Fusion cooking is helping me embrace my Jewish and Japanese identities.



March 7, 2022

“Growing up, I saw my Jewish and Japanese identities as two separate, conflicting entities. When I was in a Jewish setting, there never seemed to be any Japanese people, and when I was in a Japanese setting, there never seemed to be any Jewish people. I felt in-between worlds. I later learned about the concept of intersectionality, and how the amalgam of our various facets cannot be untangled from who we are at the core. This inspired me to seek out other Jews of Color and work together to create a Jews of Color cookbook called Tlaim!”

“So, I started cooking. Blending ingredients from my different cultures helped me connect to my Jewish and Japanese heritage — physically and emotionally. For Hanukkah, I put a Jewish twist on a Japanese summer dessert called warabi mochi. Inspired by the earthy flavors of soybean powder and black sugar syrup in the original dessert, the doughnut recipe I made was my rendition of sufganiyot, fried jelly doughnuts eaten on Hanukkah. I was so happy that MIT Hillel shared my recipe in their Hanukkah holiday gift bags! 

“Food is not only essential for survival, but both a form of cultural expression and creative artform. Our hope on the Tlaim cookbook team is that we can highlight the experiences, traditions and recipes of Jews of Color, a group that is often both invisible and hypervisible in the American Jewish community. Our community is complex and diverse, and these stories need to be highlighted, to strengthen the Jews of Color community as well as raise awareness about traditions outside of Ashkenormative practice. To submit, you don’t have to be a professional chef; the recipe can be super simple. We just want to know what Jews of Color are cooking up, because whether it’s a recipe you make for Shabbat or simply something that makes you feel connected to your spirituality — you get to define what Jewish food is! ” — Alana Chandler, MIT Hillel 

If you identify as a Jew of Color and are interested in writing for or submitting recipes, art, or photography to “Tlaim: The Patchwork Cookbook” visit globaljews.org/projects/tlaim or @tlaim.cookbook on Instagram. Email [email protected] with any questions.

As told to Emma Lichtenstein, writer for the Hillel International Writers Program.