January 30, 2013
Nothing happens by accident. I know that, but sometimes it's so clear, it hits you in the face all over again. I also know that nobody likes when their plane is delayed, especially when you're on a tight schedule. No one was asking me though, and that Monday morning delayed it was. We settled in for a wait they promised would be only an hour, and I started a polite schmooze with an obviously frum, and very chic-looking, woman who was sitting beside us. Turns out that Allison Josephs was on her way home from a talk she had given in my hometown, something I later learned was not an uncommon occurrence.
So we had an hour, and I got to know Allison and hear her amazing background.
Allison grew up thinking that she was living the ultimate American dream, with a perfect balance of secular lifestyle with an occasional injection of religious practice. It was just enough to make her feel her Jewishness. Synagogue was for high holidays, and eating “kosher” was for Passover. "I actually grew up feeling sorry for the Orthodox Jews,” Allison admits, “the food on Passover was not to my liking at all, and if that was what kosher food tasted like, well, I felt sorry for people who had to eat that all year long!”. Allison told me of her deep and thoughtful questions that went unanswered from when she was just eight years old, and how her parents, teachers and even Rabbis, couldn’t answer her quest to find out the real reason we are put here on Earth. Eventually her Hebrew school teacher allayed some of her most pressing questions, and a trip to see Hawaii's awesome landscapes and incredible rainbow eucalyptus trees clinched it for her. There was definitely a G-d who was the creator and she needed to find out more about Him.
I listened in awe to this woman who relentlessly ran after the truth she was seeking. Fast forward more than a decade, and she is still running, but now it’s toward a dream she hopes to fulfill. Allison is seeking to spread the truth she has found, by debunking and demystifying many of the myths and rumors that surround the Orthodox Jewish way of life. She has established an incredible and comfortable place where one can ask their questions and receive a frank, truthful answer.
She admitted to me though, after hearing that I was a food editor, that the few dishes that she fondly remembers growing up do not fit in with her newly found lifestyle. Instead of bemoaning her long lost childhood favorites, she recreates them in creative and innovative ways. She kindly shared her delicious innovations with us, and her secret to "un-orthodox" tasting dinners. Read more about how you can "Have your Pork and Eat it Too" on her blog - Jew in the City - here.
So now you understand why I didn’t mind anymore that the flight was delayed, and that we were missing half our conference. I was privileged to meet the woman behind “Jew in the City”, and learn how one determined woman can make a significant and important difference.
Try one of our "mock" treif foods: