The Illuminoshi grew out of an epic Shabbat dinner (jump to the lower half of this article) at founder, Alix Wall's house. Not unsurprisingly, Alix was the first one to write about it. But of course, quite a few others have written about us by now, too. We've gotten some wonderful press for our events. Our launch was covered both by Frances Dinkelspiel at Berkeleyside and by Sue Fishkoff at J. Our latke showdown was covered by Amanda Gold at The San Francisco Chronicle. Our summer meet-up at Urban Adamah was covered by Rachel Trachten at Edible East Bay. We were mentioned in this map of Jewish food in the Bay Area put out by The Gefilteria. Most recently, we were written about by Dalit Gvirtsman on the Hebrew-language blog for the local Israeli community. And then...there was the Trefa Banquet.
In 1883, on the occasion of the first graduating class of Reform rabbis at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio, a dinner with multiple seafood courses and that mixed meat with milk, that came to be called The Trefa Banquet, took place. In an informal poll, Alix realized that most of our members had never heard of it. Professor Rachel Gross at San Francisco State had become an enthusiastic member of the group, and when Alix saw that she gave a lecture on the topic, the lightbulb went off. While Alix had never set out to establish a kosher group, until this event, she had avoided serving shellfish or pork at any of our events because it seemed like the right thing to do. But she knew that most of our member chefs cooked with these items all the time. In fact, the Jewish love for treif is a well-known fact. She thought what better way to acknowledge this, than by learning about the real banquet, especially since it is a piece of our history and it concerns food. She asked eight member chefs to participate by making some of their favorite treif dishes. All of the pork and rabbit came from local Jewish farmers Mark and Myriam Pasternak at Devil's Gulch Ranch in Marin County. This dinner was meant to simply recognize that this is the way that most Jews eat today. But she was accused of all kinds of other things. Jonathan Sarna, a historian of American Jewish history at Brandeis University, wrote an op-ed for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency saying that he hoped Trefa Banquet 2.0 wouldn't become as divisive as the original one. Rachel Gross answered with one of her own. While the event was covered by NPR's food blog The Salt, and the Jewish Daily Forward felt the need to do two separate articles on it, and Alix was interviewed by the London Jewish Chronicle by a woman who couldn't believe she could be so Jewishly-identified that she could see her chuppah hanging in her office as they Skyped. Finally, she was invited on the podcast Judaism Unbound to explain. While she believes it was a wonderful event (and was told so by those who were there) at this moment, it remains to be seen whether she'll do it again. Being accused of wanting to destroy the Jewish people is not something she takes lightly (no matter how ridiculous it is), and she certainly never set out to make a name for herself in the Jewish world just for something millions of Jews do every day.