Interview with Klara

Klara Levine was born in Hungary in 1945, the child of Holocaust survivors. She was raised in Los Angeles, studied for 3 years U.C. Santa Barbara and graduated with a B.A. in sociology from U.C. Berkeley, 1967. She came to Israel in 1969, where she met her husband who had a photography studio around the corner, returned to the States to get married, further his education, and ended up staying til 1992. The family came on Aliya (moved to Israel) with five children, now ages 28 to 16, with the eldest wed this past summer.

She was a vegetarian, following Fit for Life, when she took cooking classes with Rivka Teich (1995) in order to vary her cooking. Fell in love with the food and the philosophy and has been working on being more macro (biotic) ever since.

I sent Klara the following 5 questions:
1) Why did you choose macrobiotics?
2) Why would you recommend the diet to someone?
3) Do you find conflicts between macrobiotics and Judaism?
4) Do you spend much time studying general nutrition, to keep up with the latest research?
5) How does your family react to your choosing macrobiotics?

Here are her responses:
1) Why did you choose macrobiotics?

I just fell into it when I went to the Vegetarian Society’s cooking demonstration, which I suppose was macrobiotic, and when there was a teacher in the audience who offered classes, I took her up on it – and as I said, fell in love with the food and the philosophy. That was Rivka Teich, who learned in Canada.

2) Why would you recommend the diet to someone?

I’d recommend macrobiotics as the healthiest way I know of to create a body without disease – of course, no guarantees, but it still seems to offer so much for such a little effort, just to eat a little differently -without all the harmful “benefits” of modern chemistry, which I realize now I haven’t had any of, in ages. I did finally give in to aspirin during my father’s shiva – that was after trying to be with pain and trying other things (had great pain in my neck – hard to look up from the stool to people) – as soon as I returned to my own bed after shiva and had a restful night, the pains went away.

Of course, there’s much more to macrobiotics than just food. It involves a lot of philosophy, psychology, truthfully a lot that already exists in Judaism, but with the help of a good diet, seems easier to access. Even in Judaism it’s written how important it is to have a healthy body, but as far as I know there isn’t a good tradition of following healthy foods – there’s a book out now (The Life Transforming Diet by David Zulberg) following rules that Maimonides passed on, yet when I read the book, at first a lot of it seemed sound, but still there’s plenty there I wasn’t in agreement with. I’m not saying how this person portrayed his diet is how Maimonides would do it if he were alive today.

3) Do you find conflicts between macrobiotics and Judaism?

With the diet, no. With the philosophy, that depends on who is proclaiming what. There is no Torah in macrobiotics – there’s a lot of New Age stuff that I hesitate about – my friend was trying to convince me the other day that the Abrahamic philosophy on the Law of Attraction is very Jewish – well that’s exactly the problem – it’s hard – especially if one doesn’t have a good foundation in Jewish thought, to weed out what fits into Judaism and what borders on idolatry. On the other hand, you could say this age of consumerism also borders on idolatry!!!!!

4) Do you spend much time studying general nutrition, to keep up with the latest research?

That’s harder- because truly macrobiotics doesn’t use the same tools as today’s Western science, and I find I’m just not at all attracted to scientific studies – there’s just too much info out there and only confuses, doesn’t clarify. I’m comfortable with the basics of macrobiotics , and if I want to do any studying, it’s to understand more about myself – why is it that I still eat at night when I know it’s not good for me, why do I continue to overeat when I know it’s not good for me – perhaps the answers are psychological or I just need to understand better how to balance my meals and make them more fulfilling??

It’s a slow process, and if I were living in the States, there are many teachers offering many macrobiotics classes – but I’m here in Israel, and I’m limited – but that might be good for me, because as I said, I want to limit where I spend my time and just be content with my lot!!!!! forever searching does seem tiring, no??

5) How does your family react to your choosing macrobiotics?

It’s been 13 years that I’ve been following macrobiotics – some of the kids tried my foods, some of the time – my husband fortunately likes to cook but has no interest in my food so over the years we’ve worked out a lot of the kinks – we don’t just have separation between meat and milk, we have SAD (Standard American Diet) and macro kitchens – separate shelves in fridge, in pantry, separate times in the kitchen (he’s in there now, I’m done cooking for Shabbos) – I try to compliment his food, say how attractive it looks, or how good it smells (and it often does so) – and as I said, I do give in sometimes and taste his food – but usually I regret it as it’s too something, too oily, too spicy, too salty – but it’s clear because that’s how he eats and it’s not good for me after having eaten more pure food for so many years.

Thank you, Klara, I enjoyed “talking” with you!

5 thoughts on “Interview with Klara

  • Great interview Leora. It gave me the incentive to know a bit more about macrobiotics although I think there are many things that I’d have a hard time giving up. So far I try to avoid processed food as much as I can and eat more vegetables and fruit and less meat but that’s all.

  • This was a first for me too, being interviewed. I only thought big shots get interviewed :>)

    Ilana-Davita, don’t worry, it’s a life long process, you go at the pace you’re ready for. Alot depends if you find yourself an inspiring teacher, that always helps boost the inspiration to go further. I also felt I wasn’t ready to give up certain foods – now after 13 years I’m alot more flexible – not the end of the world to eat anything every once in a while – it’s what you eat on a daily basis that makes a big difference. And again, there are no set rules, it’s a process of discovery, of what is good for you – just it’s nice to get out of the box and do food differently.

    thanks for this experience, Leora. I really appreciated it

  • B”H

    I never did find myself in the macrobiotic world. But neither did “fit for life” (natural hygiene) or raw foods work for me either. But now I just read a book that mentions glycation that is caused by foods cooked over 250 degrees. I started cooking under 250 degrees (like sauteing I now do by putting oil in a pan, adding what needs to be sauteed and putting the pan in the oven at 245 degrees). (disclaimer: all temps are Fahrenheit)

    I must be doing something right, KI”H, because today, to my cousin’s Bar Mitzva, I wore my “skinny skirt”. I was so excited.


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