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April 28, 2011

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Eric Fink

Agreed. This is creepy. No doubt well-intentioned. But creepy.

Len Rotman

Eric (and Eric),

Few like a good excuse to enjoy a nosh as much as I do -- heck, I can even eat kishke after watching the Mr. Creosote sketch in Monty Python's "Meaning of Life". I have to agree with both of you, though, as the images conjured in my head from this are certainly not positive, notwithstanding the cookbook author's assuredly good intentions.

While, as Eric Muller notes, many Jewish celebrations involving the eating of festive meals and symbolic foods are associated with overcoming death or subjugation, for me the images associated with cooking just do not mesh well with those of the Holocaust. Even the New York Times article about the cookbook recognizes in its opening sentence that "Recipe books based on the memories of Holocaust survivors might seem to trivialize the horror." Do you think ... ?

As one of far too many who lost family in the Holocaust, as important as it is to not forget what happened, it is also important to take great care not to trivialize it or the memories of those who perished in its horrors. With such a significant and traumatic event as this, it is wisest to err on the side of caution and decorum.

Harvey Caras

As the creators and publishers of the original Holocaust Survivor Cookbook (from which the idea for this new book was copied) we have heard a few criticisms like yours ever since our original book was first published in 2007.

The original "Holocaust Survivor Cookbook" and others like it will help to preserve the stories of Holocaust Survivors for future generations who will never meet a living Survivor.

Book shelves are filled with books about the Holocaust. Most are opened once and then put away forever. A cookbook is opened time and time again.

In our cookbook we suggest that each time a recipe is served someone at the table should read aloud the story that goes with it. By doing this we are keeping the memories of the Survivors alive for generations to come.

This, I believe, is the most important thing our generation can do, especially since there are so many now who try to deny that the Holocaust ever happened.

Our Holocaust Survivor Cookbook is also being used to teach tolerance and Holocaust studies in a growing number of public schools.

And finally, I believe that the true judges of the appropriateness of such books should be the Survivors themselves.

Here is just one of the many comments we received from the family members of Survivors whose stories and recipes are included in our cookbook.

"As so many others, I received this book Erev Yom Kippur and sat down immediately to read my own contribution (Fred Rose, my father) and continued, forwards and backwards from there.

What is most impressive is to read this total body of Holocaust history about individuals and families who rebuilt productive and positive lives. Every time I pick up this book, I am in awe of the contributors and of the Caras family that had the insight and foresight to put this together. "

"Chag Sameach. I know you are already into the Chag in Israel. Be'ahava." Esther Posner in Southfield, MI

All of our proceeds go to support the Carmei Ha'ir Soup Kitchen in Jerusalem, which feeds over 500 poor Israelis every day, many of whom are Survivors themselves.

The Holocaust Survivor Cookbook has given many Survivors the courage to speak out first time about their experiences, and it has also generated a lot of money to feed poor Israelis (to date over $140,000).

To order the original Holocaust Survivor Cookbook please visit our website:

www.survivorcookbook.org

Bob Strassfeld

While my initial reaction mirrors Eric, on further reflection I am unsure what I think. Certainly, if the book were an academic study of the food culture of pre-Holocaust European Jewry, nobody would think twice. Indeed, I would guess that one of Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett's students has written just such a dissertation and, perhaps, book. Similarly, collections of photographs, like Roman Vishniac's A Vanished World, sit on countless bookshelves without anyone being squeamish. Historians, writers like I.B and I.J. Singer, folklorists, etc., have helped to preserve a memory of the culture that the Nazis worked so hard to destroy.
Is the problem with a cookbook that it is intended not merely as a tribute to Jewish pre-war culture but also as a practical book? Is it, as Eric suggests, and I think he is on to something, the fact that mention of food immediately conjures up images of emaciated concentration camp survivors?
I think the appropriateness of the book probably depends on how well the editors treated the material. What sort of introduction does the book have, and does it address the discomfort that the book produces? How careful and selective were they in collecting survivor stories to accompany the recipes? I do believe that the best response to Hitler is to assertively survive and celebrate. For that reason I relish eating at kosher restaurants in Europe. Perhaps that means we should also celebrate survivor's remembered recipes, even (feh) Schav.

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