With great emotion and to the joy of Jewish foodies throughout the world, the Queen of Kosher cooking is coming home to rule the roast/roost. Jamie Geller is making aliyah and though she used to think that life in Israel was “so not me”, she is now encouraging others to take the plunge, too.
The kosher cooking magnate, mom, and returnee to Jewish tradition made the announcement that she is moving to Israel at the Nefesh B’Nefesh aliyah organization’s June 25 ‘Tweetup’. Since then, Geller has begun to share her experiences with her loyal followers on her ‘Joy of Kosher’ website and in reality-tv-style ‘Joy of Aliyah’ videos.
In an interview with the Jewish Press’s Yishai and Malkah Fleisher, Geller spoke frankly about her opinion of life in the “galus” (Diaspora) and what is driving her to make the move.
“My grandparents survived the Holocaust, and I just don’t feel like they did that so I can live in Spring Valley,” Geller told Jewish Press. “The end is not to achieve it here in America or wherever you may be, and I just feel like I’m a Jewish person and it’s the Jewish homeland, and I want to go home!”
From Highschool to HBO
Geller shared her earliest memory of wanting to live in the Jewish state, remembering a call she placed to her mother during a high school semester in Israel. “I’m not leaving, and if you’re going to make me leave then I’m going to come back after high school, and I’m going to join the army, and I want to live here forever,” Jamie told her mother.
Yet she neither stayed nor donned IDF fatigues after high school as she had planned. “I had that feeling, and it was so strong… [but] by the time I graduated high school, it wasn’t even on my radar anymore. My whole life was just taken up, and I was going to NYU, and I was going to become famous…”
And taken up she became. In just a few years, Jamie had soared to the top of her industry, writing and producing for CNN, Entertainment News, the Food Network, and HBO.
But Israel wasn’t done with Jamie Geller. It wasn’t long before she had a date with a nice young man who told her he wanted to live in Israel. “I was like ‘no way, absolutely not,’ it was almost a deal breaker. I laughed at him – and I was someone who had had those feelings!”
The Persistent Husband
It wasn’t a deal breaker. The couple married, and her husband’s dream of making aliyah did not fade. “My husband has always said – you’re not building a house in galus” and even when they bought their own house, Israel was a frequent topic of conversation.
“I think it was like water on a rock,” Geller said. “We would be Chol HaMoed (interim days of Passover and Sukkot) at Six Flags Great Adventure, an amusement park, and then [my husband] would show pictures of his brother in Hashmonaim… doing a tiyul [hike] in the land… [and it was as if he was saying] ‘it’s Chol HaMoed – what are we doing at Six Flags?’”
But while her husband talked aliyah to Israel, Geller’s career was taking off in America. In 2007, she authored her first cookbook, Quick & Kosher Recipes from the Bride Who Knew Nothing, with her second, Quick & Kosher: Meals in Minutes soon to follow. Now, Jamie publishes the largest online kosher cooking website, JoyofKosher.com, and a top-of-the-line accompanying magazine, Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller.
Saying Goodbye to the Serving Dishes
Yet with all that American success, Geller told the Jewish Press that she is ready to take on the challenges of life in Israel. “I’m not going out of a position of weakness, I’m leaving a 3400 square foot home behind to go live in something double the price that’s half the size, but I’m doing it because I believe it is the right thing and the best thing for our family… I know that I’ll be working extra and double, but it’s a small price to pay to be there.”
Along with the smaller space, Geller does not much lament the little things she will leave behind, including her oversized American furniture and special serving dishes (“ain’t no room for once-a-year serving platters in Israel”, she said in one of her Joy of Aliyah videos). “I don’t think that’s a reason, just because I love blueberries, not to live in Israel. Those are silly to me… that’s not on my top list of worries. I’ve got other ones.”