies the link between American Jewish food culture and identity by linking the secular to the religious in order to ensure the longevity of Holocaust memory.
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  • In Copyright
  • Funding: SURF Grant
  • Bryant, Chad
  • Bachelor of Arts
Honors level
  • Honors
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • 70 p.

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