Jewish Diversity and Vegetable Soup

Categories: B-shul, Religious School

Jews are diverse, yet we are tied to each other historically and religiously. In preparation for Torah Weekend, November 18-20, featuring Rabbi Gershom Sizomu, the leader of the Abayudaya Jews of Uganda, Bshul is focusing on Jewish Diversity. I am teaching students that historically Jews around the world were a migrating people.  As Jews moved about, they often married local individuals, and, as a result, came to resemble the people around them. We retained our Jewish identities and religious observances, only we did so with a local accent and flavor reflected in dress, language, cultures and food. Our students are learning that even though Jews look, eat and dress differently depending on where we live, we pray to the same God and consider ourselves part of the same people.  For more information on the topic of Jewish Diversity, visit the Be’Chol Lashon website.  Meaning “In Every Tongue,” this website advocates for the growth and diversity of the Jewish People.

So what does Diversity have to do with Bshul/Cooking?

Everything!!!  Jewish food tells the story of an uprooted, migrating people!  According to Diane Tobin, President of Be’chol Lashon, finding new recipes from around the world is a Tobin family holiday tradition that celebrates global Jewish diversity. This year’s recipe, Loubia–or black-eyed peas–from Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food, is an Egyptian dish symbolizing fertility and good luck for Rosh Hashanah. The “good luck” traditions of eating black-eyed peas for the new year are recorded in the Babylonian Talmud. Originally native to Africa, the black-eyed pea was introduced into the West Indies and from there to the Southern United States. Today, eating black eyed peas is a new years tradition among some Mizrachi, Sephardi, and Israeli Jews, as well as others throughout the Caribbean and the American South.

I racked my brain to come up with one food that is eaten everywhere, can be made in the Religious School’s Kosher-Dairy-Nut Free kitchen, and that students would actually eat… And that menu selection is SOUP!

While matzo ball soup may be the most famous Jewish soup in the world, soup is a delicacy that is eaten all over the world and modified based on local ingredients.  For example, Wonton soup in China, Minestrone in Italy, Tortilla in Mexico, Borscht in Russia, Gazpacho in Spain, Curry in India, Bouillabaisse in France, Cullen Stink (fish chowder) in Scotland and Tomato Soup in the USA!  Morah Ariella has been sharing her vegetable soup recipe from Israel with the students for years.  This month students chopped, sautéed and simmered to prepare a delicious and healthful vegetable soup. Might I add, the perfect food to warm the “kishkis” (insides) during the chilly Fall weather in Pittsburgh!

Here is the VEGETABLE SOUP recipe for you to make at home.




  • 2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • (optional-root vegetables like turnips or parsnips)
  • 3 stocks celery chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 cups vegetable stock (or water with parve bouillon or soup mix)
  • 2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes (undrained)
  • 3 medium potatoes peeled and 1/2-inch thick diced
  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped frozen or fresh green beans
  • 1 1/4 cups frozen or fresh corn
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh peas (optional)


Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, (optional root vegetables) and celery and saute 3 – 4 minutes then add garlic and saute 30 seconds longer. Pour in broth and add tomatoes, potatoes, bay leaves, thyme and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then add green beans, zucchini and chickpeas reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes, then add corn and peas and cook 5 minutes longer. Remove Bay Leaves & serve over noodles.

So you see we can learn much about the culture and tradition of diverse Jewish communities around the world through food. Remember being Jewish is NOT just how a person looks or where they are born or what others think of you… Being Jewish is about deeds, thoughts and heart.


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