Book Optioned: Museum Exhibit
Excerpted from my remarks at Opening Night at Temple Emanu-El, NYC, October 20, 2017:
Some people have books optioned for movies. I am so delighted that my book, On the Chocolate Trail (2nd Edition, 2017) has become a museum exhibit…
Thank you, Warren Klein, for your professionalism, creativity and collegiality in creating Semite Sweet, which displays some objects for the first time ever, much less together.
I appreciate that Gady Levy reached out to me with his vision about the uniqueness of an exhibit about Jews and chocolate.
I am grateful to Rabbi Davidson, the clergy team, and congregational leadership for the opportunity to bring the Jewish chocolate trail to this bimah.
… As you meander your own sweet trail through the exhibit I invite you to consider a few themes:
1. Chocolate provided business and trade opportunities to refugees in their relocations. Chocolate is a migrant food. Jews, initially Sephardim, later Ashkenazim, were sustained by it.
2. Second, while some historians of Jewish life identify the lachrymose tragedies of our past, these are stories of resilience and resourcefulness.
3. Third, chocolate drinking preceded eating chocolate which develops in the 19th century after the Industrial revolution.
I learned through research for the book about the Sephardi immigrants to the British Colonies in North America who were in the chocolate business: Aaron Lopez in Newport, RI and the Gomez family in NYC. These were people who returned to their Jewish identities by escaping Spain and Portugal.
Aaron Lopez immigrated to Newport from Portugal prior to the Revolution. Vastly successful trader and merchant, Lopez supported Touro Synagogue. Documents in the exhibit show that he distributed tzedakah to indigent Jews in the form of balls of chocolate. We also see in his papers the first known record connecting Pesah to chocolate.
In New York City, in the same period, five individuals in two generations of Gomez family traded, retailed, wholesaled and consumed chocolate. Patriarch Moses Luis Gomez escaped Spain as small child, possibly via Bayonne, France, ultimately to New York City. Gomez family members became founders of the Spanish Portuguese Synagogue, translators at the State Assembly, and donors to the rebuilding of Trinity Church’s steeple after a fire. Rebecca Gomez was one of few women selling chocolate and the only woman manufacturing it at Anne and Nassau. Her husband Mordecay’s Estate Inventory lists a chocolate pot, chocolate cups and cacao beans imported from Surinam.
These two Sephardi families, connected through familial and mercantile ties, not only supported themselves through their chocolate businesses and consumption of chocolate, they were also very engaged with their Jewish and non-Jewish communities.
Launching The Chocolate Babka Project
Admittedly, by heritage I am more a German kugelhopf than an Eastern European babka. I remember eating homemade kugelhopf and bundt cake at family celebrations in Los Angeles. When I mentioned babka to my German speaking father, he looked puzzled and asked, “What’s a babka?” Babka, much less chocolate babka, was just not in our pastryRead more ›
On the Chocolate Trail in Belize’s Jungle
Mark and I happily signed on for three distinct rainforest chocolate experiences within a 15 mile radius of our home base, the romantic Cotton Tree eco-lodge which is nestled among Mayan villages near the Caribbean in the Toledo District of Belize. Not only did Belize envelop us in an exotic rainforest experience, our tourism contributedRead more ›
Is that coffee or chocolate?
Having just eaten my daily portion of chocolate covered coffee beans, I am primed to consider the questions I hear about coffee when I teach on the chocolate trail. How do the two foods really differ, other than taste? I think back to when the layout for On the Chocolate Trail was being designed andRead more ›
A Chocolate Cake for October’s Tricks: Devil’s Food
Heading into October and its culmination in Halloween, I find myself hankering for Devil’s Food Cake, despite its initially derogatory name. Supposedly in 1690 Pilgrims traveled to Plymouth Rock via Amsterdam. They stayed in a house near the city’s biggest chocolate houses and called that chocolate “the Devil’s food.” Later, a chocolate cake, perhaps simplyRead more ›
Some Previous Posts
(in alphabetical order)
- A Chocolate Cake for October's Tricks: Devil's Food
- Announcing Second Edition: On the Chocolate Trail
- Book Optioned: Museum Exhibit
- Celebrating Ice Cream Month with Chocolate
- Choco-Travel Tips
- Chocolate Exhibit Hits the New York Times
- Chocolate Trail Broadens: "Semi[te] Sweet: On Jews and Chocolate" Travels
- Chocolate, Coffee, Tea and Me
- How About Some Mindful Chocolate Tasting?
- Jews on the Chocolate Trail
- Lunch & Learn: Central Synagogue
- Lunch and Learn: Tasting the Best Chocolate
- Mothers and Survival by Chocolate
- No End to Chocolate Exhibits Part III: Visits #3, 4 & 5
- Of Chocolate Exhibits There is No End: Part 2
- Super Food Chocolate for Super Bowl Sunday: Three Recipes
- Talking Chocolate in February
- Warm Up: 3 Historical Drinking Chocolate Recipes