A Miami transplant with a strong Latina Jewish identity, Jackie Feldman is the founder of Sephardic Jews in DC, a group that hosts events for young professionals in the Greater Washington area to celebrate Sephardic culture, food, religious tradition, and customs. She is also the author of the food blog “Healthy Sephardic Cooking” and teaches classes on both Sephardic cuisine and history/culture in DC. Jackie holds leadership positions on the boards of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad) and JIMENA, and works closely with many Jewish institutions to create unique Sephardic programming and educational events.
Jackie has lived in DC for 10 years and works as a consultant specializing in foreign military sales and defense acquisition. Not one to brag, she is, however, very proud to say she makes the best bourekas in the DC area.
“Keeping Up with the Feldashians” — please explain.
So, this one is a bit of an inside joke, but my friend coined the term “Feldashians” since my family resembles the Kardashian family — only in appearance, and we’re thankfully not as dramatic. The nickname has stuck and now we find it funny to describe ourselves as the Feldashians, even though our real last name is Feldman.
Where is your favorite place to unwind in DC?
My apartment is probably my favorite place to unwind, but Dupont Circle is a close second. I love to people watch at the fountain and just hang out there with a book and good music.
What was the last movie you saw in a theater?
“Three Identical Strangers.” I really loved this film and would highly recommend watching it.
What was the last country you visited, and what was a highlight?
The last country I visited was Greece, and I really enjoyed it! My family is originally from Greece/Turkey but they left in the 1800s and immigrated to South America and the Caribbean. When I got to Greece, I was shocked as to how similar Sephardic culture was to traditional Greek culture, and realized that many of the cultural artifacts of the Sephardic world (like evil eyes, pomegranates, and hamsas) are also celebrated and used by Greeks. It was also amusing to see so many people that looked like they were related to my family.
The highlight was the amazing bourekas I ate there, definitely the best I’ve ever had in my life.
What is your musical guilty pleasure?
I totally love Pitbull, aka Mr. 305 and Mr. Worldwide. I love Raggaeton as well and any kind of Latin rap music.
Where does your passion for cooking come from?
My passion for cooking comes from my mother, who is the best cook I know! She was always the main cook of our family and we’d constantly host dinners for everyone. I learned to cook from her and then started learning more recipes from both friends and cookbooks. Often I like to put my own spin on recipes, making them a bit healthier or modernizing the ingredient list a bit.
Tell us something about you that would surprise the people who know you best.
Ha, great question. I’m pretty much an open book, so most of my close friends tend to know a lot about me already. I would say that I’m a bit shy and sensitive, which comes as a surprise to many.
Why is sharing and promoting Sephardic culture and heritage so important to you?
When I first moved to DC, 10 years ago, I immediately noticed that there was almost no Sephardic presence or events in the area (with the exception of the suburbs). All too often, Sephardic culture in the U.S. is minimized, and many of our customs and traditions have been lost as we absorb into the greater community, which is mainly Ashkenazi. It’s important to remember that Sephardim spent hundreds, if not thousands, of years developing their own organic Jewish customs, practices, food, prayers, and languages. We must remember this culture and heritage, even as our own practices evolve and modernize. It›s my goal to ensure that Sephardic culture continues to be practiced and passed on to the next generation, and that we educate people about the multi-culturalism that exists within Judaism.
Interviewed by Rachel Kohn