The East Valley JCC is excited to announce a project being developed by one of our Doing Jewish grant recipients. Julia Talore Zilman of Scottsdale has launched a project that started as a family recipe book but has grown to include a fundraising event for a Kyiv synagogue, a calendar with baking recipes and a cookbook featuring family recipes along with the life stories of her family members and archival materials.  

Although this is an ongoing project, Julia, 15, is sharing her Grandmother Tamara’s Rugelach recipe as part of the EVJCC’s High Holiday content this year. 

The story behind the Rugelach recipe

Julia was very close to her grandmother, Tamara, who died in 2018. Tamara was known for her cooking so in order to reconnect with the memory of her grandmother, Julia decided to recreate some of the recipes that were left in her grandmother’s culinary book. Although Julia speaks Russian, the recipes were written in small cursive writing, which made them more difficult to read, and all measurements used the metric system. 

“While mastering her math skills in converting grams into ounces and kilos into pounds, and rewriting recipes from Russian into English, Julia started to discover her family history,” reads a statement about the project. “She learned about her ancestors – her great grandmother Maria and her sisters, about her great-great grandmother Shendlya, who spoke only Yiddish, and through the family history, Julia came to an understanding what food meant for her family.”

 When Tamara was 5 years old, World War II began and she and her family fled from Kyiv, leaving with nothing but a few pieces of clothing. “The family recipes inside of their heads were the way to create ‘home’ away from home,” according to the project description. “Cooking together gave them strength and hope. Food became the expression of LOVE.”


Julia baked her first batch of her grandmother’s rugelach recipe in 2019.

Julia baked her first batch of rugelach when she was 12, on the first yahrzeit of her grandmother’s passing, and since then she has continued to translate more recipes from her grandmother’s old recipe book.

 “I miss my grandmother a lot,” Julia says. “When I bake or cook her recipes, I feel like she is next to me.”

Julia’s decision to make her personal project into a community project was triggered by the war in Ukraine, where her family had last visited in 2018.

After watching news footage of a rocket hitting near the Babi Yar Memorial of Holocaust victims, a place where some of her own relatives are buried, Julia realized that she may never get a chance to visit the area again. She felt that her family’s recipes would be an important way to connect with her family members who still live in Kyiv and with those who died there.

Julia understands that there are many other Jewish immigrants who came to the U.S. from Ukraine and other countries who have memories of amazing food prepared by their Jewish grandmother but never had a chance to learn the recipes. 

As the project statement notes, “This project is a tribute to Jewish heritage through shared family recipes of four generations. Generations that went through the unimaginable and kept their strength, faith, sense of humor and a passion for food.” 

Julia is planning a charity event for a Kyiv synagogue, where some of her relatives belong, in March or April 2023 and a full art calendar with baking recipes in August 2023. She is working toward publishing a cookbook in November 2023.  

The series of baking from Julia’s family starts with her grandmother’s Rugelach recipe, which is shared here

“Rugelach translates from Yiddish as “little twists” and what could be more symbolic?!” concludes the project statement. “The twists of life brought Julia’s family to the US but the recipe is still the same favorite family recipe that was baked back in their days in Kyiv, Ukraine.” 

To learn more about Julia’s project, visit here


The East Valley JCC is now accepting applications for Doing Jewish Microgrants for the 2022-23 grant cycle.