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Lend.. your Cookbook!

A New Project to Collect and Share Historical SA Jewish Cookbooks

If you’ve ever wondered where the recipes in your old cookbooks came from, a new research project might have the answers you’re looking for.

Gavin Beinart-Smollan, an MA student at Hebrew University, is researching the lives and stories of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants to South Africa, through the cookbooks they created, and the recipes they passed down to their children.

Cookbooks are more than just a collection of recipes: they are full of information, sometimes obvious and sometimes hidden, on how our grandparents and great-grandparents became South Africans. They reveal the complicated ways immigrants and their children preserved parts of their Litvak culture, and, at the same time, adopted and adapted the food and traditions of their new homeland.

One or two of these cookbooks might be sitting on your shelf. If you have a cookbook created by a South African Jewish community organisation before 1980, you could become part of this project.

Your cookbook will be included in a new online library of South African Jewish historical cookbooks. Using this library, you will be able to browse a treasure trove of cookbooks, published between the 1950s and the 1980s, rediscover recipes and memories from your childhood, and learn how those memories fit into the wider picture of South African Jewish history.

If you are willing to lend a cookbook to this research project, please send Gavin an email at If you or a family member contributed to, or helped create and produce a pre-1980 South African Jewish cookbook, we would especially like to hear from you.

Gavin Beinart-Smollan



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