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The Jewish Mason Dixon Line

As one can see much of my site is about food or food related, simply put I love food, especially talking in grave detail about it. Every event I attend related to Jewish stuff is usually a food intensive event, weddings, sheva brachos, bar mitzvahs, bris milahs, Kiddush, shull, etc Until this shabbos I just made fun of the fact that food cresates tons of problems and joys within the Jewish community. You know non kosher chickens, triangle K, the local vegan Indian place that has some unheard of hashgacha, the 2nd ave deli, and so on.

I have discovered that many of the fights in Judaism stem from food. I have discovered the Gefilte Fish Line. Yes when I first saw this in the Shtetle Book I let out a huge laugh and said no way. Theres no way that so much division in Judaism can be based on Gefilte Fish, dont get me wrong I love fresh baked gefilte fish, with a dab of wasabi horseradish or that sweet red beet chrain mixed with a bit of helmans mayo and the residue of left over coleslaw sauce, but how can so much be based on this simple Jewish delicacy, one of yiddisher mamala delight, one that conjures up memories of bubbie screaming in the kitchen for you to wash your hentales.

So what is this comic sounding Gefilte Fish Line? The Gefilte Fish Line ran through eastern Poland dividing the Jews in the west who liked gefilte fish sweet with sugar and those in the east that liked their fish peppery the Yeckies vs. the Litvacks, then came the Farfel Line those who cut or chop their farfel. I knew that gefilte fish was of utmost importance in keeping your Jewish tradition, for instance a recent study found that those who eat gefilte fish are less likely to intermarry, but farfel is more obscure kind of like the vegetarian staple of tofu vs. the more obscure hardcore folks who rock the tempeh . Farfel is for the hardcore Jews while gefilte fish is for regular Joes who participate in Friday night meals for things such as speed dating and dinner and movie events.

It shocked me to learn that the largest debate of all amongst orthodox Judaism was started with the gefilte fish line. According the book I read the line followed the Yiddish dialect line and ultimately became the Jewish Mason Dixon Line dividing the Misnagdim from the Chasidim. Interesting that all the sinas chinum and debate and politics stems from food.

Well I guess since I like both sweet and peppery fish, chopped and grated farfel, I am of the new school. Maybe I can be a mediator, and we can compromise. I wonder if a misnaged marries a chasid what happens. Do they follow the womens or mans minhag with regard to sugary or peppery fish? Or does this constitute grounds for divorce or even cherem?

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • November 14, 2006, 7:07 PM

    As far as I’m concerned, there are some communities where the fish are prepared at home, or at least have the appearance that some effort was involved on the part of the host to give the fish some flavor…

    and there are some homes where the gefilte fish is simply a gray slab cut into slices and served with a small piece of carrot and horseradish.

    It’s the same with davening- some speed their way through it, swallowing syllables along the way, and some daven with kavana!

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