Chocolate is not just a delicious treat but it also holds an important place in Jewish history. From the ancient times of the Maccabees to the modern day, chocolate has been a popular food for many. The rich and spicy sweet treat has changed a lot since its invention and discovery by Europeans in the Americas in 1502. Its use has expanded and has become a part of the lives of many. While its origins may not be widely known, there are a number of interesting facts to share about its history.
In the early 1600s, Jewish immigrants began trading and producing chocolate. A few of them became prominent in the business. One such Jewish family was the Gomezs, who settled in up the Hudson River. Their son, Luis Moses Gomez, was able to escape the Spanish Inquisition and move to France.
Another famous Jewish family, the Gratz, made a fortune in the cocoa business in the 19th century. They imported 15,000 pounds of cocoa from Santo Domingo and were successful in selling it to Brazil. Although the Gratz were not the first Jews to manufacture chocolate, their success helped create a reputable industry in the industry.
While many Jews had a hand in making the first modern version of chocolate, a 16 year old lad named Franz Sacher did leave his mark on the chocolate world. He developed a chocolate sponge cake called the Sachertorte.
Besides the obvious, another notable Jewish connection to chocolate is the famous converso theory. Conversos were a group of Spanish and Portuguese traders who moved around Europe and the Netherlands. These traders were responsible for creating the machine that processed sugar into a smooth chocolate drink.
In the late 1500s, Christopher Columbus made a trip to the New World, where he found the mighty cacao tree. The explorer believed that he would encounter the Lost Tribes of Israel, but his journey was cut short by the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. Nevertheless, he landed in Asia, where he brought along a Hebrew interpreter, Luis de Torres.
Some of the early Sephardi Jews were involved in the vanilla refinery, rum distillery and cacao processing industries. Many of them eventually left for the New World, where they were able to make a living. Others were forced to leave Spain. This led to a diaspora of the Jews, a term describing an ethnic or religious group that is exiled from its home country.
Although chocolate was not initially consumed as a ritual, it did appear in Jewish holiday ceremonies. During the Yom Kippur fast, it was served at the end of the meal. Other festive foods included cakes, cookies and challah. Despite its bitter taste, chocolate eventually made its way to high society and the royal court.
Today, chocolate is widely recognized as a symbol of hope and joy. This holiday season, consider incorporating some of the aforementioned foods into your diet. However, don’t forget to take your Jewish values into consideration.