Famous cook says recipe for aliya is easy

Jamie Geller had to part with some kitchen accoutrement, but says the move to Israel is more than worthwhile.

August 14, 2012 23:16
3 minute read.
Jamie Geller, family making aliya

JAMIE GELLER aliyah (370). (photo credit: Sasson Tiram)


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Making aliya is hard no matter who you are.

Now imagine you’re the author of a successful series of cookbooks and besides the rest of your earthly belongings, you have to pack the considerable amount of kitchenware you’ve accumulated over the years and ship them halfway across the world.

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That was the ordeal Jamie Geller, author and host of Joy of Kosher, an online cooking show, went through when she decided to move to Israel.

“Not everything made it,” admitted the 34-year-old native of Philadelphia in an interview held aboard a flight from New York to Israel on Monday.

“I have these serving platters that are dairy and I love and use only once a year. But, when I was packing, my husband took one look at me and said, ‘You’re not bringing serving platters you only use once a year.’” Geller, her husband and their family were among the 350 North American olim on a Nefesh B’Nefesh flight organized in cooperation with the Jewish Agency for Israel, the Immigrant Absorption Ministry and Friends of Israel Defense Forces.

The observantly Jewish mother of five said she decided to move to Israel to raise her children in a Jewish environment.

Rather than jeopardize her budding career in the US, she says the move has gained her a lot of kosher credit.

“It validates the brand,” she explained. “Within a short time [after] I announced my decision to move, I had thousands of people following me on social media.”

Geller’s cooking career is a rather unlikely one. Once nonobservant, she became increasingly so after she married and had children. Around that time, she also began taking an interest in the kitchen, a place that up until then was terra incognita to her. Unintentional comedy ensued.

“The smoke alarm went off quite a lot,” she recalled with amusement.

“I made chicken soup for my husband and I didn’t cut any of the vegetables so I gave him a bowl with a whole carrot and parsnip. Parsley was floating above the whole thing.”

Instead of being discouraged, she persevered. Soon enough, she mastered her craft and used her early misadventures as material for her first book “Kosher for the Bride who Knew Nothing.”

It was a hit, and soon after her success, she quit working as a television producer for networks like HBO and CNN to focus on her new career.

Her mantra is “Simple, quick and easy.” For instance, in her upcoming Hanukka special that will be aired on PBS later this year, she keeps her latkes basic and the toppings elaborate.

“The base is an old family recipe, but I’ll put on top mozzarella, tomato and basil – like an Italian caprese salad – or brie and jam or arugula and blue cheese.”

The loquacious and lively cook says she has many other projects in the oven. She’s currently making a documentary about her aliya, about to publish another book and hoping that if her Hebrew improves, she could break into the Hebrew-language market. One of her books has already been translated to Hebrew.

One thing she isn’t worried about is Iran. Asked if she factored the threat of war between Israel and the Islamic Republic into her decision to move to Israel, she discarded the notion entirely, like a chef might throw away egg shells when making an omelette.

“That’s so ridiculous to me,” she said, with the characteristic confidence she exudes on her show.

“It’s not even in the realm of reasons to move to Israel or not. Iran? Give me a break.”

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