(JTA) — Players of the video game “The Sims” can now bake a challah or dish up a bowl of matzo ball soup, after updates made by the game’s creator that are designed to increase Jewish representation.
The new updates add traditional Jewish foods to the expansive menu available to users of “The Sims,” a best-selling life simulation game in which players customize characters and build homes and communities. The game’s developers periodically release expansion packs offering additional items for use in the role-playing.
On Tuesday, the developers released an update focused on one family of characters, the Calientes. But it also added Jewish foods that some users had mounted an extended campaign to secure.
“Get ready to dig in because today’s Sims Delivery Express adds matzah ball soup & challah bread to The Sims 4 recipe book for the whole family to enjoy,” the game announced on Twitter. An accompanying GIF showed a table with four loaves of challah, two covered by a tree-motif cover. The table is surrounded by diners scooping soup and speaking with their hands.
The announcement elicited gratitude from the community of players, known as Simmers, who had been pushing for Jewish additions to the game.
“The Sims team HAVE LISTENED and have finally brought Jewish food to The Sims 4!” tweeted a user who goes by HufflePom on social media. “Thank you to everyone who has liked, retweeted, commented and supported my posts over the last 462 days. We did it!”
Later, HufflePom tweeted a picture of a multicolored challah and thanked a programmer who had been working on the addition “for doing such a beautiful, thoughtful and respectful job.”
HufflePom was the leader of a movement to press “The Sims” and its parent company, Electronic Arts, to add more Jewish options to the game.
“Sims” players have long come up with creative workarounds to permit Jewish practice in the game, such as letting their Sims keep kosher by changing their characters’ traits to “vegetarian.” Some players let their Sims celebrate Shabbat by baking bread and setting it on a table and lighting decorative candles. Players who use “custom content” modifications not created or endorsed by the game developers have also long created Jewish content for The Sims, such as kippahs, other versions of menorahs, chuppahs, Torahs, shofars, mezuzahs and dreidels. Some have Sims performing Jewish rituals, such as stomping on a glass at a wedding.
But other than a menorah that permitted players to light individual candles for each night of Hanukkah, there was no Jewish content provided by the game’s creator. HufflePom and others had noted gaps in other additions over time: An expansion set aimed at providing culturally diverse wedding options, for example, did not include a chuppah, or Jewish wedding canopy.
Neither HufflePom nor the programmer responded to requests for comment on Wednesday.
An online petition launched last year by another Sims user noted HufflePom’s advocacy. “For over a year, Simmer HufflePom has been asking for Jewish representation in The Sims 4 by adding Jewish head coverings and food like challa, babka, hamantashen and brisket,” said the petition, which drew nearly 800 signatures. “This has been done for other cultures like Muslims and it’s important for all cultures to feel represented in their beloved life simulation game.”
Some people who signed the petition said they were Jewish and wanted to have more true-to-life options when they played the game.
“I am Jewish and am tired of not being able to have Jewish Sims,” wrote a signer named Michelle Jackson. “Stuck eating just turkey or fish during grand meals.”
But others said their support for the Jewish expansion was less about their own identity than about an abiding belief that their favorite game should offer flexibility for users of all backgrounds.
“Everyone deserves representation. We need more cultural items and gameplay so people from anywhere can play their own lives because that has always been what the Sims is about,” a signer named Madison Graham wrote in November. “We did it with skin tones and pronouns, we can do it for Jewish rep too. No rep is too much or needless.”