It’s not exactly Brooklyn here, but Texas has some claims to Jewish food fame. An original television series, Jewish gastronomyexplores some of these Southwestern Semitic phenomena in a two-episode arc dedicated solely to Texas.
The series of 10 episodes of Ruderman Family Foundation — with the dual mission of advocating for Jews with disabilities and connecting all members of the Jewish community with their Israeli cultural heritage — was designed to be seen bi-directionally. As American Jews discover their roots, Israelis are encouraged to learn more about less discussed Jewish communities in the United States. Hosted by Israeli actor and comedian Ori Laizerouvich, it promises “a colorful tour from shakshuka to breakfast tacos to burgers.”
Both episodes focus on Jewish life in Austin, one of which devotes all of its screen time to “Jewish Cowboy” Jonathan Hochman, a former professional bull rider who teaches Laizerouvich how to make shakshuka-style huevos rancheros. Hochman makes a subtle vegetable oil change from olive oil to mellow out the Mediterranean taste and make it work Tex-Mex style.
The other episode explores more, led by Rabbi Neil Blumofe, Chief Rabbi of Congregation Agudas Achim in Austin. He and Laizerouvich go to Biderman’s delicatessen, known for its bagels and sandwiches, for the pastrami tacos served for breakfast by owner Zach Biderman. Then they make perhaps the most obvious stop, jewish burgers, for burgers topped with latkes, and a discussion of stereotypes with owner Mo Pittle. He explains that the somewhat controversial name is more of a “homeboy” moniker than an anti-Semitic slur.
“‘This is my story. You don’t have to like this, but I ask that you respect my opinion and my story,'” Pittle said on the show. “‘Communication is everything. Food, culture – the more we talk, the better things will get.
The series makes a point — or several — discussing the diversity of “American Jewry,” never more evident than in Austin, where its examples reflected not just Texas, but additional cultural overlap with the East Coast and Mexico. .
“I know a lot of people, a lot of Israelis, don’t think about Austin other than maybe the music,” Rabbi Blumofe’s press release quotes. “But there is also a very thriving Jewish community here. … People ask me why I stay in Austin. It’s because they’re such a wonderful family and a great place to keep growing and dreaming.
The multilingual series, with English subtitles, also makes stops in Arkansas, New York, Tennessee and Wyoming. It is available to watch for free on Youtube.