Cherished Traditions Passed On in the “Jewish Family Recipes” Cookbook

Traditional Jewish recipes are passed down from generation to generation, like storytelling. It is enjoyed at family meals as well as on important and holy holidays.

“We’re passionate about our food, our traditions, and it’s part of the number of people, myself included, who identify as Jewish,” Marilyn Bernstein, chef and owner of The Lunch Lady, told the magazine.

The Executive Committee of Young Leaders of Jewish Family Services Los Angeles (JFSLA) has found a way to share beloved recipes while also doing well.

JFSLA’s “Jewish Family Recipes” cookbook presents cherished dishes from members of their community, board members, and staff, along with recipes and stories from some of Los Angeles’ most celebrated chefs and restaurateurs.

JFSLA’s “Jewish Family Recipes” cookbook presents cherished dishes from members of their community, board members, and staff, along with recipes and stories from some of Los Angeles’ most celebrated chefs and restaurateurs. That includes some of the biggest names in Jewish cooking, from Mike Solomonov to Adina Sussman, as well as L.A.’s most beloved restaurants like Birdie G’s and Jon & Vinny’s. All proceeds are tax deductible and will be donated to the JFSLA, which is specifically earmarked for Food and Hunger Programs.

“Our SOVA Food and Community Resource Program provides a healthy variety of fresh, packaged foods to more than 15,000 Angelenos each year—more than 2.5 million pounds of food,” Eli Veitzer, JFSLA President and CEO, told the Journal. “The Seniors Nutrition Program provides more than 260,000 meals annually, serving more than 1,200 vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities.”

Zack Genold, chair of the JFSLA Young Leaders Executive Committee, echoed Feitzer. “The Nutrition for Seniors program provides nutritious hot and frozen meals to seniors at home and people with disabilities, and operates neighborhood eating centers that are open seven days a week for a hot meal and friendly conversation. We’re really excited to see the impact the cookbook has already had on these programs.”

With a pandemic raging in late 2020—and they couldn’t raise funds in person—the JFSLA’s young leaders were looking for a way to highlight and support the critical work of JFSLA’s food and hunger programs, while keeping their friends, neighbors, and communities safe. So, they decided to put together this cookbook that would also uplift small businesses and restaurants, which have been hit hard by COVID.

JFSLA staff and young leaders spent nearly a year collecting recipes, editing and designing the cookbook, and communicating it to the community. Chefs and community members donated recipes and photos for the book, and the book was compiled and designed free of charge by members of the JFSLA’s Young Leaders Executive Committee.

“At a time in our world where people are looking to do good and make an impact, the response we’ve received from chefs, contributors, and supporters just goes to show the difference we can make when we all come together,” Deborah Hermann, JFSLA’s Young Leaders Executive President for Strategic Initiatives, told the magazine. “We hope that every time families use this cookbook, read the stories and sit around their tables, they will be reminded of the power of sharing a meal.”

Emily Phifer, Chef and Owner of Botanica, is passionate about feeding the underprivileged and low-income residents of Los Angeles, and is thrilled to be a part of the cookbook. Fiffer’s grandmother, Elaine, contributed cider.

“I chose it because it was a staple of my childhood, meaning safe, comfort and nourishment,” Phifer told the magazine. “Any opportunity to talk about my grandmother is meaningful. She played a crucial role in my life and continues to be a guiding resource despite her death. I love thinking of her memory that lives on through a good cause.”

Marlene Bernstein said it was a gift to contribute to this wonderful book. She said, “I feel honored as a chef and as a person of Judaism that our community has come together to contribute to this book and help a great organization.”

Bernstein contributed a Yemeni matzah soup, inspired by its roots, to Jewish Family Recipes. Her mother is Yemeni-Israeli and her father is a Jew from New York, of Hungarian and Russian descent. “I have a deep love and respect for food and the role it plays in our culture,” said Bernstein. Mixing traditional Yemeni soup with matzah balls felt like a natural pairing of my Sephardi and Ashkenazi backgrounds.

“The heart of the Yemeni soup is hawij, a mixture of spices with bold notes of cumin, turmeric and cloves used in Yemeni cuisine. The earthy blend of spices pairs perfectly with the richness of the whole chicken and the brightness of the coriander. The matsa balls absorb all those flavors – it’s a perfect marriage. This is it. It is now a staple at every family gathering and we hope it will be shared in many other families now.”

Jewish Family Recipes is designed to highlight JFSLA’s history, ongoing critical work, services, and locations in the Los Angeles area. JFSLA’s food and hunger programs work to ensure that everyone in the community has access to the food they need to live healthy and dignified lives. The money from the book will literally put food on people’s tables.

“For Jews, food is a way of gathering and showing love and grief — it runs the gamut.” – Emily Phifer

“For Jews, food is a way of gathering and showing love and grief — it runs the gamut,” Feffer said. “The Jews are excellent at cooking and pay the food to whoever will take it. We don’t want anyone to go hungry!”

To learn more, go to

Emily Phifer, chef and owner of Botanica Restaurant, based in Silver Lake in Los Angeles, California.

Eileen’s apple Written by Emily Phifer, Botanica

Serving Size: 4-6 | Preparation time: 5 minutes | Cooking time: 30 minutes | Total time: 35 minutes


3 pounds apples, coarsely chopped (if you have a food mill, or high-speed blender, keep the skins and seeds intact; if you don’t, peel and core the apples first)

1 cinnamon stick

4 cardamom pods, mashed until the seeds appear

1 star anise

Juice of 1 lemon

2 cups of water or more

1 tablespoon of red beans


  1. Add all ingredients to a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir well and set heat to medium. Let the apples cook away, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon to avoid uneven cooking and sticking. Anytime the mixture looks like it’s drying out, add ½ to 1 cup of water and stir well (we use about 4 cups for every 3 pounds of apples). Continue to boil until apples break and fall apart easily when stepped on with a spoon.
  1. Let the mixture cool slightly, then pass it through a food mill to extract the seeds and peel. Spoon into heat-resistant jars and store in the refrigerator. If you’re not using a food mill, simply remove the cinnamon stick, cardamom, and star anise and pour into a heatproof bowl. You can also remove the spices and pour the sauce into a high-powered blender to make apple butter. The sauce should keep for a few weeks.
Yemeni matzo ball soup is made by Marilyn Bernstein, chef and owner of The Lunch Lady, a Los Angeles-based catering company.

Yemeni matzo ball soup Marilyn Bernstein, The Lunch Lady LA

Serving Size: 4 | Preparation time: 30 minutes | Cooking time: 2 hours | Total time: 2 hours 30 minutes


Yemeni soup

1 whole chicken

2 yellow onions cut into small cubes

1 whole yellow onion, peeled and pitted into 15 whole cloves

5 sticks celery, cut into small cubes (1 cup)

1 shallot cut into small cubes

2 carrots, cut into small cubes (½ cup)

1½ tablespoons Haweej (Yemeni spice mix)

1 whole garlic bulb or 15 cloves garlic, divided into individual cloves, peeled 16 cups of water

2 bunches coarsely chopped cilantro

3 tablespoons of salt

1 tablespoon of olive oil

Matzo balls (makes 8 matzo balls)

½ cup matzo ball mix

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 tablespoon of soda water

2 eggs


  1. Sauté chopped onion, carrot, celery, celery and garlic with olive oil and salt until translucent in a very large (12 L) saucepan. Add the Haweej spice mix and half the amount of coriander.
  1. Add the whole onion with the cloves, the whole chicken and the water. Cook over medium-high heat, covered, for 1 to 1 hour. The soup is done when the chicken is completely cooked through and the liquid has been reduced by about half. The chicken is fully cooked when the meat pulls away from the bone, exposing the leg bone.
  1. Mix all of the matzo ball ingredients together in a small bowl. Leave the mixture in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Form matzo balls using a tablespoon. The matzo balls will be approximately 1 ounce. You should get approximately 8 matzo balls.
  1. When the soup is done, remove the chicken from the soup using tongs. Let the chicken cool completely, then chop it up and set it aside to add at the end. Discard the skin and bones.
  1. Add salt to taste, then bring to a boil. Add the remaining cilantro to the soup. Drop the matzo balls into the soup while it is still at a rolling boil and let it simmer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, the matzo balls should float to the top and be fully cooked. Add the shredded chicken back to the stock pot. Serve and enjoy!