Chefs from 12 leading restaurants have each created a special dish on their menus that expresses their personal concept of freedom as part of a unique initiative to raise awareness of agunot — women trapped in dead marriages because their husbands refuse to grant them a “get,” or a religious divorce.
Ohr Torah Stone’s Yad La’isha Legal Aid Center is sponsoring the “Taste of Freedom” restaurant week from January 19–25. The unique awareness program is in collaboration with well-known restaurants in Jerusalem including Hamotzi, Eucalyptus, Angelica, and Memphis.
Pnina Omer, director of the Yad La’isha Monica Dennis Goldberg Legal Aid Center, said, “Yad La’isha has freed approximately 1,000 women. However, there are many women who still need our help and are not even aware that we offer a helping hand to any woman who is faced with a recalcitrant husband, providing legal counsel and representation as well as emotional support. In merit of events like ‘A Taste of Freedom,’ the public is exposed to the distress of these women and presented with the opportunity to refer women in such situations to us for help.”
The president and rosh ha’yeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone, Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander, added: “Yad La’isha is the largest, most comprehensive, and most experienced support center for agunot in the world and has been the leading organization these past two decades in representing and setting free women who are chained to marriage. We never lose sight of this goal — giving the gift of freedom to women chained in the bonds of marriage. We will continue to be proactive and seek ways of preventing this terrible phenomenon, as well as raising public awareness of the problem, until get-denial is completely eradicated from our midst.”
The restaurants taking part in the project and their special “freedom dishes” include:
Rachel Ba-Sdera: Arroz a la cubana. A Spanish rice dish, perfect for a winter’s day, with tomato sauce, tuna, and bottarga, fried egg, topped with a banana-filled brik and a touch of spicy salad dressing. This was a special dish Chef Rachel ben Elul’s mother would prepare for her children, but only during school holidays. It contains proteins, carbs, and a dessert, all in one. It reminds Chef Rachel of the wondrous days of vacation.
Rahmo: Madias. Halved, boat-shaped zucchini stuffed with meat, cooked in a celery, coriander, and potato/artichoke stew with a lemon-chili sauce. Served on white rice. The word “freedom” takes Chef Liron Keren directly to the sea. When one looks out at the horizon, where sea touches heaven, one can make out little boats sailing to far-off places to discover new sights, new places, and a new life.
Angelica: Rainbow. Sun-shaped mushroom tortellini, cauliflower clouds, and a rainbow of pureed vegetables and edible spices. Chef Tal Gazit feels rain is a type of freedom and says this is a dish for after the rain—there are mushrooms, a colorful rainbow; the stage is set for growth and flourishing.
Hamotzi: Duckling Chebakia. Moroccan freedom pastry topped with duckling strips cooked in an orange-based sauce. Chef Avi Levy tells us the Chebakia pastry is a traditional Moroccan pastry eaten on festivals and holidays, and that duck meat requires a lot of “cooking space”; it is never fully wrapped in dough, and always served open and free.
Avihail Café: Cauliflower Shawarma. Cauliflower florets and onions stir-fried with a mix of exotic spices and olive oil, served on a hand-made focaccia decorated with tahini and parsley. Chef Shlomi Daniel chose this dish because it’s considered street-food. He is confined to his kitchen all day long; his idea of going out to eat is walking about freely on the streets and eating street-food; that is how the idea of shawarma came about. In keeping with the café’s dietary status, it is a vegetarian dish.
Ishtabach: Caribbean Delight. Personal, gift-wrapped banana cake with rum, honey, and cinnamon. Chef Alon Sela says the word “freedom” takes him instantly to exotic destinations, and that is why he chose to base this dish on bananas, rum, and cinnamon, all originating in Sri Lanka. This exotic dish is wrapped like a gift, giving the sense of a true vacation.
Café Michael: Free Evening. Thickened chocolate cream, fried challah cubes, fresh strawberries in white butter, and champagne sauce. Chef Alon Bet Yosef says that freedom for him is simply an evening at home and not at work, when he can relax and wind down with an alcoholic beverage and a sweet dessert. The dish combines both elements — sweet and alcoholic — and, in his view, fried challah cubes with fresh strawberries is a great appetizer for a free evening of self-indulgence. All one needs is the winning combination of alcohol and chocolate.
Café Ella: Pampering Clouds. Corrupting pavlova with patisserie cream and whipped cream with red berry coulis. Chef Avichai Van Levin believes true freedom is the liberty to pamper yourself and dare to indulge in a real dessert.
Memphis: A chakra-opening hamburger. Beef burger with fried egg topped with chili pepper jelly. Chef Ori Melamed claims that chili pepper jelly opens your chakras and sets you free; simple as that! Furthermore, Memphis only buys free-range beef and eggs.
The Eucalyptus: Leaves of Freedom. Lettuce hearts filled with Babylonian haroset (date honey and nuts). The concept of freedom immediately reminds Chef Moshe Basson of the exodus from slavery to freedom. He created an Iraqi dish served in his own home during the Holiday of Freedom — Passover.
Denay Café: Thai curry. Cooked dish of curry, coconut milk, tofu/Barramundi fillet, broccoli, okra, string beans, pumpkin, herbs, and chili. Served with white rice. Chef Idan Cohen says that the word “freedom” reminds him of his vacation in Thailand and the wonderful sights he saw, the beautiful beaches, and the heavenly smells of Thai cuisine.
Nocturno: Pomegranate Garden. A light fruit and vegetable salad, with long-sliced root vegetables, baby leaves, persimmons, apples, pears, caramelized pecan nuts, topped with a generous heap of scarlet-colored pomegranate seeds, sprinkled in abundance. The verse from Song of Songs, “Thy shoots are a garden of pomegranate” inspired this dish. Chefs Ariel Even Tzur and Yael Abramson believe it symbolizes the exodus from an arid desert to a lush, spacious, blossoming, vibrant, and thriving garden.
Yad La’isha: the Monica Dennis Goldberg Legal Aid Center and Hotline, was founded over 20 years ago with the aim of freeing and assisting agunot. Part of the Ohr Torah Stone network, it is the world’s largest organization dedicated to this mission. Every year, Yad La’isha represents some 150 women in Israel’s rabbinical courts, also providing private investigators as well as social workers and personal coaches who provide emotional support until, and even after, a divorce is obtained.
Founded in 1983, Ohr Torah Stone is a Modern Orthodox network of 27 institutions which are transforming Jewish life, learning, and leadership worldwide. The network champions academic excellence, creative scholarship, and social justice, infused with intellectual openness and a deep sensitivity to contemporary concerns. It is creating the next generation of Modern Orthodox leaders and training them on how to deal with cutting-edge issues that impact the global Jewish community. For more information, visit OTS.org.il.