A Cook’s Entrée Into Israeli Life


Who would have thought a chef and cookbook author would ever find herself without even one frying pan in her possession?

That’s exactly what Jamie Geller, author of the “Quick and Kosher” cookbook series and editor of the Joy of Kosher magazine and website, has had to deal with for the past two weeks, since she made aliyah from Monsey, N.Y., to Ramat Beit Shemesh with her husband and five children.

“I’m waiting desperately for the lift to come,” Geller said from her new home last week, referring to the shipment of all her belongings brought over from the United States. “The kids are sleeping on the floor,” she said. “I have nothing, some plastic ware; we bought a mini fridge to keep yogurts in.”

But despite the hardships, Geller is giddy with excitement over the move, and has been since she announced it at a Nefesh B’Nefesh event in June. She’s also been documenting the move — from packing up the contents of her home to her goodbye barbecue, the flight itself and life in Israel — in a video series entitled “The Joy of Aliyah” posted on the Joy of Kosher site.

“From a very young age I loved Israel,” she said, recalling falling in love with the country at age 16 while studying abroad at the Alexander Muss High School in Israel. But as her career took off, Geller found too many reasons to push off the big move — until this summer.

“I always went to the [Celebrate] Israel parade, would come here on vacations — there has always been a desire to be here,” she said. “But my career in the last few years is why we didn’t go yet.

“Each year I just felt I wasn’t in the position where I could come to Israel and safely continue [my work],” she said. But now, “everything has been running smoothly, and yes, I’ll have to travel back and forth … but moving is almost good for the company, for example we can increase the distribution of the magazine in the Anglo population here.”

Geller is also working on a PBS show set in Israel that explores the country’s travel and culture, as well as about to complete her third cookbook — “The Joy of Kosher Cookbook.”

“Basically, I do not stop working,” she laughs. “On the flight over I was actually editing something on the plane; I’ve been working the whole time here … we landed [last] Tuesday and sent the magazine to print on Friday, right before Shabbat.”

On the New York front, Geller has left the magazine in the hands of Shifra and Shlomo Klein, who started Bitayavon magazine last year, around the same time Joy of Kosher launched. The two publications have merged, Geller said, though it will still be called The Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller. She still anticipates traveling back and forth from New York at least six or seven times a year, but she also has her eye on the Israeli food scene.

“Israel is a total melting pot of ethnicities, and I’m so excited to learn authentic cuisine from the experts,” she said, “from the Indian community, Ethiopian, Mizrahi — to get in there with home cooks and seasoned chefs alike and feature them on the show and magazine.”