As Lehrhaus is nearing completion, its founders spoke about their aspirations on a recent podcast episode. Lehrhaus, which its founders style as “a Jewish tavern and house of learning”, was announced this summer and will be opening soon.
Lehrhaus’ founders, Joshua Foer and Rabbi Charlie Schwartz appeared on the recent episode of Identity/Crisis, speaking with Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer about their intentions in opening up this place of food, drink, and Jewish learning.
“We want to create a new kind of Jewish space, a space that is vibrant and alive, joyous, pleasant to be in, filled with food and drink,” said Schwartz, “and a place where Jewish learning and – above all – chavruta can thrive and be taught.”
“There is a long, proud tradition of Jewish batei midrash. There’s a long, proud tradition, although probably somewhat in hibernation in this country of Jewish taverns, right? We used to run the taverns in the pale of the settlement,” Foer said. “What happens if we put those two together?”
As to the food they will be serving, Schwartz provided some examples: “For example, we’re gonna be serving a delicious fish and chip with amba vinegar and Old-Bay French fries. Fish and chips coming from Sephardic Jewry up through England. Amba being that delicious vinegary, like not too different from malt, but like a little bit more powerful, that comes from Iraqi Jews from their trade in India. And Old Bay, which I want to reclaim as a Jewish food invented by a spice merchant from Frankfurt, Germany, who immigrated to the United States in 1939 as a refugee and developed the spice mix as a way to spread his spice business.”
What about drinks? “We’ll have cocktails from across the diaspora, like a Hawaii espresso martini and a spicy schug margarita,” said Schwartz. “Naomi’s actually going like very deep on this stuff. Like there’s a traditional Sephardic drink for break-the-fast called Pepitada, which is you take melon seeds and you roast them and you make a milk out of them. So she has a pepitada drink on the menu, which is pepitada, apple jack, and just a hint of arak, which is absolutely delicious.”
“We want this to be excellent, world-class. World-class food and drink, and world-class Torah,” said Foer. “I mean, we’ve got the Shalom Hartman Institute as partners on the text side, and that’s one of the things we wanna convey: this stuff can be really great and we should aspire for greatness.”
Stay tuned – this sounds exciting!
P.S. The reference that Rabbi Schwartz made was to the chapter “Designed for Drinking” in Robert Sommer, Personal Space: The Behavioral Basis of Design (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1969), 120-131.