In every culture, food is a special way to transmit and preserve traditions and values. Certain meals become symbolic, like how a turkey dinner is a key part of the Thanksgiving tradition. Jewish culture is a remarkable example of this, because several important religious beliefs and ideas are transmitted through the food and its preparation. Jewish foodways have a place in the informal traditions of the home, the formal rituals of the religion held in the home, and in both the informal gatherings of the congregation through potluck meals at women's gatherings and onegs (post-worship social hour) following services on the Shabbat as well as through formal ritual meals like Passover.
Passover is an eight day celebration
of the Hebrews' deliverance from Egypt. Passover is a
home tradition, at the beginning of which the Seder is
For instance, kashrut is the part of Jewish law that dictates what can and cannot be eaten, and how food must be prepared. These laws carry with them a large religious significance, not only because it is custom, but because it is in the Torah and it is a way of showing obedience towards God.
Another example of Jewish foodways lies in the traditions held during Jewish Holidays. During the Jewish holiday of Passover, there is a feast, or Seder. Almost everything served during seder has some religious significance, and the annual serving of those foods helps to maintain the Jewish tradition. For example, the roasted lamb shank bone represents the Pesach sacrifice at the Temple during ancient times. Matzah, an unleavened bread, represents the bread that the Jews took with them when leaving Egypt in haste so the bread did not have time to rise. These food traditions do just as much to preserve Jewish culture as the turkey in Thanksgiving does to preserve American culture.