Thu Feb 09 2023


Pacific Time
5:00 pm - 6:00 pm


Alameda County
Alameda County

Other Locations


Other Locations


The Social Role of the Deli in American Jewish Life

Noted historian, author, and collector Ted Merwin presents an interactive, multimedia lecture on the ever-shifting place of the Jewish delicatessen in American life. In New York, San Francisco, and cities in between, the deli was the lifeblood and linchpin of the Jewish community. The “soul food” and convivial atmosphere it dished up became a quintessential part of American culture for Jews and non-Jews alike. Moreover, the deli served as a crucial gathering place–even a kind of “secular synagogue”–for Jews who were rapidly becoming more acculturated into American society. But as Jews moved into the suburban middle class after the Second World War, the deli gradually lost its bite, no longer appealing to the children of deli owners as a viable career and giving way to other ethnic restaurants and cuisines, as well as falling victim to the American craze for health and fitness.

Dr. Merwin will argue that the deli, which originated in Germany and Eastern Europe, developed in this country into an emblem of Jewish culture that, while greatly diminished in number, continues to mutate and serve a new generation that is more interested in sustainability, gastronomic hybridity, and artisanal food and drink than in traditional Ashkenazic Jewish cuisine. He will conclude by showing and analyzing clips from deli-themed songs, commercials, television shows and films about the Jewish experience—think When Harry Met Sally, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, just for starters—to demonstrate the deli’s continuing hold on the American popular imagination, particularly in the context of interfaith relationships and friendships.

Presented by Berkeley Center for Jewish Studies on the U.C. Berkeley campus, 3335 Dwinelle Hall.

No charge. Register by following the link below.

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