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CHOCOLATE and the Jews


Tina Wasserman


Cacao was first cultivated by the Mayans in the 7th century. Nine centuries later the Aztecs would create a beverage from ground and roasted cacao beans, mixing in corn, vanilla, bitter chili, and sometimes honey. They introduced the dark elixir to the explorer Hernando Cortez, who brought it back to Spain. But had it not been for the expulsion and forced conversion of Jews from the Iberian Peninsula in the late 15th century, chocolate as we know it today might not have become the most favored flavor in the world.

Benjamin d'Acosta de Andrade, a Portuguese "marrano" (secret Jew) who had settled on the island of Martinique in the French West Indies in about 1650, established the first cacao-processing plant. He then used his connections--particularly his relatives in Amsterdam--to export cacao to Europe. Over time, he and other Jews became significant players in the cacao trade, angering their envious competitors, who convinced the French government to bar all Jews from Martinique. Relocating in the late 1600s to the Dutch colony of Curaçao, an island off the west coast of Venezuela, d'Acosta and other Jews reestablished their business, now shipping cacao grown in Venezuela to Amsterdam for chocolate production. In addition, they exported sugar and vanilla from South America.

The introduction of sugar to Europe would change the history of chocolate. With the notable exception of the Spanish, most Europeans disliked the bitter-flavored chocolate drink of the Aztecs. But when sugar replaced chilies as a key ingredient, the drink caught on throughout Europe. And the availability of vanilla, combined with sugar and cacao, piqued the creativity of pastry chefs throughout Europe. The bakers in Bayonne--many of them Portuguese Jews--would bake soufflé-like cake rolls which were light as air. In Italy, Jewish bakers invented chocolate cakes known as tortes or tortas, using ground nuts instead of flour; and in Vienna, 16-year-old Franz Sacher created a rich, dense chocolate cake topped with apricot preserves and smooth chocolate glaze that would become world famous. With the demand for the ingredients of chocolate production ever growing, the Jews of Curaçao flourished--so much so that they were able to contribute some of their profits to the building, in 1762, of the oldest standing synagogue in the United States, the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island.



Jews and Chocolate: 9 Little Known Facts

Feb 13, 2017  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller

Jews and Chocolate: 9 Little Known Facts

Plus a traditional Jewish chocolate recipe.

Chocolate is one of the most popular, romantic foods. It also has some surprising Jewish roots and connections. Here are nine little known facts about Jews and chocolate – plus a traditional Jewish chocolate recipe.

Discovering Cocoa

The first Europeans to discover cocoa were crew members sailing to the New World with Christopher Columbus, some of whom were Jews. Setting sail in 1492, the same year Jews were expelled from Spain, Columbus carried Jewish crew members with him, including his translator Luis de Torres, who chose to stay behind in the Americas instead of returning to Inquisition Spain.

Columbus likened the cocoa fruit his crew encountered to strangely shaped almonds, and brought some back with him. Cocoa fruit isn’t good to eat plain. Aztecs would roast and grind the fruit before mixing it with water, hot chilies and vanilla. Aztec warriors downed the mixture before entering into battle; Aztec emperor Montezuma reportedly drank 50 cups a day.

Early Chocolate

“Chocolate” in the 1600s and 1700s meant hot cocoa: a spicy, sweet drink that took Europe by storm. Production of early chocolate’s three primary ingredients – cocoa, sugar and vanilla – was pioneered by Jews.

Jewish brothers David and Rafael Mercado, living in present day Guiana, invented early machinery to process and refine sugar. When the local Dutch authorities prohibited them from trading sugar, they began trading Mexican cocoa and vanilla. Soon David and Rafael controlled Mexico’s burgeoning chocolate business, ending their dominance only with the arrival of French settlers in 1690.

The first modern cocoa processing plant was the brainchild of Benjamin d’Acosta de Andrade, a Portuguese secret Jew who moved to Dutch Brazil in the 1600s and there began to practice his Judaism openly. When the Portuguese recaptured the area in 1645, Benjamin found himself in danger from the Inquisition once again, and fled to the Caribbean island of Martinique where he traded in cocoa. Soon, Benjamin and other Jewish traders controlled Martinique’s booming cocoa business.

French settlers resented the Jewish traders’ success and pressed for the “Black Code”, a 1685 law expelling all Jews from Martinique. Benjamin d’Acosta de Andrade and other cocoa, sugar and vanilla traders resettled in nearby islands of Curacao (ruled by the Netherlands) and Jamaica (controlled by Britain), where they turned those islands into powerhouses in the new craze for chocolate drinks.

Inventing Chocolate

Chocolate as we know it – sweet candies made from cocoa and other ingredients such as milk, cream, nuts or butter – was invented by Jewish refugees fleeing the Portuguese Inquisition in France.

With the introduction of the Inquisition in Portugal in 1536, some Jews fled to nearby France, settling across the border in the village of Saint-Esprit, near Bayonne. They were allowed to live in France as “New Christians”, and heavily restricted in their ability to travel, own land, and trade. One industry was open to them: relying on contacts with other Jews and secret Jews in the New World, the French community imported cocoa and processed early chocolate treats.

Resenting their success, the local chocolate guild pressed the authorities to prohibit Jews from working in the chocolate trade. This restriction was swept away in 1767, and the Jewish community near Bayonne resumed its chocolate production, selling new chocolates to an eager French public. By 1854, Bayonne boasted at least 34 chocolate companies, and was known as the premier chocolate producing city in France.

A Jewish Treat

With so many Jews in the cocoa business, Jewish cooks in both the Americas and Europe began to experiment with chocolate long before their non-Jewish neighbors. Mixtures of sugar and cocoa found their way into cakes in Jewish kitchens from France to Italy to Hungary.

Local officials often were suspicious of these luscious cocoa-infused delicacies. In the 1600s, Church officials called hot cocoa “the beverage of Satan” and discouraged Catholics from indulging in the new fad of cocoa. In 1691, French authorities banned Christians near the Jewish chocolate producing town of Bayonne from eating the Jews’ chocolaty treats.

Colonial American

In Colonial America, the chocolate trade was introduced and dominated by two Sephardi Jewish families, the Gomez family in New York, and the Lopez family in Rhode Island. Cocoa trader Aaron Lopez was one of the most prominent businessmen and philanthropists in Colonial Rhode Island. An ardent supporter of the American Revolution, he wrote that the shortages due to political upheaval were especially hard on kosher-keeping Jews, who were “forced to subsist on chocolate and coffee.”

Jewish Teen who Invented Sachertorte

As chocolate became ever more popular in Europe, one huge fan was Prince Klemens von Metternich, foreign minister of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. At an 1832 banquet, the prince wanted to impress guests with an extra-special dessert. The main cook was sick, so his 16-year-old apprentice, a Jew named Franz Sacher, stepped in and created a chocolate sponge cake filled with apricot jam, coated with chocolate and served with whip cream. The cake was a huge hit, and the “Sacher Torte” was born.


Franz’s son, Eduard, became a baker too and made the Sachertorte his signature dish, first at the famed Demel Bakery in Vienna, then at the iconic Hotel Scher. Sachertorte continues to be an iconic Viennese dessert and one of the most-loved chocolate cakes worldwide.

Fleeing Nazis, Spreading Chocolate Mastery

Several Jewish chocolate makers fled Nazi rule in Europe, bringing their candy-making skills to new countries. In 1933, Eliyahu Fromenchenko, who owned a chocolate factory in Latvia, fled rising anti-Semitism to settle in pre-state Israel, where he founded Elite, the iconic Israel chocolate company.

https://media.aish.com/images/Jews%20and%20Chocolate_htm_6101741cba07b912.jpgBarton’s New Year’s tin, Jewish Museum Collection

In 1938, Stephen Klein, a prominent Viennese chocolate maker, fled Austria for New York City, where he set up Barton’s Bonbonniere, today known as Barton’s Candy.

Chocolate Cake for Breakfast

Israeli scientists have found that eating chocolate cake for breakfast can be healthy, and can even help us lose weight.

Professor Daniela Jakubowicz of the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, in Israel, studied 193 obese adults, half of whom she asked to eat a substantial breakfast that included carbohydrates, protein, and chocolate cake. The other half of adults in her study were asked to consume lower-calorie breakfasts that did not include chocolate cake. Both groups were on a low calorie diet overall. After four months, those who’d enjoyed chocolate cake each morning had lost an average of 33 lbs., while those who avoided chocolaty breakfasts actually gained weight.

Prof. Jakubowicz noted that enjoying chocolate cake seemed to help head off cravings for sweets later in the day, and helped people avoid snacking and deviating from their diets.



Tootsie Roll

Tootsie Roll is a chocolate-flavored taffy-like candy that has been manufactured in the United States since 1907.

 founder Leo Hirschfield was an Austrian Jewish immigrant to the United States of America,[4] son of an Austrian candy maker. In 1922, Hirschfield committed suicide. In 1935, the company was in serious difficulty. Tootsie Roll's principal supplier of paper boxes, Joseph Rubin & Sons of Brooklyn, concerned about the possible loss of an important customer, decided to acquire the troubled company. Bernard D. Rubin acquired a list of shareholders and purchased their shares.

Peanut Chews

Romanian immigrant David Seltzer changed his name to Goldenberg . He created Goldenbergs peanut chews.Just born vcandy company bought Goldenbergs in 2003.


In 1953 Just Born candy company bought Rodda which manufactured marshmallow peeps. After Sam Born’s son Robert created a process to manufacture the peeps in 6 minutes, Peep sales took off. The company also sells Hot TamalesMike and Ike, Teenee Beanee jelly beans, and Zours.




Ice cream

Baskin and Robbins

Baskin-Robbins was founded in 1948 by Jewish-Americans brothers-in-law Burt Baskin and Irv Robbins from the merging of their respective ice cream parlors, in Glendale, California.

Baskin-Robbins sells ice cream in nearly 50 countries. United Fruit bought the company in 1967.

Häagen-Dazs  is an American ice cream brand, established by Reuben and Rose Mattus in The Bronx, New York, in 1960. The company was sold to Pillsbury in 1960, and eventually Nestle became the owner.

Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream

The company was founded in 1978 by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, two Jewish men who had been friends since their childhood in Merrick, New York. The company was sold to Unilever in 2000.Please insert your text here.