Culture, Holidays

Black Jewish Rosh Hashanah food traditions

During the High Holidays it is Jewish custom to eat sweet foods such as apples and honey to represent the New Year.  We dip bread in honey and eat pomegranates, a fruit that represents the 613 commandments or 613 blessings.

Black Jews have a myriad of traditional foods that speak to our history, honor our ancestors, and provide sweetness. Foods that have been with us for centuries give us comfort and add even more depth to ethnic spiritual traditions.

Candied Yams

One of the most obvious foods is sweet potatoes. In the African-American culture sweet potatoes have been a staple since our ancestors grew them in West Africa, and the enslaved individuals brought the taste for the root vegetable with them to  the Americas. In the African-American tradition sweet potatoes are candied with marshmallows and brown sugar. Others use pineapple and brown sugar.  Sweet potato pie is a traditional food in the African -American community that can easily be adopted to represent sweetness during Rosh Hashanah.

Sweet potato kugel

If you want to combine traditional Ashkenazi food with traditional African-American food bake a sweet potato kugel. There are plenty of recipes for sweet potato kugel that can be made to represent sweetness and the blending of Black culture with Ashkenazi culture.

To round out the meal try black eyed peas and collard greens with smoked turkey tails. Turkey tails are the most tender part of the turkey and are traditionally eaten among Pacific Islanders. The succulent meat also replaces pork fat for many African-Americans who do not eat from the pig. Turkey tails add flavor to greens and black eyed peas. To add a bit of Israeli influence try adding Harissa to collard greens and Za’atar to black eyed peas served with brisket or chicken makes for a sweet and savory Rosh Hashanah meal.


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