Howdy & L'chaim
Original TV series Jewish Foodie explores Austin in 2 episodes
It’s not exactly Brooklyn down here, but Texas has a few claims to Jewish food fame. An original TV series, Jewish Foodie, explores some of those Southwestern-Semitic phenomena in a two-episode arc dedicated just to Texas.
The 10-episode series by the Ruderman Family Foundation — with dual missions to advocate for disabled Jews and connect all Jewish community members with their Isreali cultural heritage — was made to be viewed bidirectionally. While American Jews learn about their roots, Israelis are encouraged to learn about less-discussed Jewish communities in the United States. Hosted by Israeli actor and comedian Ori Laizerouvich, it promises “a colorful tour from shakshuka to breakfast tacos to burgers.”
Both episodes are dedicated to Jewish life in Austin, one of which dedicates all its screen time to “Jewish Cowboy” Jonathan Hochman, an ex-professional bull rider who teaches Laizerouvich to make shakshuka-style huevos rancheros. Hochman makes a subtle shift to vegetable oil from olive oil to mellow the Mediterranean taste and make it work in a Tex-Mex style.
The other episode does more exploring, led by Rabbi Neil Blumofe, senior rabbi of Congregation Agudas Achim in Austin. He and Laizerouvich travel to Biderman’s Deli, known for its bagels and sandwiches, for breakfast tacos with pastrami served by owner Zach Biderman. Then they make perhaps the most obvious stop, JewBoy Burgers, for burgers topped with latkes, and a talk about stereotypes with owner Mo Pittle. He explains the somewhat controversial name as having more in line with the nickname “homeboy” than an anti-Semitic slur.
“‘This is my story. You don’t have to like it, but I ask that you respect my opinion and my story,’” Pittle says in the show. “‘Communication is everything. Food, culture — the more we talk, the better things will be.’”
The series makes a point — or several — to discuss the diversity of “American Jewry,” never more evident than in Austin, where its examples reflected not just Texas, but further cultural overlap with the East Coast and Mexico.
“I know that a lot of people, a lot of Israelis, don’t think about Austin other than maybe the music,” quotes the press release of Rabbi Blumofe. “But there’s a really thriving Jewish community here as well. … People ask me why I stay in Austin. It’s because it’s a really wonderful family and a great place to continue to grow and dream.”
The multilingual series, subtitled in English, also makes stops in Arkansas, New York, Tennessee, and Wyoming. It is available to watch for free on YouTube.