How One Family Is Jewishly Living Their Food Values
The Khitrik Family in Watertown, MA is very involved in the Jewish Food movement in a number of ways. L’dor V’dor, they are passing Jewish food traditions from generation to generation, modernizing them along the way. Along with his mother, Alex Khitrik owns Inna’s Kitchen, a stand at the Boston Public Market, a year-round locally sourced food market. Soon they are opening a ‘culinaria’ in Newton and, for this location, they are partnering with Rabbi Benjamin Newman to attain Shtiebel Eco-Kosher Certification.
They’re on a mission to preserve culinary traditions while making them relevant for a more health conscious and sustainability-minded customer. Alex says he was inspired by his involvement with Moishe Kavod House, “We founded the restaurant with a dedication to sustainability, ethical practices, and modernizing traditional dishes.” He often caters shabbat dinners, holiday dinners, and other events hosted by Becky, a cantor and clarinetist. Their son Max (1 year) is the happy beneficiary of his Baba (Grandmother Inna)’s cooking. He especially loves blintzes and matza ball soup. Perhaps a budding gardener, he scarfs down anything that comes from the ground (including grass); however his current obsession with avocados and oranges may not win him Locavore of the Year.
“Both of us grew up feeling connected to the earth and the outdoors,” Becky and Alex said. Before they married, they created a large garden plot and served some of their own produce at their wedding reception, which Inna’s Kitchen catered. “We try, when possible, to eat locally, to support our environment, health, and community.” Becky did, however, draw the line at indoor vermicomposting, something Alex briefly maintained in the kitchen. They learned the hard way that worms kept by (or above) appliances that vibrate (such as washer/dryers) will attempt to escape.
Jewish values are inherent in everything they do. Ba’al Taschit, the importance of conservation, is an obvious example. They also note that Hiddur Mitzvah, they idea of elevating a commandment by making it beautiful, is equally important to them. “We chant Torah in a beautiful way, rather than just reading it, to highlight the importance and profundity of the text.” Similarly, their Shabbat table is filled with food that nourishes their souls just as much as their bodies, be it a simple soup, homemade challah, or an elaborate Otollenghi-inspired dish that features their garden harvest. Given their relationship with food, it’s no surprise that Becky and Alex feel a strong cultural connection to their Jewishness. Becky says, “there is a language of stuffed cabbage, latkes, and knishes that resonates in my klezmer music as much as it does in Inna’s Kitchen.”
It’s for these reasons we’re so glad they’re involved with Beantown Jewish Gardens. Alex and Becky say, “Beantown Jewish Gardens is an organization that lies at the intersection of two of our great passions: food and Judaism.” They particularly love attending events like Sukkot on the Farm and the Boston Jewish Food Conference. “These are two events that bring community together in learning, activism, and of course eating!”
Alex and his mom have presented at the Boston Jewish Food Conference, including teaching how to make sauerkraut and making Borscht with conference participants while exploring Eastern European variations to the dish. Max participated in 2018 for the first time!
Cantor Becky has brought the families of one congregation she serves, Temple Beth Zion, to our Sukkot on the Farm event for numerous years, and led singing circles, craft projects and ritual practice along the way.
For those not yet engaged in the Jewish Food Movement, Alex and Becky offer a few words of advice. “Start by visiting a farm or planting one seed in a pot. Join a community event sponsored by Beantown Jewish Gardens. Cook one simple dish at home for yourself or for friends. Then, do it again, and add a little bit more.”
We’re so inspired by how Becky, Alex, and Max and Inna, have brought their passions for Judaism and food into both their personal and professional ecosystems. They are truly living their values. If you find yourself inspired, consider a donation to Beantown Jewish Gardens. Your gift will sustain our work and expand our reach, helping more people live their values.