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2018 James Beard Award semi-finalist Tova du Plessis of Essen Bakery in Philadelphia answers “What does it mean to be Jewish?” in our latest #0dot2 video.  She additionally discusses the Jewish influence on her business, which in Yiddish means “to eat.”

Zagat restaurant reviews notes: “South African-born pastry chef Tova du Plessis’ snug, homey bakery in Passyunk Square specializes in Jewish-style delicacies, including rye bread, challah, babka, rugelach, black-and-white cookies, bagels and specialty sandwiches.”

Prior to opening Essen Bakery in 2016, du Plessis moved to Israel and then to the U.S. for college. After obtaining her degree, she changed her mind in wanting to pursue a degree in medicine and instead enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America’s campus in Napa Valley, Ca.

After years of working at some of America’s most iconic restaurants, including helping to open a restaurant with famed-Israeli Chef Michael Solomonov, du Plessis decided to go back to her roots when she opened her first bakery. She took inspiration from the fresh-baked bread and pastries she would make as a child alongside her mother. Her food reflects her heritage while being heavily influenced by her classical training.

B’nai B’rith International has launched the Zero.Dot.Two Initiative (#0dot2) as a part of its 175th anniversary to discuss ideas around Jewish identity, to educate social media users about Judaism as a proactive way to combat anti-Semitism and to promote the Jewish connection to the State of Israel through the voices of many online influencers. With approximately 14.4 million Jewish individuals alive today, we represent approximately 0.2 percent of global citizens.

To learn more about this project and hear voices from other Jewish influencers, please visit: