Wednesday, October 25, 2017

By English: Alexander Ganan עברית: אלכסנדר גנן [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


I love Israel and I'm a foodie. Which is why my friend Herb sent me a segment of a series on the Cooking Channel called Food: Fact or Fiction? The segment in question is on the origins of foods with holes and is called Hole in One.

Herb thought I would like the part about the history of the Bundt cake, since it turns out that the Bundt cake's history is intertwined with that of the Jewish women's organization, Hadassah.

I couldn't access the video on the website. Helpful to the bone, Herb found me a youtube copy of fair quality, good enough for me to watch it through to the end. Which I did. It was a great story that referenced a fabulous cake my mother used to make called Tunnel of Fudge.





I thanked Herb. But something nagged at me. And so a day later I watched the clip again.

Yes. There were the shots of the Israeli classroom and of the two Hadassah hospitals in Israel.





The cakes looked luscious. The history of the cake and its pan seemed sound. But something was missing.



And that's when I realize what was missing in the Hole in One segment on Hadassah and the Bundt cake: the word "Israel" was not once mentioned.

Which is why it is ironic that the narrator opens the story this way, "The origin of the Bundt cake is drizzled in controversy, so much so that people don't know what to call it."

Apparently, the State of Israel is so "drizzled in controversy" the Cooking Channel doesn't know what to call IT, either.

We're offered a brief history of Hadassah, "Hadassah was founded in 1912, founded by an American woman named Henrietta Szold. Its mission was to improve healthcare for people, and especially women, at home and abroad."

"Abroad?"

Ahem. You mean "ISRAEL."

Here is where I thought to myself: they're afraid to mention Israel. Israel is controversial. The left hates Israel and the left kicks up a fuss whenever anyone champions the Jewish State or even mentions it in public. So the word "Israel" is unsavory.

Not to mention, Hadassah is the Women's Zionist Organization of America. If they can't say "Jew," and they can't say "Israel," they sure aren't going to want to say "Zionist."

Richard D. Heideman, president of the American Zionist Movement spoke about this phenomenon in a recent article about the upcoming American Zionist Shabbat Initiative. "Unfortunately, for some, Zionism has become a dirty word and idea. However, if Zionism is a dirty word then Judaism must be likewise, because all of our Jewish sources, tradition and culture revolve around Israel, it is impossible to separate one from the other."

There you have it: Zionism is a dirty word. These dishonest food historians don't mind discussing controversy as it relates to the origins of a cake, up until that cake has a connection to Israel.

At that point, all bets are off.




Hole in One goes on to describe Hadassah Founder Henrietta Szold as a "fundraising powerhouse" but the narrator never speaks of Szold's motivation for raising that money. (Because. Dirty word.) From the Hadassah website:

Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America is the largest Jewish organization and the largest women's organization in the United States.


It was founded in 1912 by American born Henrietta Szold, who was so deeply moved by witnessing the poverty and sickness in Jerusalem, that she founded a women's organization to provide medical aid.


The first two nurses arrived in 1913, followed by a full-scale medical team. The organization set up well-baby clinics and infirmaries and later hospitals were set up all over Israel. A nursing school, medical school, school of pharmacy, school for dentistry, school of public health and school of occupational therapy were established. While the volunteers of Hadassah worked to gather funds for this expanding health network, Hadassah's membership grew to hundreds of thousands of women in all fifty states of the United States . . .


Over the last decades, Hadassah affiliates have developed in 34 countries, (between them Israel), under the aegis of Hadassah-International. These men and women of all backgrounds help support medical and scientific research in Israel.
Eureka! So that's what all that cake baking was about: providing medical care to people in Israel. That is the reason Szold founded Hadassah! But you'd never know that from listening to Hole in One.

The viewer is told how bake sales morphed into selling the actual Bundt cake pans, seconds from Nordic Ware: "[Hadassah] went on to use this money to fund schools and hospitals. And those pan sales helped to fund the Hadassah Medical Organization. And what did THEY do? Something amazing. They went on to develop a breakthrough method that could detect a gene mutation that could lead to breast cancer."

That should have been: Hadassah went on to use this money to fund schools and hospitals in Israel.

The Hadassah Medical Organization consists of two hospitals in Jerusalem, Israel. That's where the "breakthrough method" to detect the BRCA gene mutation was developed. In Jerusalem, Israel. Because Hadassah is the Women's Zionist Organization of America.

I spoke to the Israel Director of Public Relations for Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, Barbara Sofer, to get her take on all this: "Indeed, Hadassah women invented the American version of the Bundt pan. They were always baking to support Israel where all of our projects are. I have a fantastic one myself in the shape of a Magen David.

"The dollars from every cake baked and cake pan sold went to build the new hospital in Ein Kerem (after Mount Scopus was captured by the Jordanian Arab Legion in 1948); support the thousands of children who came in the waves of immigration from decimated communities in Europe and North Africa; and to support the new medical school. Hadassah women have never known to be shy for their support of Israel, it would hard to miss the destination of those funds. Rose Joshua, the woman whose idea it was, made Aliyah from Minneapolis."

I asked Sofer if she'd care to venture a guess what Rose Joshua would say about the omission of the word "Israel" from a history of Hadassah and the Bundt cake. Here is what she said:

"Rose Joshua, a brilliant and articulate woman, would have found sharp words to express her anger that it wasn't mentioned that Hadassah, the largest Jewish organization in the Diaspora, was directing its fundraising to Israel. Likewise, she would have been livid that credit for Hadassah Hospital medical achievements in service of men and women around the world, would not be credited to the young Jewish State."

Think of it, all those housewives baking cakes, doing what they knew how to do, hoping it would be enough: enough to get medical care to their sisters and brothers in Israel. They'd be stirring the batter, whipping the eggs, unmolding the cakes onto platters, thinking of Israel. They thought of camels and oranges and children dancing in kibbutzim, as they labored in their hot kitchens, kitchens that smelled of chocolate, spice, and sugar. They dreamed about a place where Jews could live in safety, peace, and freedom. Making cake after cake after cake, they minded not one bit: it was all for the sake of Israel.

It's an ugly thing that the main force driving all those wonderful women to bake all those cakes in their hot kitchens, was not once mentioned in Hole in One, as if it were a dirty secret that all that effort was expended on Israel. But the failure to mention the sole reason the Bundt pan was created goes beyond ugliness. Hiding the motivation of Henrietta Szold and all the cake-baking Hadassah women means the viewer has been cheated out of hearing the real story, a truly great story: the story of magnificent women who have saved lives—so many lives—using whatever skills they had at hand.They baked cakes—CAKES—to save lives in Israel.

In Israel.


Henrietta Szold photo by Alexander Ganan עברית: אלכסנדר גנן [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons



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