Zollman’s deli history talk draws 200 plus

Joellyn Zollman used two microphones--one near her mouth, the other on the lectern--during her deli talk.

Joellyn Zollman used two microphones–one near her mouth, the other on the lectern–during her deli talk.


Story by Donald H. Harrison; Photos by Shor M. Masori

Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

Shor Masori

Shor M. Masori

SAN DIEGO – More than 200 Jewish community members attended a talk on the history of American delicatessens on Sunday afternoon, June 5, many hoping that the turnout at the event would lure more Jewish Community Cente-sponsored programming in the eastern portions of the city.

Before historian Joellyn Zollman could take a bite out of her subject matter, host Rabbi Devorah Marcus of Temple Emanu-El noted that ever since the JCC moved in the 1980s from 54th Street to an eastern La Jolla neighborhood “a lot of programming went with it.”

Echoing the theme, Dr. Bill Friedel, treasurer of the cosponsoring Tifereth Israel Synagogue Men’s Club, expressed the wish that Zollman’s lecture would be the first in a series of lectures and other programming in East San Diego neighborhoods such as the College area, Del Cerro, San Carlos and Allied Gardens.  Temple Emanu-El is located in the Del Cerro area while Tifereth Israel is located in San Carlos.

Bill Friedel, who celebrated his birthday the same day, introduced Joellyn Zollman on June 5, 2016

Bill Friedel, who celebrated his birthday the same day, introduced Joellyn Zollman on June 5, 2016

Friedel noted that successful outreach programs of the Jewish Community Center have been conducted on a regular basis in the cities of Coronado and Carlsbad.

Zollman, a PhD who was educated at Brandeis University, has taught Jewish history classes at local universities and has been tabbed by the San Diego History Center to curate an exhibition in Balboa Park on the history, culture and achievements of San Diego Jews.

Her Sunday afternoon lecture, however, focused on New York City’s lower east side where German Jews had popularized combination delicatessens and grocery stores that specialized in smoked and pickled meats and fish of various kinds.

Zollman said that Eastern European Jews who immigrated to the United States in waves between the 1880s and 1920s happily embraced Jewish delis which in providing meat at prices they could afford helped to symbolize that they had arrived.  Back home in Eastern Europe, Jews could rarely afford meat except for the Shabbos meal, and more often that not it was not beef, but rather inexpensive chicken.

From combination grocery stores and delicatessens, the delis evolved into delis and lunch counters and later, in their heyday, evolved into combination delicatessens and restaurants.

The restaurants served large sandwiches overflowing with meat, symbolizing that Jews had arrived in this land of plenty, according to Zollman.

A portion of the crowd at Temple Emanu-El for Joellyn Zollman's deli lecture. Rabbi Devorah Marcus, front row, second from right, looks at the camera.

A portion of the crowd at Temple Emanu-El for Joellyn Zollman’s deli lecture. Rabbi Devorah Marcus, front row, second from right, looks at the camera.

Delis became safe community meeting places where Jews could relax with other Jews.  They also attracted stars of the Yiddish Theatre, and later personalities from the general American theatre, making them places both to eat and to gawk.  Framed photographs or caricatures of famous celebrities hanging on the walls became a staple of delis.

But while this era has been romanticized, after only a few decades, change in the form of higher rents and higher costs for meats and salaried employees along with health-conscious diners demanding less fatty food almost brought about the demise of delis.

Bill Sperling, president of the Tifereth Israel Synagogue Men's Club, adds a little mustard to a temperately sized sandwich

Bill Sperling, president of the Tifereth Israel Synagogue Men’s Club, adds a little mustard to a temperately sized sandwich

While some of the old style delis remain, other delis adapted to the changing times and reinvented themselves, combining traditional fare with avant-garde and Mediterranean foods – the trend in delis today.

Zollman peppered her speech with humor, mostly in a steady supply of food puns, and received an enthusiastic response both for her scholarship and her in depth knowledge of great places to eat.

Afterwards, there was a reception for attendees that features – you guessed it – deli food.

Everyone loves deli food

Everyone loves deli food

*
Harrison is editor and Masori is a staff photographer of San Diego Jewish World. Their emails are [email protected] and [email protected],  Comments intended for publication in the space below MUST be accompanied by the letter writer’s first and last name and by his/ her city and state of residence (city and country for those outside the United States.)

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2016 San Diego Jewish World

One Response to “Zollman’s deli history talk draws 200 plus”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] Here is a link to a story and pictures that appeared on San Diego Jewish World.: http://www.sdjewishworld.com/2016/06/06/71912/  […]


Please help us defray the costs of providing this free service with your non-tax-deductible contribution in any amount

Most recent 100 posts

Follow

Follow this blog

Email address