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The Jew and the Carrot » Blog Archive » What’s so Jewish about Bagels? - Voice of the New Jewish Food Movement

What’s so Jewish about Bagels?

Homemade Poppy Seed Bagel Ask the average American to name a Jewish bread and there’s a 50% chance they’ll say bagels. But what is it that has made bagels a poster-child for Jewish baking? There is more than one answer to this question, the most popular attributing the creation of bagels to a Jewish baker living in 1683 Vienna. According to folklore, this unnamed man invented the bagel as a tribute to King John III Sobieski of Poland, who had saved the city from Turkish invaders with a daring cavalry charge. This story has led some to believe that bagels were originally U shaped like stirrups. However, other historians dispute this claim, arguing that the Yiddish word ‘beygal’ has been traced to 17th century Crackow, Poland. It is here that an official document of ‘Jewish Community Regulations’ – dated to 1610 – listed ‘beygals’ among the approved gifts for women in childbirth or midwives. These beygals were circular like our modern bagels, and the shape was thought to symbolize the eternal cycle of life, with no beginning and no end. Whatever their origin, what we do know for certain is that bagels were brought to North America by Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants in the late 1800’s where they quickly gained popularity in New York City. Yet the bagel appreciation that is so much a part of American culture today didn’t begin to take shape until the 1950’s, when Lender’s began selling them to supermarkets. Hard to believe America’s love affair with bagels & cream cheese is only fifty odd years old, but there it is!

Click here to learn how to make bagels in your own home – it’s surprisingly easy! (Also don’t forget about the Baking and Books raffle – only 8 days are left!)

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7 Responses to “What’s so Jewish about Bagels?”

  1. Michael Croland Says:

    Listen to Jewdriver’s “Bagel Song” (in either German or English) — or attend a Jewdriver show, where you’ll have the opportunity to throw bagels at the band! — and you’ll never question the Jewishness of bagels again. I was at a Jewdriver show at 924 Gilman in Berkeley last Hanukkah, and the bagel fight when another Jewish punk band (Yidcore) played was out of this world. You can see the bagels flying at the stage here:;search=.

    I talked to one teen who said he was “not technically” Jewish, and upon being asked what he thought about Jewish punk, he said, “I think it’s a good concept. I love bagels!”

    Amen. Ich liebe bagels.

  2. RuthL Says:

    I think bagels have now become a staple of the American Diet. How many people eat a nice toasty bagel with cream cheese or topped with their favorite item, for breakfast,lunch, dinner or a snack ?

  3. Hillary Says:

    I agree that bagels are no longer just a Jewish thing. But, we all know we have an addiction when on Passover we try and make Pesadic bagels! (I never understood this purpose-defeating phenomenon.)

  4. Michael Croland Says:

    I read a blurb in this week’s issue of Kosher Today titled “Tortillas and Pitas Lead New Generation of Kosher Bread” ( I happen to agree with you that there’s a 50-50 shot for challah and bagels, but I thought this was interesting nevertheless. :-)

  5. Andrea Says:

    Bagels are such a divisive issue among Jews. I don’t know about in the U.S. and abroad but in Canada people nearly get abusive while defending their bagel of choice. Imagine a world without them!

  6. Andrew Says:

    I doubt anybody would be able to name any Jewish cuisine

  7. SquareBagels&Sons Says:

    We here at Square Bagels and sons think that it’s a load of bull about traditional bagel shape representing eternal life. Clearly, it was set up by the illuminati to control the bread output and keep the corners of the once square bagels for themselves. No more!!! We at SB&Q are giving the people what they want, no, what they need. SQUARE BAGELS FOREVER

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