Food is Love

by | Feb 4, 2019 | Uncategorized

Food connects people,” says Dalit Gvirtsman, a co-founder of Cooking Up, an international network of food classes. “Food is love,” she continues.

Gvirtsman might have a point.

After all, consider how many dates, celebrations, and even interviews take place at restaurants—how many gifts are presented and proposals made over a fine and fancy meal.

And then there’s the trend of sharing what’s on your plate with friends and family by photographing your food the moment a server places it on the table. Admittedly, my husband sometimes photographs our home dinners to prove to our daughters that we do have proper meals—even if they’re not around!

Another relationship with food phenomenon is the cooking classes for friends and families. My family, for example, partnered with another to cook together one night under the tutelage of a pro who instructed us with a pie theme—some were savory, others sweet. One thing for certain, we learned about crusts and made enough to eat for the week. The article on page 16, however, is about Cooking Up, a network of cooking gatherings. Information for starting a group in Tidewater is at the article’s end.

Then, there are the classes, workshops, and books on healthy eating habits. Rachel Herz, author of Why You Eat What You Eat, was in town last month as part of the Simon Family JCC’s Lee and Bernard Jaffe Family Jewish Book Festival. Joining her on a panel was Sandra Porter Leon, MS, RDN, a nutrition consultant and Tidewater Community College professor, and Tom Purcell, JFit membership and wellness director. Needless to say, the event was well-attended.

Back to dating and dining—the piece about SawYouAtSinai, a matchmaking site, features a local young woman who met her husband through the service. Check it out to see the newlyweds.

There’s more, of course, including an interesting recipe for Chickpea Bolognese for our readers who are non-meat eaters and a story about challah businesses.

Food connects people in conversation, in cooking, in celebrating. We hope this section connects with you!

Terri Denison


Chickpea Bolognese is a hearty meat-free dinner you will love

This article originally appeared on The Nosher.

Winter months require a steady stream of comfort food for survival. But the start of the year also brings a time when people are more health-focused, perhaps even cutting their meat intake.

This hearty pasta dish doesn’t compromise on flavor while using chickpeas instead of ground beef, turkey, or lamb. I suggest treating these versatile little beans as you would treat half a pound of ground meat by browning and seasoning well. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how delicious, hearty, and meaty this spaghetti really turns out, and let’s face it—that’s exactly what you are craving, right?


  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, washed and grated finely
  • 1 celery stalk, very finely chopped
  • 7 ounces cooked or canned garbanzo beans (drained and rinsed if canned)
  • 14 ounces can of plum tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup red wine
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • 1 pound spaghetti


1. Heat half of the olive oil in a medium pot. Add the garlic and onions, along with the chili flakes and sauté for 2-3 minutes until softened slightly. Add the chickpeas and sauté for 10 minutes. Allow the chickpeas to soften a little bit and start to mash them and break some of them apart with a spoon or fork, leaving some of them still intact.

2. Add another tablespoon of the olive oil and allow the chickpeas to brown lightly, stirring occasionally.

3. Add the carrot and celery and mix well. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and cook for 2 minutes. Then add the canned tomatoes and break them apart with a spoon. Add the vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and wine, allowing it all to evaporate and absorb into the vegetable mixture.

Add the bay leaves and thyme and leave to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomato paste, brown sugar, and a pinch of salt and pepper and leave to cook for another 5–10 minutes, until the bolognese is thick and has darkened.

4. Cook the pasta 2 minutes less than directed on the packet, reserving ¼ cup of the hot pasta water. Drain the pasta and mix with the bolognese sauce along with the pasta water. Mix on low heat until the sauce has once again thickened, about a minute.

5. Top with the remaining olive oil and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Serves 4.


Home cooking classes where Israel and Jewish culture are always on the menu

Alix Wall

SAN FRANCISCO (JTA)—In the compact, open kitchen of the apartment here that Dalit Gvirtsman shares with her husband, about a dozen women are jostling for space. One is chopping tomatoes, another is sautéing onions and another is squeezing a few dollops of honey into cooked egg noodles.

Just beyond, the dining room table is set; each place setting features a napkin with the Israeli flag. A platter of bourekas with miniature Israeli flags has already been demolished.

Mevashlim B’Ivrit, or Cooking Up in Hebrew. This group of women, all Israelis, have come together to cook, eat and schmooze—and then eat a little more.

The program is part of the World Zionist Organization’s Department for Diaspora Activities. The get-togethers are opportunities to learn a little about the Jewish calendar and Israel, explore Jewish cultures through their cuisines, and forge bonds among Israelis, local Jews, and sometimes non-Jews living in various communities.

San Francisco’s is one of 19 such groups formed around the world, though most of them are in the United States. Thirteen are for Hebrew speakers. (A Los Angeles version is in Hebrew “specifically geared towards LGBTQ and ally Jews.”) There are others in Poland (in Polish, mainly for university students) and Uruguay (in Spanish); both facilitators heard about the program and volunteered to start it. A new Hebrew-speaking group is being formed in London this year, as are English-speaking groups in Toronto, San Francisco, and Oregon.

Some of them are women only and serve as a kind of “girl’s night,” but men also attend in some places. Some participants become such good friends that they schedule time to see each other outside of the sessions.

What started as a way for Israelis to stay connected with their culture in a Hebrew-speaking environment has burgeoned in unexpected ways: With Israeli food enjoying unprecedented popularity and interest around the world, the groups have become a way for others to connect with or learn more about Israel, too.

“Now the focus is to bring Israel and pluralistic Judaism to the Diaspora around the world,” says Dana Greitzer-Gotlieb, the Bay Area Regional director of the WZO and the originator of the idea. “That is why we’re translating the curriculum and starting new groups in English.”

But in another unanticipated outcome, non-Jews are wanting to take part, too.

Mevashlim B’Ivrit is in its third year in the Bay Area. Gvirtsman held it in another woman’s home in Berkeley the first year, but since then has used her own San Francisco home.

Gvirtsman and Greitzer-Gotlieb cooked up the program during a brainstorming session when Greitzer-Gotlieb saw and smelled the croissants that Gvirtsman pulled out of her oven.

“You made those?” Greitzer-Gotlieb asked.

“Yes,” Gvirtsman answered.

“From scratch?”

Again: “Yes.”

“The wheels started turning,” Greitzer-Gotlieb says.

Gvirtsman, a Hebrew teacher at an area Jewish day school, has a passion for cooking.

“Food connects people,” she says. “Food is love. And the subject of Israeli food and Jewish food is so large.”

“Plus, cooking allows a certain kind of experience,” Greitzer-Gotlieb adds. “When you create something with your own hands, you remember and enjoy it more.”

But they don’t only cook. Gvirtsman plans each session, and each one has a different theme (her own group has a year’s head start on the others, so they are the “guinea pigs”). The evening starts around the table with a few readings chosen by Gvirtsman meant to foster discussion of the theme. She has done fall soups, for example, cooking with the seasons and one session about yeast, never repeating a topic.

One session for Independence Day had the women cooking seven dishes reflecting the diversity of Israeli culture: maakouda, a Moroccan savory pie, Algerian bulgur salad, Russian blini with sour cream and caviar, Polish chopped liver, Russian Olivier salad, Egyptian majadara (a lentils and rice dish with fried onions), and a Polish noodle kugel.

Gvirtsman’s curriculum is used by all the groups, though once the program expanded, the WZO hired Israeli chef Einat Abramovich Partin, who lives in San Diego, as program manager. Partin now helps with the recipes and trains each facilitator via phone call or Skype.

There’s no rhyme or reason to where the groups pop up; it’s organic. Often an Israeli with a love for cooking will contact Greitzer-Gotlieb or Gvirtsman, having read or heard about the program elsewhere. But Partin is well connected and knows Israeli expatriates in many places.

For example, Boise, Idaho. Partin asked a friend of hers living there whether she’d want to be a facilitator. While this friend was too busy, she said she knew the perfect person and introduced her to Efi Asaf by phone.

“When you talk to a person, you can tell in the first two minutes if it’s a match,” Partin says. “I’ve never met Efi in person, but even over the phone, I fell in love with her right away.”

Partin is looking for two qualities in a facilitator.

“She needs to love food and she needs to love people,” she says. “Food brings people together, and if you love to cook, you are cooking with your soul and with love, people really feel that.”

Asaf taught a class about Passover to 20 women this year, none of them Jewish. All were “believers” of some kind, Christian, and Mormon.

Rebecca Baughman attended the Passover class—and can’t wait for the next series.

Baughman, who is Christian, studied in Israel for a semester in college. Besides the cooking, she appreciates being invited into the facilitator’s home—in this case Asaf’s—which adds so much to the experience.

“What a precious woman Efi is,” Baughman says. “I want to be her friend. That she lets us come into her home to learn more about her and her culture and religion is so special. She lets us in on her life and what she believes.

“I don’t know how to make Jewish food, so it’s fun to have her walk us through recipes and then let us loose in her kitchen, guiding us along the way.”

Given that the Boise group is made up of non-Jews, Asaf says she feels like a mini-ambassador for Israel, as other topics of discussion are bound to come up.

“Sometimes they ask about politics or whatever’s happening then, and I tell them how I feel about it, but we mostly keep it centered around food,” she says.

Asaf has taught an all-Israeli group as well, and says the differences are huge. When explaining a dish to Israelis, they’ll all have several opinions about how to tweak the recipe, or share a memory about it. With non-Jews, she has to explain the unfamiliar dishes in much more detail.

“People really love Israel and our traditions in Boise,” she says. “Most people here are very interested in other cultures and religions, so they really like to hear about other places. Food is also such a great connector because most of us are moms and cooking all the time anyway.”

This kind of food as diplomacy is taking root in all kinds of ways. One participant in the San Diego English-speaking group that Partin hosts is Maryam Tarsa, an Iranian immigrant who was raised Muslim.

Tarsa attended Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine and befriended many Orthodox Jews there. When she sent her children to the JCC preschool in San Diego, she became friendly with Partin.

She loves Cooking Up in Hebrew because “I’m not a good cook, I don’t really know how, and I figure it’s a good basic thing for me to know how to do at 48,” she jokes. Plus, she loves the socializing.

As for Israeli food, she says, “People from different countries bringing their food traditions from around the world means it’s not just one taste. That’s what makes the food so amazing and taste so good.”

To start a group (in Hebrew or English), contact

By Alix Wall


Couple donates 300 free months on SawYouAtSinai to Jewish singles

SawYouAtSinai, the online Jewish matchmaking service announced their 3,100th member was getting married this year. That’s an impressive achievement for the organization that made online, Jewish matchmaking such a popular phenomenon. One New York couple was so impressed that they offered to sponsor 300 one month plans to those looking for their shidduch through SawYouAtSinai.

The motivation for their gesture has not been disclosed. Whatever the reason, their generosity will no doubt be appreciated by those benefiting with the service—as well as their Jewish mothers! Each of the 300 recipients will get a free gold month on SawYouAtSinai. The gold membership allows two personal matchmakers and to receive up to 10 matches per week. This makes meeting one’s bashert during this free time, a realistic possibility.

Devorah Ritterman and Michael Mirsky, who were recently married, can attest to that. “I had just gone out with a couple of guys who were not for me, and I was starting to feel a bit worn out. A friend, who had actually met her own match through SawYouAtSinai, recommended I check it out.” says Ritterman, 22. “I wasn’t really into dating websites but something told me I should give it a try. Within a week of signing up my chosson popped up on the screen.”

SawYouAtSinai is focused on helping all Jewish singles, regardless of location, age, or background. The success of SawYouAtSinai has touched communities around the world, many of which did not have prior access to a matchmaker network.

It is not just the members that come from different demographics, but also the 300+ dedicated matchmakers.

“Every part of the SawYouAtSinai service is carefully thought out in order to provide the most comfortable and effective dating experience possible,” says Marc Goldmann, founder and CEO of SawYouAtSinai. “We train matchmakers from across the religious spectrum, matchmakers that speak different languages, and are from different cultures or ethnicities. We feel a good shidduch between each member and their matchmaker, leads to the best success.”

The matchmakers’ role is to get to know their members and then to search the worldwide database using the matching technology developed in-house by SawYouAtSinai. Members then get notified to log in to review the profiles, and can decide whether to accept or decline each match. Matchmakers provide on-going support and advice throughout the dating process, based on the wish of the member.

“I had been on the site for a while. While on the site, my two wonderful matchmakers helped guide me through the dating process and set me up on some nice dates, but nothing quite clicked,” says Chana Brooke Horowitz, a Norfolk native. “After a period of time, I was just feeling like I needed a break.

“Lucky for me, right before I checked out, a new profile came my way. I kept procrastinating and extending the time on the match, because I was wary of going out on just another date and really wanted a dating breather…finally, I decided I’d give it just ONE date,” she says.

“Thankfully I did! My husband and I got engaged last year and got married a few months later. Subsequently, I joined SawYouAtSinai as manager of Member and Matchmaker Support. Having gone through some of the ups and downs of dating myself, it is great to be able to help other singles meet their match!” says Horowitz.

Elana Joffe-Cohen has been on both sides of the service. “SawYouAtSinai helped me to find the love of my life and I’ve been doing what I can as a volunteer matchmaker on the site to pay it forward.” Joffe-Cohen (the site’s 1,162th success) says. “The service is a perfect amalgamation of the ancient art of true quality matchmaking (based on personality, interests, human intuition) with the modern technological wonder provided by the internet. My husband was in Israel and I was in the U.S. when we met—we had many friends in common, yet it took a SYAS matchmaker plus algorithm to actually introduce us.”

The 300 free months are valid to the first 300 that use the marketing code ‘300’ on the registration page. It is valid only to people who have never been a member of SawYouAtSinai or its affiliate sites.