The Jew And The Carrot

A Taste of the Shtetl at Warsaw's New Jewish Museum

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

  • Print
  • Share Share
Ruth Ellen Gruber
Lunch Options: Museum visitors grab a bite to eat at the cafe on opening weekend.

Making sure food is part of a museum is not an easy task — fresh dishes will perish, plastic ones miss the point.

But, at Warsaw’s new Museum of the History of Polish Jews, food, drink and the special Jewish relationship to eating and drinking will be a recurring thread woven throughout the yet to be installed core exhibition.

The Museum’s striking building was opened to the public April 19, but its permanent exhibition, a narrative presentation of 1,000 years of Jewish life, won’t debut until next year.

“We don’t have separate sections on discreet themes such as women, children, dress, or food,” said Barbara Kirshenblatt Gimblett, the NYU scholar in charge of the team putting together the core exhibition. “There are no encyclopedia entries.” Rather, she said, food, drink and issues related to them would be addressed within the context of the chronological narrative.

For example, she said, the first Hebrew book printed in Poland was Isaac of Dueren’s “Sha’arei Dura,” a 16th century treatise about ritual purity, mainly dealing with the laws of kashrut and women’s ritual purity. “The book tells how to apply the laws of kashrut to everyday life,” she said. “The first pages are about salting meat” and there are practical descriptions of what to do in specific circumstances.

In the medieval gallery, she said, “there will be a whole section on trade, including the trade of spices, as an aspect of the economy.”

In another gallery there will be a section mocking up a market stall, with a focus on three key items of the Jewish table — garlic, goose and herring. Using old texts and other sources, she said, “We’ll show how goose fat was the ‘Jewish lard,’ how garlic was considered an aphrodisiac, and how there were discussions in a 17th century Yiddish medical manual about whether a fish could be considered meat.”

One particular hero of the exhibit is Ber of Bolechow, an 18th century wine importer who wrote an autobiography in which he detailed wine purchasing journeys to the Tokaj region of northern Hungary. “Jews were important in the alcohol trade, and we will be putting this into historical context,” she said.

In addition to these historical references, visitors to the museum will be able to enjoy a first-hand taste of Polish Jewish cuisine in the museum’s restaurant. “They asked me to prepare a menu with local and seasonal dishes that are Jewish — but which Polish visitors will also recognize as part of the culinary tradition.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: poland, Warsaw Jewish Museum, Warsaw, Jewish food poland

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.