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Jewish Cuisine is the collection of cooking traditions of the Jewish people. It is a diverse cuisine that has evolved over many centuries, shaped by Jewish dietary laws (kashrut) and Jewish Festival and Sabbath traditions. Jewish cooking has also been influenced by the economics, agriculture, and culinary traditions of the many countries where Jewish communities have existed since Late Antiquity. Kashrut and holiday traditions provide unifying elements in the cuisine, while geographic dispersion has led to a diversity of styles.
Broadly speaking, the distinctive styles or cuisines in their own right that may be discerned in Jewish cuisine are: Ashkenazi (Central and Eastern European ), Sephardic (descendants of the Iberian Jews, including Italian, Greek, Turkish and Balkan), Mizrahi (North African, including Moroccan, Tunisian, Algerian and Libyan), Judeo-Arab (Lebanese, Syrian and Iraqi), Persian, Yemenite and Indian. There are also distinctive dishes from Jewish communities ranging from Ethiopia to Central Asia.
Furthermore, since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, and particularly since the late 1970s, a nascent Israeli "fusion cuisine" has developed, adopting and adapting elements of all the aforementioned Jewish styles, as well as incorporating other Middle Eastern fare; new dishes based on agricultural products introduced and grown since 1948; and other international cuisines.
Jewish cooking varies widely throughout the world due to the use of local ingredients, and local cultural influences have made their mark on Jewish cuisine, and in turn, Jewish cuisine has also influenced other cuisines as well, with several dishes commonly eaten by non-Jewish people throughout the world.
The laws of keeping kosher (kashrut) have influenced Jewish cooking in two primary ways: by prescribing what foods are permitted and how food must be prepared.
Observant Jews will eat only meat or poultry that is certified kosher: The meat must be slaughtered by a shochet (ritual slaughterer) in accordance with Jewish law and is entirely drained of blood. Before it is cooked it is soaked in water for half an hour, then placed on a perforated board and sprinkled with coarse salt (which draws out the blood) and left to sit for one hour. At the end of this time the salt is washed off and the meat is ready for cooking. Today, kosher meats purchased from a butcher or supermarket are usually already kashered and no additional soaking or salting is required.
Meat and poultry may not be combined with dairy products. This necessitates the use of two sets of utensils. Therefore, Orthodox Jews divide their kitchens into two sections, one for meat and one for dairy.
As a result, butter, milk and cream are not used in preparing dishes made with meat or intended to be served together with meat. Oil, pareve margarine, rendered chicken fat or non-dairy cream substitutes are used instead.
The hearty cuisine of Ashkenazi Jews was based on centuries of living in the cold climate of central and Eastern Europe, whereas the lighter, "sunnier" cuisine of Sephardic Jews was affected by life in the Mediterranean region.
Each Jewish community has its traditional dishes, often revolving around specialties from their home country. In Spain and Portugal, olives were a common ingredient and many foods were fried in oil. The stereotypically "English" fish and chips, for example, the fried fish was introduced to England by Sephardi Jewish immigrants. In Germany, stews were popular. The Jews of Netherlands specialized in pickles, herring, butter cakes and bolas (jamrolls). In Poland, Jews made lokshen (noodle) or knaidel (matzoh ball) soup and various kinds of stuffed and stewed fish. In North Africa, Jews ate couscous and tagine.
Thus, a traditional Shabbat meal for Ashkenazi Jews might include roast beef, pot roast, or chicken; carrot tzimmes and potatoes; and a traditional Shabbat meal for Sephardi Jews would focus more on salads, stuffed vine leaves, couscous and other Middle Eastern specialties.
The preparation of the meal was a very simple process. Food staples were bread and milk, supplemented by fruits and vegetables. Many vegetables, such as cucumbers, garlic, leek and onions were eaten raw. Meat was generally reserved for festivals. Lentils or greens were boiled in water or oil. Fruit was often dried and compressed into solid, cake-like masses, making raisin-cake, fig-cake, etc.
Cereals were an important food in biblical times. The most common was wheat (chitta). Sometimes the grains were reduced to grits (grisim). The grain was generally ground into flour (kemah), or a more course flour called solet. The flour was made into bread, with or without leavening Barley (se'orim) was used like wheat, generally being made into bread.Spelt (kussemet) was used less than wheat or barley, but also made into bread. Porridge was made from ground cereal, water, salt, and butter. This porridge was also the basis for cakes, to which oil and fruits were added.
Lentils (adashim) were the principal legume. Cucumbers(melafefonim) were eaten raw, or spiced with vinegar. Leeks, onions (betzalim) and garlic (shumim), were eaten raw with bread. The poor also used orach (malluah), the young leaves being either boiled or eaten raw.
There was an early fig (bikkurah) and a late fig (te'enim), the latter being generally dried and pressed into round or square cakes (devela). Grapes (anavim) were eaten either fresh, or dried as raisins (tzimmukim). They were also pressed into cakes. Olives (zayit) were probably prepared as they are today. Pomegranate (rimmon), the fruit of the mulberry tree (shiḳmah) eaten by the poor, and of the date palm (tamar), which is treated like figs and grapes; and, finally, pistachio nuts, almonds (shḳeidim), walnuts (egoz) and carob.
In ancient times much less meat was eaten in the Middle East than among Western peoples. It was served daily only at the king's table. Otherwise, animals were slaughtered only for major festivals (cḥaggim), at the yearly sacrificial feasts of families and tribes, at family festivals (such as circumcisions and weddings), for guests, etc. Furthermore, only certain kinds of animals were permissible as food. (see Dietary Laws). The most important animals for food were cattle, sheep, and goats, sheep ranking first. In addition to lamb, ("karim") fattened calves (meri'im) are often mentioned especially those that were fattened in the stall rather than in the pasture (egel marbeḳ). From early times the eating of meat was allowed on condition that the blood of the slaughtered animal be removed completely. Meat was usually simmered. The sauce in which it was cooked was considered a delicacy. The meat of the Passover lamb was roasted. It was cooked on the open fire, placed directly on the coals, or using a spit or grate.
Milk of large as well as of small animals especially goat's milk, was a staple food. It was kept in skins. "Ḥem'ah," designating cream as well as bonnyclabber and cheese, is often mentioned. Cream is generally called "shefot", though this reading is uncertain. It was frequently offered as a present, carried in cylindrical wooden vessels; and, sprinkled with sugar, it was eaten out of little dishes with wooden spoons. Cheese (gebinah) made of sweet milk was probably also used. Honey (debash) is frequently mentioned in connection with milk. Whether this is the ordinary bee's honey flowing of itself out of the honeycomb ("nofet ha-ẓufim") that was especially relished or date honey is disputed among scholars. Honey seems to have been a favorite food of children.
The spices used by the ancient Israelites include cumin (kammon), dill (ḳeẓaḥ), mint, and mustard. Salt (melaḥ), was very important even in early times. To "eat the salt" of a person was equivalent to eating his bread, and a covenant of salt was inviolable.
In biblical times cooking was done by women, who also ground the flour for bread. Even women of rank engaged in cooking. The slaughtering and carving of meat was done by men. Kitchens were found only in the palaces of the wealthy. A special room for culinary purposes was not needed, as a primitive hearth consisted of a few stones upon which the pot was placed, with a fire lit underneath it on the mud floor. In later times mention is made of fire-basins kiyyor, and small, portable cooking-stoves, kirayim, with room for two pots. Wood, often in the form of charcoal, and dried dung were used as fuel with a draft was made by means of a fan (minifah). Fire-tongs (melqachayim), shovels (ya'im), and hand-mills were also important cooking utensils.
Homes were equipped with two large earthen jugs, the kad, one for carrying water, the other for storing meal or grains. Milk and wine were preserved in goat-skins (chemet), oil and honey in small earthen or metal jugs (tzappachat) and fruits and pastry in various kinds of baskets. The dud, kiyyor, qallachat, parur, sir, and tzelachah (tzallahat) are mentioned as vessels for cooking. Metal vessels were used mainly by the wealthy. These vessels were produced largely by Phoenician artisans. Among the common people it was customary to employ earthen vessels for daily use, the receptacle most frequently mentioned being the sir, a pot in which the family meal was cooked, and sometimes sacrificial meat. For baking, a tin plate (machabat barzel, or a deep pan (marchešet) was used. Mention is also made of three-pronged forks, which were used for lifting the meat from the pot. Knives were used for slaughtering animals, and carving the meat (ma'akelet).
Bread was a staple food, and as in the Bible, the meal is designated by the simple term "to eat bread," so the rabbinical law ordains that the blessing pronounced upon bread covers everything else except wine and dessert. Bread was made not only from wheat, but also from rice, millet, and lentils. Many kinds of fruit were eaten. There was a custom to eat apples during Shavuot, while specific fruit and herbs were eaten on Rosh Hashana as a good omen. Children received nuts and roasted ears of grain especially on the evening of Passover. Olives were so common that they were used as a measure (zayit). Meat was eaten only on special occasions, on Shabbat and at feasts. The pious kept fine cattle for Shabbat (Beẓah 16a); but various other kinds of dishes, relishes, and spices were also on the table. Deer, also, furnished meat, as did pheasant, chickens, and pigeons. Fish was eaten on Friday evening in honor of Shabbat. Pickled fish was an important article of commerce, being called "garum" among the Jews, as among the Greeks and Romans. Pliny says expressly of a "garum castimoniale" (i.e., kosher garum) that it was prepared according to Jewish law. A specific type of locusts were eaten. Eggs were so commonly eaten that the quantity of an egg was used as a measure.
The first dish was a pickled starter to stimulate the appetite, followed by the main meal, which ended with a dessert, called in Greek θάργημα. Afiḳomen is used in the same sense. Tidbits (parperet) were eaten before and after the meal (Ber. vi. 6). Wine was flavored with myrrh or with honey and pepper, the mixture being called conditum. There was vinegar wine, wine from Amanus, and Cilicia, red wine from Saron, Ethiopian wine, and black wine. Certain wines were considered good for the stomach, others not. There was beer from Egypt called zythos (Pes. iii. 1), and beer made from a thorn Spina regia. Emphasis was placed on drinking with the meal as "eating without drinking means suicide".
The Jews were so widely scattered in the Middle Ages that it is difficult to give a connected account of their mode of living as regards food. In Arabic countries the author of the Halakot Gedolot knew some dishes that appear to have been specific Jewish foods, e.g., "paspag", which was, perhaps, biscuit; according to the Siddur Amram, the well-known "cḥaroset" is made in those countries from a mixture of herbs, flour, and honey (Arabic,"ḥalikah"). Maimonides, in his "Sefer Refu'ot", mentions dishes that are good for health. He recommends bread baked from wheat that is not too new, nor too old, nor too fine, further, the meat of the kid, sheep, and chicken, and the yolks of eggs. Goats' and cows' milk is good, nor are cheese and butter harmful. Honey is good for old people; fish with solid white flesh meat is wholesome; so also are wine and dried fruits. Fresh fruits, however, are unwholesome; and he does not recommend garlic or onions.
There is detailed information about Italian Jewish cookery in the book "Massechet Purim." It discusses pies, chestnuts, turtledoves, pancakes, small tarts, gingerbread, ragouts, venison, roast goose, chicken, stuffed pigeons, ducks, pheasants, partridges, quails, macaroons, and salad. These were considered luxuries. The oppressed medieval Jews enjoyed large meals only on Shabbat, festivals, circumcisions, and weddings. For example, the Jews of Rhodes, according to a letter of Ovadiah Bartinura, 1488, lived on herbs and vegetables only, never tasting meat or wine. In Egypt, however, meat, fish, and cheese were obtainable, in Gaza, grapes, fruit, and wine. Cold dishes are still relished in the East. Generally, only one dish was eaten, with fresh bread daily.
Some Jewish dishes frequently mentioned in Yiddish literature from the twelfth century onward are "brätzel", "lokshen", pasteten, "fladen", "beleg". Barscht or borshtsh soup is a Polish/Ukrainian beet soup, best known are the berkes or barches eaten on Shabbat, and "shalet", which Heine commemorates, and which the Spanish Jews called Ani. Shabbat pudding, kigl or kugel in Yiddish, is also well known.
Most of the dishes cooked by Jewish people of Eastern European origin are akin to those of the nations among whom they dwelled, and in much of Europe (including most of the English-speaking world) is the dominant style associated with "Jewish cooking"; substitutions were made to accommodate the dietary laws. Hence, dishes which Gentiles make with pork are made with veal or chicken; chicken fat (or, more modernly, hydrogenated vegetable oil such as Crisco)is used in place of lard. Thus the kasha and blintzes of the Russian Jews, the mamaliga of the Romanians, the paprika of the Hungarians, are dishes adopted by the Jews from their gentile neighbors. Only on religious and ceremonial occasions did they cook special Jewish dishes. In the United States, in particular, Jewish cooking (and the cookbooks that recorded and guided it) evolved in ways that illuminate changes in the role of Jewish women and the Jewish home.
The Jewish love of fish goes back to ancient times. With kosher meat not always available, fish became an important staple of the Jewish diet. In Eastern Europe it was sometimes especially reserved for Shabbat. As fish is not considered meat, it can also be eaten with dairy products (although some Sefardim do not mix fish and dairy). Even though fish is parve, when they are served at the same meal, Orthodox Jews will eat them during separate courses, and wash (or replace) the dishes in between. Gefilte fish and lox are popular in Ashkenazi cuisine.
Gefilte fish (filled fish) was traditionally made by slicing fish, removing the bones and skin, chopping the flesh and mixing it with matzah meal, eggs, salt, pepper, and onions. The cavity of each slice is stuffed with this mixture and simmered in broth. A more common variation today are fish patties, similar to quenelles. While traditionally made with carp, gefilte fish may also be made from cod, haddock, or hake in the United Kingdom, carp or pike in France, or whitefish in the United States. In Polish gefilte fish, sugar is added to the broth, resulting in a slightly sweet taste.
Gehakte herring (chopped herring), a popular appetizer on Shabbat, is made by chopping skinned, boned herrings with hard-boiled eggs, onions, apples, sugar, pepper, and a dash of vinegar.
A number of soups are characteristically Ashkenazi, one of the most common of which is chicken soup, traditionally served often on Shabbat, holidays, and special occasions. The soup may served with noodles (lokshen in Yiddish), rice or soup almonds. Shkedei marak are popular in Israel. On Passover, this is replaced by kneidlach (matza balls), a mixture of matzo meal (ground matzos) eggs, water, melted fat, pepper and salt.
In the preparation of a number of soups, neither meat nor fat is used. Such soups formed the food of the poor classes. An expression among Jews of Eastern Europe, soup mit nisht (soup with nothing), owes its origin to soups of this kind. Soups such as Borsht were considered a staple in Russia. Soups like krupnik were made of oatmeal, potatoes, and fat. This was the staple food of the poor students of the yeshivot; in richer families meat was added to this soup.
At weddings, "golden" chicken soup was often served. The reason for its name is probably the yellow circles of molten chicken fat floating on its surface. Today chicken soup is referred to in jest as "Jewish penicillin," and hailed as a cure for the common cold.
There are a number of sour soups in the borscht category. One is kraut or cabbage borscht, made by cooking together cabbage, meat, bones, onions, raisins, sour salt (citric acid), sugar and sometimes tomatoes. Beet borsht is served hot or cold. In the cold version, a beaten egg yolk may be added before serving, and each bowl topped with a dollop of sour cream. This last process is called farweissen (to make white).
The dough of challah is often shaped into forms having symbolical meanings; thus on Rosh Hashanah rings and coins are imitated, indicating "May the new year be as round and complete as these";For Hosha'na Rabbah, bread is baked in the form of a key, meaning "May the door of heaven open to admit our prayers." The Hamantashen, a triangular cookie or turnover filled with fruit preserves (lekvar) or honey and black poppy seed paste, is eaten on the Feast of Purim. It is said to be shaped like the hat of Haman the tyrant. The mohn kihel is a circular or rectangular wafer sprinkled with poppy seed. Pirushkes, or turnovers, are little cakes fried in honey or dipped in molasses after they are baked. Strudel is served for dessert. Kugels are prepared from rice, noodles or mashed potatoes.
In Eastern Europe, the Jews baked black ("proster," or "ordinary") bread, white bread, and challah. The most common form is the twist ("koilitch" or "kidke"). The koilitch is oval in form, and about one and a half feet in length. On special occasions, such as weddings, the koilitch is increased to a length of about two and a half feet. The bagel, which originated from the Eastern Europe bublik, is a popular Ashkenazi food.
Gebrattens (roasted meat), chopped meat, and essig fleish (vinegar meat) are favorite meat recipes. The essig or, as it is sometimes called, honnig or sauer fleish, is made by adding to meat which has been partially roasted some sugar, bay-leaves, pepper, raisins, sour salt and a little vinegar.
The rendered fat of geese and chickens is kept in readiness for cooking use when needed. Gribenes or "scraps," also called grieven, the cracklings left from the rendering process were one of the favorite foods in Eastern Europe. Gribenes was eaten spread on bread.
Teiglach, traditionally served on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, consists of little balls of dough (about the size of a marble) drenched in a honey syrup. Ingberlach are ginger candies shaped into small sticks or rectangles.
In Europe, jellies and preserves made from fruit juice were used as pastry filling or served with tea. Among the poor, jelly was reserved for invalids, hence the practice of reciting the Yiddish saying "Allewai zol men dos nit darfen" (May we not have occasion to use it) before storing it away.
Tzimmes consists generally of cooked vegetables or fruits, sometimes with meat added. The most popular vegetable is the carrot (mehren tzimes), which is sliced. Turnips were also used for tzimmes, particularly in Lithuania. In southern Russia, Galicia, and Romania tzimmes was made of pears, apples, figs, prunes or plums (floymn tzimes).
Kreplach, similar to Russian "pelmeni" are ravioli-like dumplings are made from flour and eggs mixed into a dough, rolled into sheets, cut into squares and then filled with finely chopped, seasoned meat or cheese. They are served in soup. Kreplech are eaten on various holidays, among them Purim and Hosha'na Rabbah.
The exact distinction between Sephardic and Mizrahi cooking can be quite fuzzy, due to the intermingling of the Sephardi diaspora and the Mizrahi Jews who they came in contact with, but as a general rule, both types reflect the food of the local non-Jewish population. The need to preserve kashrut does lead to a few significant changes (most notably, the use of pareve olive oil instead of flayshig animal fat is often considered to be a legacy of Jewish residency in an area). Despite this, Sephardic and Ashkenazic concepts of kosher differ, one of the most notable things being that rice, a major staple in the Sephardic diet, is considered kosher for Passover, where it is forbidden kitniyot for most Ashkenazim.
Sephardic cuisine in particular is known for its considerable use of vegetables unavailable to the Ashkenazim of Europe, including spinach, artichokes, pine nuts, and (in more modern times) squash. The cooking style is largely Middle Eastern, with significant admixtures of Spanish, Italian, and North African flavors.
Sephardic food has had little influence in the largely Ashkenazic populations of eastern and northern Europe and North America, though the Anglo-Jewish plava is thought to come from the Sephardic pan d'Espanya. Influence is growing because of the inter-marriage between both groups and the location of the State of Israel. Sephardic food has also become popular because of the fashion for the "Mediterranean diet", being considered healthier than the "heavier" Ashkenazic style.
Good food is an important part of the mitzvah of "oneg Shabbat" ("enjoying Shabbat"). Hence much of Jewish cuisine revolves around Shabbat.
As observant Jews do not cook on Shabbat, various techniques were developed to provide for a hot meal on Shabbat day. One such dish is "cholent" or "chamin," a slow-cooked stew of meat, potatoes, beans and barley (although there are many other variations). The ingredients are placed in a pot and put up to boil before lighting the candles on Friday night. Then the pot is placed on a hotplate, traditional "blech" (thin tin sheet used to cover the flames, and on which the pot is placed), or in a slow oven and left to simmer until the following day.
A prominent feature of Shabbat cookery is the preparation of twists of bread, known as "challahs" or—in southern Germany, Austria and Hungary -- "barches." They are often covered with seeds to represent manna, which fell in a double portion on the sixth day.
Another Shabbat dish is calf's foot jelly, called p'tsha in Lithuania and galarita, galer, galleh,or fisnoge in Poland. Beef or calf bones are put up to boil with water, seasonings, garlic and onions for a long time. It is then allowed to cool. The broth then jells into a semi-solid mass, which is served in cubes. Drelies, a similar dish originating in south Russia and Galicia is mixed with soft-boiled eggs and vinegar when removed from the oven, and served hot. In Romania it is called piftie, in Serbia pihtije; it is served cold, with garlic, hard boiled eggs and vinegar sauce or mustard creme and considered a traditional dish in the winter season.
Kugel is another Shabbat favorite, particularly lokshen kugel, a sweet baked noodle pudding, often with raisins and spices. Non-sweet kugels may be made of potatoes, carrots or a combination of vegetables.
Traditional noodles - lokshen - are made from a dough of flour and eggs rolled into sheets and then cut into long strips. If the dough is cut into small squares, it becomes farfel. Both lokshen and farfel are usually boiled and served with soup.
On Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, a variety of symbolic foods are eaten:
Yom Kippur is a fast day. The pre-fast meal, called "seuda mafseket," usually consists of foods that are digested slowly and are not highly spiced, to make fasting easier and prevent thirst. Some families break the fast with tea and cake, and then sit down for a meal.
It is customary to eat foods fried in oil to celebrate Chanukkah. Eating dairy products was a custom in medieval times.
Passover is a Jewish holiday, celebrating the exodus from Egypt, to become free people in the Promised Land. Because they wanted to flee Egypt quickly, they didn't bake the bread long enough for it to rise. This new bread was called "matzah". And so, it was ordained that Jews do not eat leavened bread during Passover. The commandment to abstain from eating yeasted breads has had the natural effect of developing many special kinds and methods of cooking appropriate to that period.
The unleavened bread is not merely a staple article of food, but an ingredient of many Passover dishes (except in households that also refrain from gebrokts during Passover). Matzah ball (kneidlach) soup takes the place of noodle soup for this week; fish, instead of being fried in a breadcrumb batter, is cooked with matzo meal; and an immense variety of sweet cakes and puddings, manufactured from ground matza meal, replaces the pastries of ordinary occasions.
Jewish cooks make use both matza meal and potato starch for pastries during Passover. Whisked eggs are also used to create food with a light consistency.
No beer or malt liquor is consumed on Passover and, for some Ashkenazi Jews, soft drinks such as Coke and Pepsi—which use corn sweeteners—must be reformulated to contain sugar.
Passover foods vary in Sephardi and Ashkenazi communities. Ashkenazim exclude rice, while it is served by Sephardim. Some Jews do not eat soaked Matzot on the first night of Passover or even throughout the holiday. Matza is traditionally prepared from water and flour only, but there are other varieties, such as egg matza, which may also contain fruit juice. At the seder, it is customary in some communities, particularly among strictly Orthodox Jews, to use handbaked shmura matzo, which has undergone particularly strict kashrut supervision; however, in some areas, particularly the United States, such matza is no longer common.
The exclusion of leaven from the home has forced Jewish cooks to be creative, producing a wide variety of Passover dishes that use matza meal and potato as thickeners. Potato flour is largely used in cakes along with finely ground matzo meal and nuts.
Popular Ashkenazi dishes are matzah brei (fried crumbled matzo with grated onion), matzo latkes (pancakes) and khremzlakh (also called crimsel or gresjelies; matzo meal fritters). Wined matzo kugels (pudding) have been introduced into modern Jewish cooking. For thickening soups and sauces at Passover fine matzo meal or potato flour is used instead of flour: for frying fish or cutlets, a coating of matzo meal and egg, and for stuffing, potatoes instead of soaked bread.
"Noodles" may be made by making pancakes with beaten eggs and matzo meal which, when cooked, are rolled up and cut into strips. They may be dropped into soup before serving. Matzo kleys - dumplings - are small balls made from suet mixed with chopped fried onions, chopped parsley, beaten egg, and seasonings, dropped into soup and cooked.
In eastern countries and in old Jerusalem, sheep-tail fat was prepared for Passover. Mizrachi Passover dishes are fahthūt (Yemenite) - a soup stew made with matzo meal - and Turkiah minas and mahmuras - layers of matzo with fillings of cheese, vegetables or meat. In Sephardi homes haroset is served as a treat and not just as a tasye. The khreyn (horseradish relish), originating as an Ashkenazi Passover dish, is popular all the year round.
Dairy foods are traditionally eaten on Shavuot.
Tisha B'av is a fast day, preceded by nine days when Jews traditionally do not eat meat, except on Shabbat. Thus dairy and vegetarian dishes are prepared during this time of year. The meal before the fast (the seudat mafseket) also consists of dairy foods and usually contains dishes made from lentils and eggs, both ancient Jewish symbols of mourning. Some Ashkenazi Jews eat hard-boiled eggs sprinkled with ashes to symbolize mourning.