The smell of Italian cooking and the hum of new and old friends sharing stories filled the room at the August 8th Lion of Judah Event. The gathering of the Lions of Judah, women who contribute $5,000 annually to the United Jewish Federation of Utah’s Annual Campaign and/or to their hometown’s Federation, was hosted by Utah Lion of Judah Chairperson Michele Sackheim Wein.
The centerpiece of the evening was listening to food author and photographer Benedetta Jasmine Guetta. Guetta, a Jewish Italian who lives in California, has researched the history of Jewish cooking in Italy and its impact on Italian cuisine, as well as Italian cooking’s impact on Jewish Italian cooking. In April 2022 her first English-language cookbook, Cooking alla Giudia: A Celebration of the Jewish Food of Italy, was published. Guetta’s presentation included a brief overview of the history of the Jewish Italian communities, as well as stories of how Jews invented what are now considered “Italian staples,” including the use of eggplant and orecchiette (“little ears” pasta), which was created to celebrate Purim. Jewish Italians are not Ashkenazi or Sephardi, as they trace their migration to Italy back to the Roman Empire’s conquering of the Holy Land. Guetta is part of the Jewish Book Council’s stable of authors who are available for Zoom or in-person book talks to the Council’s members. The UJFU joined Jewish Book Council this year to augment our programming for all constituency groups. Look for future programs with JBC authors.
While listening to Guetta and watching her prepare three dishes via Zoom, the Lions of Judah who attended enjoyed the same dishes, prepared that night by Michele, Marla Melamud, Max Morris and Liz Paige.
As the evening had a “food focus,” invited in-person speaker Ellen Silver, Executive Director of Jewish Family Service of Utah (JFS), spoke about JFS’s long history in Utah, services and current needs. The Lions donated tzedakah for JFS to purchase needed female hygiene products for the JFS pantry.
Sharing stories about their favorite food memories and playing “two truths and a lie,” brought our Lions of Judah cohort even closer together. It was truly a “meraviglioso” event!
For those who enjoy cooking and are hungry, here are links to the three recipes we enjoyed:
- Almond Paste Mounds (cookies)
- Chicken Meatballs with Celery (main dish)
- Spinach with Pine Nuts & Raisins (side dish)