When one of my sons (I won’t say which, to protect his anonymity) was small, if asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, his answer was always the same: an astronaut, a chef and a daddy. I wonder how many people, asked that very question, would answer “a rabbi and a chocolate expert.” Deborah Prinz did — and that is indeed what she became.
A frequent Forward contributor, Prinz is the author of “On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao” (Jewish Lights Publishing, 2017). The 2nd edition of the book is being released this week, with updates including answers to the questions “What did Alexander Hamilton drink?” and whether deities formed out of chocolate are blasphemy or art.
The new version of the book includes 25 recipes (some contemporary; some historical), along with a section on the ethics of chocolate and how to make the best purchasing choices. There is also a current list of chocolate museums and festivals around the world.
“For me, the most exciting thing is that this brings sweetness to Jewish history,” Prinz said. “A lot of people view Jewish history as so sad and lachrymose, all tragedy and sadness. And I think this reminds us that our people are resilient and adaptable.”
The earliest contact Jews had with chocolate was through Sephardim, Prinz said. “Even after the expulsion from Spain — while we could focus just on the exile and Inquisition — here we have stories of people enjoying and adapting; taking advantage of opportunities that were available to them; being sustained by chocolate in all senses of the word. And it wasn’t just that they manufactured and traded it; they enjoyed it.”
During the Colonial period in America, she explained, the Sephardim who were in the chocolate trade (for example Aaron Lopez and the Gomez family), were also very involved philanthropically with their synagogues. “So they weren’t just benefiting, they were generous in support of their local Jewish communities,” Prinz said.
Prinz is Rabbi Emerita of Temple Adat Shalom in San Diego, California, where she was senior rabbi for nearly 20 years. Prior to that she was the rabbi of a synagogue in Bergen County, New Jersey, and assistant rabbi of Central Synagogue in Manhattan. She currently lectures about chocolate and religion around the world.
Prinz is co-curator of the exhibit “Semi[te] Sweet: On Jews and Chocolate,” on view at the Bernard Museum of Temple Emanu-el in New York City (through February of 2018). Her blog is onthechocolatetrail.org.
Liza Schoenfein is the food editor of the Forward. Contact her at email@example.com or on Twitter, @LifeDeathDinner
This story "The Complete Guide to Jews and Chocolate" was written by Liza Schoenfein.