Brazilian Moqueca Fish Stew
Brazilian Fish Stew (Ronnie Fein)
Makes 4 servings
Every year on Chanukah we retell the story of the Maccabean Revolt (167-160 BCE), when a band of soldiers led by Mattathias and his sons defeated the Greeks and rededicated the Holy Temple. Although it took place thousands of years ago, we continue to celebrate this monumental event because it saved our people from destruction and allowed us to practice our religion as we see fit.
It wouldn’t be the only time we had to fight for our survival.
Over the centuries others have sought to annihilate our people. But we are a stubborn and hearty lot. We have endured expulsions by intolerant autocrats. We have survived the Crusades and the Inquisition, the devastating pogroms in Eastern Europe and of course, the genocide of the Holocaust.
in times of relative peace, it hasn’t always been easy for us, not even in America. The first group of Jewish settlers came to this country from Brazil, fleeing the Inquisition. Although most of their community departed for Holland or Dutch colonies, this tiny flock of 23 men, women, and children made their way to New York (then New Amsterdam) on board the St. Catrina. They were not greeted with open arms by the governor, Peter Stuyvesant, who regarded our people as blasphemers and enemies and wanted to expel them. Fortunately, the directors of the Dutch West India Company, which managed the colony, refused Stuyvesant’s request.
Over several hundred years, from that small beginning, our Jewish community grew and prospered as new immigrants from Europe and Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere became an integral part of American life. America has been a refuge for Jews from everywhere and has been welcoming.
Anti-Semitism rears its ugly head from time to time here too, as the recent and tragic murder of 11 Jews at a synagogue in Pittsburgh has shown us. As always, we must remain vigilant in our efforts to combat and stand up against bigotry and racism. That is how we have always survived and flourished.
And so, while we rejoice at the victory of the Maccabees in ancient times, this Chanukah let us also celebrate our endurance as a people. Along with the traditional latkes and doughnuts, how about feasting on a Brazilian-Jewish dish in remembrance of those brave 23 souls who began Jewish life in America? I offer Moqueca, a delicious fish stew, a hearty and festive dish worthy of the holiday.