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Cookbooks, Jewish


These compendia of instructions and recipes for the preparation of Jewish cuisine and/or guidelines for the Jewish cook constitute the single largest genre of literature created almost entirely by and for Jewish women.

Prior to 1900

By the first half of the 19th-century, a few Jewish manuscript cookbooks appear in Yiddish (Bohemia, Moravia, or neighboring areas); German ones appear in greater numbers throughout the century; and by the 1890s, there are Osmanli ones from Salonika. The first known published volume is J. Stolz's Kochbuch der Israeliten, oder prakt. Unweisung, wie man nach dem juedischen Religionsgruenden alle Gattungen der feinsten Speisen kauscher bereitet (Carlsruhe, 1815). During the 19th century, over a dozen Jewish cookbooks were published in German, more than in any other language. The most successful, Kochbuch fuer Israelitische Frauen: Ent haltend die verschiedensten Koch- und Backarten, mit einer vollständigen Speisekarte so wie einer genauen Anweisung zur Einrichtung und Fuehrung einer religioes-juedischen Haushaltung (Berlin, 1856) by Rebekka Wolf (née Heinemann), went through 14 editions. In print for almost 80 years, it was translated into Dutch (1881) and Polish (1904), and influenced the first known cookbook published in Yiddish, Ozer Bloshsteyn's Kokhbuch far yudishe [sic] froyen (Vilna, 1896; New York, 1898). These kosher cookbooks, which emphasized fine cuisine and gracious living, were part of a larger adaptation of mainstream bourgeois domestic values within an acculturating modern Orthodox community.

The first published English cookbook, The Jewish Manual, or Practical Information in Jewish and Modern Cookery: With a Collection of Valuable Recipes & Hints Relating to the Toilette (London, 1846), by "A Lady," aimed to refine the kosher table, but with an English and Western Sephardi emphasis. The anonymous author was recently identified as Judith Lady *Montefiore, who dedicated some of her philanthropic energies to educating Jewish girls for domestic service by establishing cookery classes at a Jewish orphanage and school. This book appeared in a single edition, although parts of it were reprinted, without attribution, in 1864 and 1867 in Australia. By the last decade of the 19th century, kosher gourmet cookbooks also appeared in Dutch, Hungarian, Russian, and Italian, and the German volumes were becoming larger and more elaborately bound. The grandest, Marie Elsasser's Ausfuehrliches Kochbuch fuer die einfache und feine juedische Kueche unter Beruecksichtigung aller rituellen Vorschriften in 3759 Rezepten (Frankfurt, 1901), was over 900 pages. The custom of giving cookbooks to brides accounts in part for the lavishness of such volumes.

American Cookbooks

The first known Jewish cookbook published in the United States is the Jewish Cookery Book: On Principles of Economy, Adapted for Jewish Housekeepers, with the Addition of Many Useful Medicinal Recipes, and Other Valuable Information, Relative to Housekeeping and Domestic Management (Philadelphia, 1876) by Mrs. Esther Levy. This volume brought a scrupulously kosher, yet elegant Anglo-Jewish cuisine to Philadelphia's well-to-do Jews.

Much more popular than Jewish Cookery Book, which appeared in only one edition, was the decidedly non-kosher, "Aunt Babette's" Cook Book, Foreign and Domestic Receipts for the Household, A Valuable Collection of Receipts and Hints for the Housewife, Many of Which are not to be Found Elsewhere (1889). "Aunt Babette's" Cook Book went through several editions in its first year, and stayed in print until the beginning of World War i. "Aunt Babette," the pseudonym for Mrs. Bertha F. Kramer, instructed her Reform Jewish readers in the niceties of the "Pink Tea" and in a non-halakhic approach to Jewish diet. "Aunt Babette" was by no means indifferent to kashrut. She declared, for example, that "NOTHING is 'Trefa' that is healthy and clean," thus giving precedence to hygiene over ritual purity. At the same time not everything that is treyf made it into her cookbook. Shellfish, bacon, and rump roasts did, but lard did not. Ideology and hygienic purity aside, certain non-kosher foods were rejected on aesthetic grounds, a remnant of the internalization of religious taboo.

Many late 19th and early 20th century English cookbooks were intended to prepare Jewish girls, especially immigrants, for domestic service in kosher households. Marie Kauders' cookbook (Prague, 1891) and cooking school-trained cooks for Jewish restaurants and wedding catering. The "Settlement" Cookbook (Milwaukee, 1901), by Lizzie Black Kander, a German Jew, was written to prepare East European Jewish women for household employment and to raise money for the Settlement house where the classes were held. This remarkable volume has sold more than 2,000,000 copies and proceeds are still directed to charitable causes. Like "Aunt Babette's" Cookbook and the many German Jewish fundraiser cookbooks that appeared in the United States during this period, The "Settlement" Cookbook was a "treyf cookbook" and included recipes not only for Passover dishes, but also for oysters.

The first Yiddish cookbook published in the United States, apart from the 1898 New York edition of Bloshteyn's Kokhbuch far yudishe [sic] froyen, is Hinde Amkhanittski's Lehr-bukh vi azoy tsu kokhen un baken (1901), which was reprinted a few years later. The Yiddish cookbooks that followed, well into the 1930s, tried to Americanize Jewish eating habits, consistent with current nutritional ideas and an Anglo-American diet. Some promoted vegetarianism; Yiddish vegetarian cookbooks appeared in Europe as early as 1907 (Drohobitsh) and as late as 1938 (Vilna). Food companies used cookbooks, often bilingual in Yiddish and English, to market their products. Manischewitz's cookbooks, for example, showed how to use maẓẓah as an ingredient in everything from strawberry shortcake to tamales all year round.

By the end of World War i, with the mass immigration of Jews from Eastern Europe, the market for American Jewish cookbooks had changed. In response, Bloch Publishing replaced "Aunt Babette's" Cook Book with the strictly kosher The International Jewish Cook Book: 1600 Recipes According to the Jewish Dietary Laws with the Rules for Kashering: The Favorite Recipes of America, Austria, Germany, Russia, France, Poland, Roumania, Etc., Etc. by Florence Kreisler Greenbaum, an instructor in cooking and domestic science. Greenbaum made nutritional science palatable in Jewish terms. This cookbook and its successors, including Mildred Grosberg Bellin's many revised and enlarged editions, endured well into the 1980s.

Europe Between the Wars

While home economists were trying to reform the immigrant diet, Suzanne Roukhomovsky, a literary figure, waxed nostalgic for what she called "la cuisine maternelle" in Gastronomie juive: cuisine et patisserie de Russie, d'Alsace, de Roumanie et d'Orient (Paris, 1929). A year later a pirated translation of this book, with a few significant changes, appeared in Yiddish asDi yidishe kukh in ale lender: poyln, rusland, rumenyen, daytshland, elsas, maroko, tunis, amerike, a.a.v. Dos beste un praktishe bukh far yidishe virtins (Warsaw, 1930). While Roukhomovsky's 36-page introduction offered a literary pastoral on traditional Jewish life, B. Shafran's "A word to our Jewish wives," in Di yidishe kukh advises Polonized Jewish women not to turn the health of their families over to servants but to pursue the culinary arts themselves.

During the interwar years, the *Juedischer Frauenbund (1904–38) offered home economics courses and published cookbooks, consistent with their emphasis on religious observance, Jewish national consciousness, and careers for women that were extensions of their traditional domestic roles. As M. Kaplan has noted, the Frauenbund's goal was to prepare unemployed East European Jewish women to work as domestics, supply middle-class families with qualified servants, create a pool of administrators and food specialists for public institutions, and make women better managers of their own homes. Their strictly kosher cookbooks included not only modern recipes, but also suggestions for children, invalids, and vegetarians, menus for institutional kitchens, recipes from "great-grandmother's kitchen," and "national dishes," as well as recipes from organizations in Palestine, many of them for eggplant. By 1935, after the Nazis enacted laws against kosher slaughtering, the Frauenbund published a cookbook to address difficulties in buying kosher meat which went through four editions in one year.

Palestine and Israel

Erna Meyer, a pioneer in kitchen ergonomics, brought her ideas from Germany to Mandate Palestine, where she published Wie kocht man in Erez Israel? (Tel Aviv, 1936) in German, Hebrew, and English, followed by a slim cookbook (Tel Aviv, 1940) dedicated to recipes and menus for cooking in a time of crisis. Meyer's cookbook was intended for the urban, urbane, and largely Central European cook in Mandate Palestine, who needed to learn to use a primus stove and local produce while maintaining high culinary standards and a Central European culinary repertoire. Wie kocht man in Erez Israel? was one in a series of *wizo cookbooks that appeared in separate German and Hebrew editions as late as 1954.

Lillian Cornfeld wrote about Israeli cusine in Complete Hebrew Cook Book and Ani Mevashelet. Her Israeli Cookery (Westport, Connecticut, 1962) is organized by region, devotes several chapters to sabra foods and includes recipes from Israeli hotels and restaurants. In her preface, Cornfeld, who immigrated in the 1920s from Canada to Mandate Palestine, supervised domestic science for wizo and worked as a food columnist and nutritional advisor, noted several challenges to the emergence of national cuisine in Israel. These include the diverse population, simplicity as a practical necessity (and ideological principle), and the absence of professional chefs. Her cookbook addressed the "urgent incentive to create an Israeli cuisine," by collecting recipes from national and international organizations that were actively trying to create a national meal pattern, as well as from kibbutzim. Molly Bar-David, a food columnist and culinary advisor for El Al, wrote The Israeli Cookbook: What's Cooking in Israel's Melting Pot (1964), based on recipes she collected on the airline's routes and in interviews with immigrants in Israel.

Since the 1980s, numerous Israeli cookbooks, many lavishly produced, have appeared. Individual volumes are dedicated to salads, soups, desserts, cakes, or breads, or to a particular fruit or vegetable. Each community's traditional cuisine (Yemenite, Kurdish, Moroccan) is celebrated, popular international cookbooks are translated, and special diets are the focus of their own cookbooks. In contrast with the austere yishuv outlook and Central European emphasis of earlier cookbooks, these new volumes are part of Israel's increasingly sophisticated and international culinary culture. Some of the cookbooks are also nostalgic, whether for foods associated with the yishuv and early years of the state or for the traditional cuisines of the country's many immigrant groups. Most recently, The Arab-Israeli Cookbook (London, 2004), a play and a cookbook based on the research of Robin Soans, Tim Roseman, and Rima Brihi in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank, explores the everyday reality of conflict through the stories and recipes of those they met.

Fundraiser Cookbooks

This most prolific genre of Jewish cookbooks originates in Jewish women's voluntary associations, ranging from local efforts to support a hospital or Jewish school, to international organizations (*National Council of Jewish Women, *Hadassah, *ort, wizo) with local chapters. Spanning more than a century, such cookbooks have been published in locales ranging from New Zealand, Zimbabwe, India, and Panama to Turkey. While some are handwritten, others are professionally produced; some are illustrated with naïve drawings while others have full color plates. The earliest known example is The Fair Cookbook (Denver, 1888), published for a charity fair in support of the local synagogue, Temple Emanuel. Most often these cookbooks were created by women who were not professional cookbook writers. Some authors, like Suzie Fishbein, author of Kosher by Design (Brooklyn, 2003), a popular kosher gourmet cookbook published by ArtScroll, got their start working on a fundraiser volume.

The Home as Sanctuary

Starting in the 1920s, some cookbooks published by women's organizations, including The Center Table (Sisterhood Temple Mishkan, Boston, 1922) and A Treasure for My Daughter: A Reference Book of Jewish Festivals with Menus and Recipes (Ethel Epstein Ein Chapter of Hadassah, Montreal, 1950), presented cookbooks as a vehicle for transmitting Jewish religious observance from mother to daughter. The Jewish Home Beautiful (National Women's League of the United Synagogue of America, New York, 1941) provided recipes and a pageant script organized around aesthetically arranged holiday tables that was performed at synagogues and churches as well as in the Temple of Religion at the 1940 New York World's Fair. According to the foreword to the third edition (1945), this book was used by Jewish service men and women during World War ii.

New Trends

In the second half of the 20th century, Jewish cookbooks appeared in large numbers and variety, including comprehensive volumes by Florence Greenberg, Evelyn Rose, and Claudia Roden in the United Kingdom, and Joan Nathan and Gil Marks in the United States. Many recent volumes engage cuisine as heritage, including Cookbook of the Jews of Greece (1986) by N. Stavroulakis, Bene-Israel Cookbook (Bombay, 1986), Recipes from the Jewish Kitchens of Curaçao (Netherlands Antilles, 1982), Sephardi cookbooks in English, French, Hebrew, Spanish, and Turkish, and a cookbook devoted to the Marranos, A Drizzle of Honey (New York, 1999), by D.M. Gitlitz and L.K. Davidson.

Communities without a history of publishing cookbooks, particularly ḥasidim and ḥaredim, have now joined the fray. The Spice and Spirit of Kosher-Jewish Cooking (Brooklyn, 1977; revised edition, 1990) prepares the Lubavitcher ba'alat teshuvah to create a Jewish home, while The Balebuste's Choice: Kosher Cookbook (Brooklyn, 1999), published by Pupa ḥasidic women, raises money for ẓedakah. Fun der mames kokh (Jerusalem, 2003) by Sh. Zisl, in memory of her pious mother, appeared in Yiddish. Out of Our Kitchen Closets: San Francisco Gay Jewish Cooking, published by Congregation Sha'ar Zahav, communicates their "recipe for success" (San Francisco, 1987).

With the advent of new technologies, future Jewish "cookbooks" might take the form of online databases, such as the Yahoo group jewish-food, or Centropa's online recipe archive of the culinary culture of Central European Jews. Some contemporary blogs record an individual's daily culinary musings, including recipes, a practice reminiscent of writing recipes down in personal notebooks, the earliest form of Jewish cookbook.


B. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, "Hebrew Cookery: An Early Jewish Cookbook from the Antipodes," in: ppc Petits Propos Culinaires, 28 (1988), 11–21; idem, "Kitchen Judaism," in: J.W. Joselit and S. Braunstein (eds.), Getting Comfortable in New York (1991); idem, "The Kosher Gourmet in the Nineteenth-Century Kitchen," in: Journal of Gastronomy, 2:4 (1986–87), 51–89; idem, "'The Moral Sublime': The Temple Emanuel Fair and Its Cookbook, Denver 1888," in: A.L. Bower (ed.), Recipes for Reading (1997), 136–53; S. Sherman. "The Politics of Taste in The Jewish Manual," in: ppc Petits Propos Culinaires, 71 (2002).

[Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett (2nd ed.)]

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