Skip to main content

This two-day symposium will explore Jewish food in and of the global South, a concept that references the historic diversity of the American South and its vibrant cultural intersections with the nation and the world over time. Appealing to both public and academic audiences, this symposium will feature dynamic presentations by Jewish foodways and cultural scholars, documentarians, culinary critics, and James Beard award-winning chefs. Panel discussions will investigate what makes a food “Jewish” in the diverse social and cultural contexts of our global markets and networks, and how that designation affects the lives of its creators and consumers. Through examination of specific ingredients such as pastrami, iconic dishes such as hummus, and particular cooking traditions that negotiate the laws of kashrut with contemporary aesthetics and nutritional trends, participants will discuss how the distinct social, economic, and political dimensions of different regional cultures, including the American South, determine how Jewish foods are prepared, consumed, and interpreted.

Distinctively, this symposium brings together hands-on cooking demonstrations and food tastings with scholarly conversations about Jewish foodways traditions today. Scholars and chefs will highlight the innovation within contemporary Jewish culinary traditions that perpetuates specific tastes and customs, and that expands an understanding of how Jewish culinary traditions influence, and are influenced by, the larger social, regional, and cultural environments in which they are embedded.

The symposium is supported by Jimmy, ’62, and Susan Pittleman and presented by UNC’s Carolina Center for Jewish Studies, Department of American Studies, Center for Global Initiatives / Global Research Institute, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Center for the Study of the American South, and UNC’s FOOD FOR ALL pan-university academic theme.


News article on the symposium in the Post and Courier, Charleston

State of Things radio interview on WUNC

Garden and Gun news brief [scroll down to North Carolina]

Videos of the symposium are now online

Saturday, March 4:

Class: King Solomon’s Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cuisine

11:00am cooking class at Southern Season in Chapel Hill.

Author of “Quiches, Kugels and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France” and ten other cookbooks, Joan Nathan is an award winning author and joins us to celebrate the upcoming May release of her latest title. Her list of accolades is extensive and her dedication to the Jewish community is clear. Treat yourself to hear Joan speak of her passion and knowledge of Jewish food. Menu: Carciofi alla Guida, Fried Artichokes Jewish Style; Fesenjan (Walnut and Pomegranate Chicken Stew) with Saffron Rice; Upside Down Fruit Cobbler. Cost is $50 and pre-registration is required [through the Southern Season web site]. Update: February 7: The Class is Sold Out. To be placed on a waiting list, please call the store at 919.913.1239.




Jewish Food Film Festival at Varsity Theatre
Join us for an evening film screening of two Jewish food films: Deli-Man and Streit’s Matzo and the American Dream. The screenings will be from 4-7pm, with Streit’s Matzo starting a 4pm and Deli-Man starting at 5:30pm.

This event is free and open to the public, no tickets or registration required. Screenings will be at the Varsity Theatre, 123 East Franklin Street, Chapel Hill.








Sunday, March 5:

Symposium with four panel sessions and Keynote Lecture

9:30 am – 6:30 p.m. – four panel sessions and keynote lecture.

9:30-9:50am Registration with coffee and bagels for all registered attendees, catered by Bagel Bar.
9:50am Welcome
Terry Rhodes, Sr. Assoc. Dean, College of Arts & Sciences, UNC-CH
Panel 1
The Jewish Kitchen: History and Politics
Sit. Relax. We begin with a ‘nosh’ and conversation in the ‘kitchen’ (ok, we’re in a lecture hall, but we can pretend) with Jewish foodways scholars and writers to explore the core culinary ‘grammar’ of American Jewish cuisine that central and Eastern European Jewish immigrants adapted in the evolving consumer marketplace and racial landscapes of the United States.Panelists:
– Joan Nathan, food writer/journalist (Jewish Cooking in America, 1998);
– Nora Rubel, Associate Professor, University of Rochester, Recipes for the Melting Pot: Reading the Settlement Cook Book (forthcoming, Columbia University Press);
– Eve Jochnowitz, folklorist (NYC), Eastern European Jewish Foodways
– Laura Lieber, Associate Professor and Director of Jewish Studies, Duke University;
– Kelly Alexander, food writer/journalist, doctoral candidate in cultural anthropology, Duke University
11-11:15am Break
Panel 2
11:15am -12:15pm
The New American Deli: Reimagining Tradition
Take a number, and grab a seat. These three deli authorities—a visionary culinary entrepreneur, a kosher baker, and a historian—will consider the history and changing scene of the American Jewish delicatessen.Panelists:
– Ari Weinzweig, owner/founder, Zingerman’s, Ann Arbor, MI,
– Zak Stern, Zak the Baker, Miami, Florida,
– Ted Merwin, Associate Professor, Judaic Studies, Dickinson College (Pastrami on Rye: An Overstuffed History of the Jewish Deli, 2015).Moderator:
– Gabrielle Berlinger, Babette S. and Bernard J. Tanenbaum Fellow in Jewish History and Culture and Assistant Professor, American Studies, UNC-CH
Alright already. LUNCH. Provided on-site by Mediterranean Deli for all registered attendees. Plus, klezmer music entertainment by Lt. Blank and his Simcha Chimps.
Panel 3
2:00- 3:00pm
The Jewish Kitchen: Evolving Ingredients and Dishes
Have some more. Eat—again! Jewish foodways scholars and chefs discuss iconic foods and dishes at the center of Jewish American cuisine, examining the ways in which their preparation, consumption, commodification, region, and reinvention, have both nurtured and challenged Jewish social and religious cultural expression over time both at home and at restaurant tables.Panelists:
– Laura Silver, author of Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food (Brandeis, 2014);
– Ari Ariel, “Hummus Wars,” Visiting Professor, University of Iowa;
– Liz Alpern, co-founder, The Gefilteria, NYC (The Gefilte Manifesto, 2016);
– Pati Jinich, PBS chef/writer, Mexican-Jewish foodways (Mexico Today: New and Rediscovered Recipes for Contemporary Kitchens, 2016)Moderators:
– Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva, NPR radio/podcast documentary team, “The Kitchen Sisters,” have also been invited to create a podcast from the symposium.
3:00-3:15pm Break
Panel 4
The New American Deli, Global Southern-Style
You look hungry. Grab a pastrami biscuit.  Hear from an artisan pickler/preserver, our own Carrboro, NC-deli owners, and an African-American/Jewish culinary writer/historian as they consider the contemporary expression of Jewish global southern cuisine and its dynamic relation to taste, place, memory, race, cultural resilience, and creativity.Panelists:
– Matt Neal, chef/owner, Neal’s Deli, Carrboro, NC;
– April McGreger, chef/owner, Farmer’s Daughter Pickles and Preserves, Hillsborough, NC;
– Michael Twitty, culinary historian/writer (The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South, forthcoming 2017).Moderator:
– Marcie Cohen Ferris, Professor, American Studies, UNC-CH.
Reception, on site, catered by Bagel Bar, for all registered attendees.
New York Times journalist Kim Severson will moderate an evening salon on contemporary American Jewish cuisine with special guests and James Beard award winners:
– Joan Nathan, author & NYT’s journalist, and
– Chef Alon Shaya of Shaya Restaurant, New Orleans, Louisiana.

The symposium was held at the UNC FedEx Global Education Center, 301 Pittsboro Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516





The symposium is supported by Jimmy and Susan Pittleman and presented by UNC’s Carolina Center for Jewish Studies, Department of American Studies, Center for Global Initiatives / Global Research Institute, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Center for the Study of the American South, and UNC’s FOOD FOR ALL pan-university academic theme.


Carolina Center for Jewish Studies

UNC College of Arts and Sciences

UNC Food for All

UNC Dept. of American Studies

UNC Center for Global Initiatives

UNC Center for the Study of the American South