Hadassah member Julie Ohana has found her calling: "To bring people together and help make them happier and healthier." How does she do it? Culinary art therapy. As people of all ages find more time to cook at home during the pandemic, there's a real receptiveness to culinary art therapy and the value that home cooking can bring to our lives — and our sense of well-being.
"We all have the ability to cook,” says Julie Ohana. “There’s so many things we can’t do now — but most of us live in a place where we have the tools to cook accessible to us, so it is one of the things that we can do."
Meet Julie: culinary art therapist, Hadassah member, Young Judaean through and through, social worker, wife and mother of two, and culinary art therapist. To help spread her passion for cooking, she volunteered her time and expertise to create a cooking video for Hadassah. You'll love it: it's simple, tasty, healthy, kid-friendly, kosher, light and perfect for Shavuot and warmer spring and summer evenings.
Two Careers, Twice the Fulfillment
"Over the last 20 years, I've been practicing as a social worker," she says. And the tie-in to food is nothing new for her. "I got my master's of social work from Yeshiva University, and wrote my master's thesis on the idea that cooking can be therapeutic." Today, she works at a Jewish day school in West Bloomfield four days a week as the director of community engagement. "When not at the school," she says, "I'm working at my private practice — culinary art therapy."
Forging Jewish Connections Through Food
"So much of what I do and who I am is rooted in my social work practice and education and my cultural Jewish background," Julie says. "Cooking and helping people learn to cook and experience positive interactions — that’s my way of helping people connect Jewishly."
When it comes to "Jewish cooking, so much of cooking is tied to memory. That's what I know. My memories are all tied to growing up Jewish." For so many Jewish families, it’s a thread that crosses the generations. Today, cooking is an integral part of Julie's family life, which includes her Israeli husband and 2 kids, ages 8 and 9½.
Heart-Healthy with Hadassah
When it comes to traditional Ashkenazi foods, many are high in fat, or what Julie describes as "decadent dishes." For Julie, it’s fun and feels wonderful to find new ways to add a healthy spin. "It makes me feel empowered to create recipes and cook dishes that can be in line with what the holiday represents — and also be good for you."
A Lifelong Love for Young Judaea
Young Judaea "is a place and an org that has helped shape and create the person I am today," says Julie, who was born in West Bloomfield, and made aliya in her 20s before moving back to the United States to do her master's. "I grew up in YJ — from camper to kitchen manager. It's my end all and be all. When I was living in Israel on Jerusalem Year Course, I stayed for three more years. To this day, many of my closest friends are still my camp friends."
Now, she sends her children to Camp Young Judaea (CYJ), and serves on the CYJ Midwest Board. She finds it deeply satisfying to watch her kids build CYJ connections and "learn that love of Judaism and Israel."
A Hadassah of Her Own
"When I was growing, there was a deep appreciation and respect for Hadassah." In Israel, she was struck by how important Hadassah's hospitals are, how impactful. She’s proud to be part of an organization that does so much good for our world and the way we want to leave it for the next generation."
She started volunteering with EVOLVE Hadassah: The Young Women's Network, helping to create a Purim program in Detroit. "It felt like a good fit for me, a good place to get involved with an organization and a like-minded group of women. It felt like a meaningful thing to do."
Make Every Bite Count
Julie wants to helping Hadassah in the way I best can. And one way she's doing that is with her Hadassah video and recipes for "Roasted Salmon with Yogurt Dill Sauce and Baked Cheesy Quinoa with Pesto." Try it out. We think you’ll love it.
Check out our library of heart-healthy recipes at Every Bite Counts: Hadassah’s Nutrition Program.
Learn more about EVOLVE Hadassah: The Young Women's Network.