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“Scholar in the Kitchen”

The original waves of the feminist movement swept many women out of the kitchen with the tide, yet running along the edge of the sea is the Scholar in the Kitchen, and she is reclaiming her territory.

Created by Ma’yan, the Jewish Women’s Project of the JCC on the Upper West Side in New York City, the Scholar in the Kitchen program invites the professional woman to return to the kitchen—and to bring her expertise along.

At a recent gathering, Zvia Ginor, Assistant Professor of Jewish Literature at the Jewish Theological Seminary, served as bridge between research and cooking. Speaking to a Ma’yan audience about poems and pastry, she interspersed her discussion of Jerusalem as- literary-metaphor with remarks on “Jerusalem kugel,” passing around poetry while the noodle dish, featuring caramelized sugar and black pepper, which she baked in Ma’yan’s kitchen. The link between the two, says Ginor, is the Jewish woman who does it all.

Being at the center, however, is not so easy, according to Ginor, author of Womenswell and Beyond the Legend: A Study of the Poetry of Abba Kovner (in Hebrew, published by Hakibbutz Hameuchad). The challenge is timing. Lecturing on poetry, Ginor turned her back to the audience to caramelize the noodles, then turned her back on the kugel to give instructions on how to bake. The counterpoint, she comments, “could have been a hilarious text” itself.

Where the kitchen used to be gathering place for women to cook and tell stories, the Ma’yan kitchen has become a gathering place for women to cook and participate in a discussion with, this past season, such luminaries as food historian Joan Nathan and Professor of Government and Women’s Studies at Smith College Martha Acklesberg.

Acklesberg, who led the last of this series, braided loaves of challah with tales of radical Jewish women in the U.S. labor movement. How is a woman like a loaf of bread, she asked, recalling a billboard from the 70s? They both will rise.

Scholar in the Kitchen creates an intimate and undeniably feminist atmosphere a place where women can learn a new recipe…for dinner, and for life.