In this week’s edition of What Alumni Are Saying we’re hearing from participants from New Jersey. Since Birthright Israel’s inception, 72,305 young Jewish adults from New Jersey have received this life-changing gift.…
How Birthright Israel Inspired My Love of Ashkenazi Food – Alumni Recipe FeatureDecember 2, 2018 at 8:12 pm
Hanukkah is a very nostalgic time for me and brings me very special memories. In 2010, on the eve of the first night of Hanukkah, I went on my Birthright Israel trip. I was finishing up the final year of my Bachelor of Science degree and knew very little about Israel or Judaism.
I was born in Belarus into a family that had to hide their origins and Judaism for countless decades. My mother had always been very interested in our family history and she was the one who started telling me more about who I was. I became very curious and started reading and doing research. I needed to understand where I came from. Unfortunately, I had no Jewish community around me. I didn’t have anyone to speak to… until I found Birthright Israel.
The trip didn’t just take me on a tour of a beautiful, diverse and innovative country. It took me on a magical journey of self-realization and discovery. From hiking up Masada, sleeping under the dessert sky, relaxing in the Dead Sea, walking around Tzfat and the old streets of Jerusalem to the fun nights out in Tel-Aviv with my new friends – I loved every moment spent in Israel. Especially the food! I am a huge foodie and feel that the best way to get to know a country is through its cuisine. Israel was the perfect candidate for this. The vast array of wonderful flavors and spices I got to try in Israel was incredible. Since getting back, I have mastered the art of a delicious, home-baked challah as well as a delectable and perfectly spiced Shakshuka, which I cook every Saturday morning for myself and my friends.
My trip also taught me to embrace my Ashkenazi heritage and the incredible cuisine that comes with it. I asked my mom to teach me how to make all the weird and wonderful traditional dishes she used to make for us. I was even inspired to start a cooking blog, where I share genuine Eastern European recipes that I used to enjoy as a kid in Belarus.
Birthright Israel really opened my eyes to a whole new world – a world where I wasn’t scared or ashamed to tell someone that I was Jewish (like my family and ancestors were). In fact, exploring Israel has made me extremely proud to be Jewish, proud of my people and proud of my heritage. Since then, I have been to Israel once with another trip coming up in a few months. This time, I will be taking my mom with me for her very first time!
So, in the spirit of Hanukkah, it brings me great pleasure to share my very own latke recipe. These were (and still are) my absolute favorite growing up. The recipe makes around 24 latkes, and serves 6 people. Chag Sameach, I hope you enjoy!
- 2⅕ lbs of potatoes
- 2 medium onions
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup Flour (gluten free can be used too)
- 2 tsp Salt
- ¼ tsp Cracked Pepper
- Oil for Frying
- Sour Cream for Serving
- Peel and grate potatoes into a large mixing bowl (you can use a food processor).
- Squeeze out the liquid
- Peel and grate onions. Add to the potatoes (if using food processor, you can pulse the potatoes and onions at the same time).
- Add eggs, flour, salt and pepper to make a smooth batter.
- Heat some oil in a frying pan (enough to cover the latkes mid-way).
- Drop the batter from a spoon into the hot oil. Fry over medium heat until brown. Turn and brown on the other side.
- Remove from oil and drain excess oil on a paper towel.
- Serve with a dollop of sour cream.
Aliaksandra is a Business Analyst by day and an avid traveler and foodie by night. Born in Belarus, she now calls South Africa home. You can follow her recipes on Instagram @lexicooksfoodBlog Home