Liv Anderson is a Teach For America alumna and is currently living and working in New Orleans. She participated in the 2011 REALITY Israel Experience for Teach For America corps members program. Liv recently used a Make It Happen Project micro grant for REALITY Israel alumni to host a latke-making party.
The first International Baccalaureate unit I taught this fall was organized around a theme: although people are different, they are also alike in many ways. My students explored the similarities and differences in traditions celebrated around the world. By the end of the unit, my students had formulated a working definition of tradition. To them, a tradition is when you get together with your family and friends and eat special food.
We started by making a traditional potato latke. We peeled and grated a bag of potatoes and mixed it with the rest of the ingredients. The only native Southerner, someone converting to Judaism, volunteered to fry the latkes, since she had plenty of frying experience. We pulled out the applesauce and sour cream to top them. Then someone else pulled out a bag of green onions because that was what he’d always had with his family. And it wouldn’t be a party in New Orleans if we didn’t sprinkleFast forward to a couple of weekends before Chanukah began, when I invited a group of friends into my home to make special food. About a third of the group was born Jewish, another third are not Jewish and the largest group was made up of people who are converting to Judaism. We came together to melt our traditions together into something new.
After the potato latkes were demolished, we started mixing up cheese latkes. I took over whipping the egg whites, another girl folded the cheeses together and then we started to fry them. No one in our party had ever eaten them on Chanukah before, but we were still meeting my students criteria of a tradition.
All night we sat with friends and cooked special foods. We shared Jewish traditions, we shared Southern traditions.
Most importantly we shared that time and space together. I’m looking forward to spending many years laughing with friends in my kitchen as we figure out how many combinations of things we can make into a pancake shape and fry.
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