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Mardi Gras and Jewish New Orleans


New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA) is a city steeped in history and influenced by Europe, the Caribbean, Africa and beyond.  It is known for gumbo, late night Jazz, historic neighborhoods and amazing festivals throughout the year.  Mardi Gras is one of the most well known celebrations in New Orleans that will be celebrated on February 21 this year.  It is just a few weeks before the Jewish holiday of Purim, often referred to as the Jewish Mardi Gras, and can be a great theme for your Purim seudah.

Jewish life in New Orleans is complicated.  Legend has it that an unknown Jewish peddler came to New Orleans many years ago.  While there, his horse died, so he decided to stay and that was the beginning of Jewish New Orleans.   History tells us that there were three waves of Jewish immigration to Louisiana.  The first Jews came in the 1700s and were Spanish and Portuguese traders.  The next wave came in mid-19th century mostly from Germany and Alsace-Lorraine.  The final wave came in the late 19th and early 20th century consisting of mostly Eastern European Ashkenazi Jews.  Still, the Jewish community remains small and by 2005, there were 10,000 Jews in New Orleans, the smallest Jewish population of any major city.

After hurricane Katrina, New Orleans lost 25% of the Jewish population.  Since then, Jews from all over the country rallied to help the beleaguered city.  Homes were opened for displaced families; monies were raised to replace ruined Torahs; and, a recruitment call went out to Jews everywhere to help revitalize the Jewish community of NOLA. Over 2,000 Jews responded, and have now relocated to New Orleans. They form a vibrant and significant part of the contemporary New Orleans Jewish population,

Mardi Gras is a busy time for the city and should you find yourself in New Orleans looking for Kosher creole food, you are in luck.  They have two kosher restaurants in NOLA and one of them, Kosher Cajun serves gumbo and jambalya.  You can also enjoy the world renowned beignets at Café Du Monde since they received kosher certification in 2008.

If on the other hand, you want to celebrate Mardi Gras style in the comfort of your home we have the kosher recipes to make your party a hit.  Laissez les bons temps rouler!




Photo Credit - Flickr - Andy Castro