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Israel Hamas WarOpinionLifestyle

From biscuit baker to accidental activist

I used to inspire people to cook, now I’m trying to inspire them to stand up for something more important - a community.
Lisa Goldberg
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biscuits, one with an Israeli flag falling off the stack

Published: 28 March 2024

Last updated: 18 April 2024

I am a passionate and slightly obsessive person who really loves food. My late father couldn’t understand my obsession and wondered how such a thing could happen. Ironically, it came from all the stories he told me about his balaboosta mother, my Buba Shendel, who I never knew. (More on that another time.) 

Cooking and eating, and talking about cooking and eating, have been an enormous part of my life thanks to my DNA, the man I married and my life’s work, the Monday Morning Cooking Club project. Social media gave me the perfect vehicle to share my obsession.

I would eat at my favourite Bondi cafe, photographing the exceptional fattoush salad with smoked trout before eating, to share the joy and encourage others to go. I spent many holiday hours making videos of buttery, crisp-shelled, just-doughy croissants in Paris and flaky molten-custard Portuguese tarts in Lisbon.

I baked fluffy flour-dusted mini pita breads and fried soft eggy matzo brei, filming every mouthwatering step along the way. I created a ten-part food show called Walking up an Appetite, where I walked, ate and cooked (my three favourite pastimes) my way across Sydney.  

Lisa Goldberg (supplied)
Lisa Goldberg (supplied)

Was I too obsessed? Did my social media feed serve any purpose other than deliciousness? I can easily rationalise it. Instagram made sense alongside the Monday Morning Cooking Club project. Our mission was to collect, curate and publish the recipes and stories from our food-obsessed Jewish community, which we did through our four books. Over the years, the essence of our community - the family table, culinary traditions around the festivals and preserving all of these for future generations - became an intrinsic part of my life.

Social media was the way to showcase it all. The platform, alongside the books, encouraged and inspired people to cook with confidence and joy and to be part of a unique cooking community with shared values and interests.

I rationalised further that all the cafe visits, travel videos and miscellaneous food content was “for the project” or “for the show”.

And then came October 7. Israel. The massacre. The savagery. Disbelief, death and destruction. The hostages. Unimaginable horror.

I am heartbroken to see so many chefs, who I used to revere, unable to see past their inexplicable hate of Zionists.

Then the celebrations in western Sydney, the violent words and flames on the Opera House steps. Inexplicable hate directed at my people. The ground beneath us began to give way. As did my social media world. 

After joining 10,000 Sydneysiders at the first prayer vigil, I felt connected and supported. I created a video on Instagram, tagging #IstandwithIsrael. Cue hate-filled comments and 2000 unfollows. It was a sad moment. Sounds a little unhinged now, but my initial reaction was to make cholent, the ultimate Jewish centuries-old comfort food: slow cooked beef, beans, barley and potato. Truly soul-soothing. It’s a reminder of the old world, of communities united and strong despite hardship. And together, on Instagram, we cooked cholent, united in grief.

My usual scrolling for food content stopped and I started obsessively looking for everything to do with Israel and the reaction in the diaspora - Instagram, X, podcasts, articles, interviews, Zooms. I stopped posting what I was eating and started posting about Israel, deliberately curating content to share those messages most important to me.

I became more brave as the weeks went by, and, unsurprisingly, received more hate. “Go to hell, Grandma,” was one response, but not the worst.

I tried to find a way, through food, to share important messages. Come for the food, stay for the activism inspiration!

I made my Shabbat “essential” Egg and Onion. I told the story of tradition, of a recipe passed down from my grandmother, a dish which reflects the longevity, unity and strength of our people. 

I baked our classic Chocolate Chiffon Cake which tells the Jewish story of tradition, family and life, while imploring people out there to address the elephant in the room:  how can they not see that Hamas was the enemy?

I made a Challah bread pudding in the face of the terrible hate towards the Jewish people and Israel, trying to encourage anyone listening to stand up and be strong in the face of such hatred.

I baked a Plum Cake in gratitude for being called a Zionist. I made Latkes for Chanukah to tell the story of long ago as evidence of our claim to the land. I kneaded challah, feeling immense Jewish pride with each fist of dough, urging everyone to stand up to the unbearable hate.

Like so many, I have become all-consumed with social media’s role spreading antisemitism and anti-Zionism here in Australia, against the terrifying backdrop of the hostages still in Gaza and the necessary war against Hamas and its tragic outcome for Palestinian civilians.

For the moment, creating food content for its own sake has lost its joy for me.

I am heartbroken to see so many chefs and cooks, who I used to revere, unable to see past their inexplicable, irrational hate of Zionists to have a conversation with me. I guess, though, one door closes and another opens, and I have since found an incredibly inspiring and impressive online community of passionate Zionists.

For the moment, creating food content for its own sake has lost its joy for me. I find creating food content with a serious message extremely challenging and I can’t even tell you why. Maybe it feels like too much of a dichotomy. Most days I feel overwhelmed by the vile rhetoric circulating on socials. I ask myself every few days, am I doing something worthwhile?

I know I am not changing those minds that can’t be changed, but I hope I am speaking out for those who feel they have no voice. And I really hope that I am now inspiring even just a few to be strong, to stand up and to speak out.

Will I ever go back to posting food for no purpose other than sharing deliciousness?

Maybe once the hostages are returned. Maybe once Hamas’s military is wiped out. Maybe once Israel can live in peace. 

Am Yisrael chai (with a bowl of chicken soup and kreplach by my side).

About the author

Lisa Goldberg

As part of the Monday Morning Cooking Club, Lisa Goldberg has co-authored four best-selling cookbooks which document and preserve recipes from Jewish kitchens across Australia and the world. Lisa has also hosted and co-produced Walking up an Appetite, a food series on YouTube sharing all the things she loves to do - eat, walk, talk and cook.

Comments18

  • Avatar of Sabina Berman

    Sabina Berman6 April at 10:30 am

    Thank you so much.
    I realise I do this as well.
    I’ll keep cooking MORE Jewish Good 😊

  • Avatar of Susie

    Susie1 April at 12:33 am

    Thanks Lisa for your commentary and for being a true warrior!!!

  • Avatar of Tammy

    Tammy31 March at 12:58 am

    Thank you Lisa. Your words express the pain we anxiety we all feel. So well written, and coupled with how Jews react…eating the foods we get comfort from

  • Avatar of Natalie

    Natalie30 March at 10:49 am

    Lisa, Thank you for writing what we all feel in so many ways. I feel sure that some day soon, you and all of us will be able to resume our lives after the hostages are saved and Hamas is no more. Am Israel Chai.

  • Avatar of Heidi Lapidge

    Heidi Lapidge30 March at 10:01 am

    Beautifully written. Echoing so much of what and how many of us are feeling

  • Avatar of Inessa

    Inessa30 March at 09:53 am

    You do give us, voiceless, a voice, indeed. Thank you.

  • Avatar of roxanne dunkel

    roxanne dunkel30 March at 01:58 am

    Echoing all our feelings ❤️

  • Avatar of Linda Basger

    Linda Basger30 March at 01:41 am

    Thank you for your constant voice Lisa , we love all that you are 🥰

  • Avatar of Denise Coleman

    Denise Coleman30 March at 01:32 am

    Beautiful written Lisa. Keep on doing what you love and love to share. I believe a lack of education is an important aspect of what is happening today.
    Take care of yourself
    🤗

  • Avatar of Anne Sarzin

    Anne Sarzin30 March at 12:47 am

    There is joy in the Jewish community strength and unity in Australia, the diaspora and Israel at this time,, and enlightenment from our traditions, history and, yes, the ‘deliciousness’ of culinary traditions to which you’ve devoted so many years; now enhanced by new meanings–taking wisdom from the past, inspiration from the present and formulating courageous strategies for the future. Am Yisrael Chai

  • Avatar of Ann Wine

    Ann Wine30 March at 12:41 am

    Well said!

  • Avatar of Miriam Millingen

    Miriam Millingen29 March at 09:18 pm

    So beautifully expressed Lisa. How distressing that the world has turned against us. Our love for Israel is so aligned with our love for the food passed down from previous generations. Am Yisrael Chai.

  • Avatar of Caren Bettman

    Caren Bettman29 March at 08:27 pm

    Accidental activist/foodie is the perfect hat for you to wear Lisa. You can add journalistic tendencies to your resume with pride! Love your work and please keep up the fight!

  • Avatar of Naomi

    Naomi29 March at 11:09 am

    #IStandWithIsrael, thank you Lisa

  • Avatar of Merle Mosse

    Merle Mosse29 March at 10:11 am

    Thank you for your heartfelt article. I cannot even begin to imagine the anguish you and every sane Jew must be suffering as you wait for news of the hostages and watch the brave IDF fight for Israel. As a Gentile, the visceral grief and anguish I feel for you and Israel each day is very real. The followers and cooks who cancelled you are not worth a tinkers curse. They have clearly shown you who they are and no decent person needs people like them in one’s life? My thoughts and prayers continue for you, the hostages, their families, Jews wherever they are and Israel. To finish, I so revere the fact that Jews have never and will never focus on and teach hatred but that their goal is tikkun olam, world repair. Bless you.

  • Avatar of Jacqui

    Jacqui29 March at 09:46 am

    Love your article Lis. Well written and I love your conviction and passion 🩷🩷🩷🩷

  • Avatar of Karen Wayne

    Karen Wayne28 March at 09:38 am

    Wonderful and passionate transition to powerful public support of Israel, and expressed so well! Thank you Lisa.

  • Avatar of Ruth Wilson

    Ruth Wilson28 March at 07:50 am

    What superb journalism this is! Lisa’s transition from the kitchen to the public podium is natural . Her passion for food on the table is matched by her passion for Israel and justice. I look forward to more helpings.

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