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Bronxites work to preserve recipes and cuisines for Jewish American Heritage Month

Preserving Jewish heritage through food in the Bronx
Preserving Jewish heritage through food in the Bronx 02:28

NEW YORK - May is Jewish American Heritage Month, and Bronxites are celebrating the culture by preserving recipes and cuisines that have long lasted for centuries in Jewish families.

"Iconic New York food just happens to be Jewish," said cookbook author June Hersh.

Whether it's a freshly sliced pastrami sandwich, a side of house made Coleslaw, or the classic sour pickles - these fan favorites have always celebrated Jewish culture.

"I think food, especially, for Jewish people, is just the way of celebrating we're still here. We did it, we adopted, we adapted," said Hersh.

Hersh is the author of "Iconic New York Jewish Food," a cookbook benefitting the Jewish nonprofit Met Council, which fights food insecurity in communities. Met Council helps Holocaust survivors and has one of the largest free kosher food distribution programs in the world, helping thousands of people in New York.

She explains the importance of honoring Jewish Heritage Month through food, as Jewish people held onto tastes and cuisines after fleeing their homes for centuries.

"We've been through out of every country on the planet," said Hersh. "So we've had to take our traditions and we've infused them with the influences."

The Bronx at one point had a thriving Jewish population.

"There were a hundred Jewish still delis in the Bronx… You know how many there are now? One," explained Hersh.

Hersh and CBS2's Shosh Bedrosian sat and ate at the iconic Liebman's Deli in Riverdale, the last Jewish deli left in the Bronx. 

Established in the 1950s, owner Yuval Dekel's family took the business over four decades ago. The grandson of Holocaust survivors, Dekel says the dwindling of the Jewish community in the borough makes it that much more important to preserve the culture that was once so vibrant.

"It's taken upon huge role in our lives, a huge role in our identity. So it's part of us. If we lose this, we lose a big part of who we are," said Dekel.

There's nothing more nostalgic than an old school deli, a bowl of matzah ball soup, a plate of stuffed cabbage and good conversation over it.

"It's like playing Jewish geography. You can probably determine where the family was from based on these stuffed cabbage they prepared," said Hersh.

Through both Dekel and Hersh's work - they hope to achieve the passing of these traditions from generation to generation.

"It's so important to preserve the food memory that your family prepared. It's your history," said Hersh.

You can email Shosh with Bronx story ideas by CLICKING HERE

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