WRJ Cookbook Center History Block
The History of the WRJ Cookbook Collection
WRJ’s cookbooks can be traced back to the publication in 1888 of The Fair Cookbook, by the Ladies of Congregation Emanuel in Denver, CO, but the WRJ Cookbook Collection itself started with NFTS (now WRJ) Past President Betty Eichenbaum Benjamin, who acquired 32 cookbooks from sisterhoods as she traveled for her role across North America in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1996, with the prompting of the HUC-JIR librarian emeritus, Betty donated her cookbooks to the library and appointed WRJ Board member Nancy Apfel to chair the WRJ Cookbook Collection project and oversee its expansion.
Today, more than 260 cookbooks from sisterhoods around the world can be found in the WRJ Cookbook Collection, which comprises more than 25% of the Jewish Cookbook Collection at the HUC-JIR Library in Cincinnati. WRJ’s cookbooks represent 35 states and D.C. as well as other countries, including Brazil, Canada, Great Britain, Panama, and Switzerland. Each book has a bookplate naming the donor and is cataloged by Library of Congress rules. These cookbooks reflect the sisterhood, the times, and the culture of a congregation and also offer insights into the women who shared their recipes.
In 2013, for the Centennial Salute to the WRJ Cookbook Collection, Chair Nancy Apfel, Co-Chair Karen Sim, and Editor Susan Pittelman selected the following recipes of foods traditionally served on Jewish holidays as a way to “sample” recipes from the Collection. Be sure to enjoy making (and eating!) these recipes listed below during an upcoming Jewish Holiday to remember the legacy of food, cooking, culture, and history amongst sisterhood women.