Moshe Wilbushewich, “Vitamin Bread,” and Rationalizing the Jewish Diet in Mandate Palestine

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Dreams of good food, writes Aaron Bobrow-Strain, are powerful social forces, which “arise out of particular constellations of power and interests that can be analyzed and understood.” This article focuses on a specific food item—Vitamin Bread (leĥem ĥai), developed by Moshe Wilbushewich in 1920s Palestine—as embodying notions of “good food” premised on the tenets of rational nutrition. I show how the development of the bread was informed not only by a nutritional discourse, which counted energy units and analyzed nutrients, but also by a colonial discourse about Jewish and Arab physical and mental difference, about the role of science in colonization, and by the interests of Jewish settlement. For its inventor, Vitamin Bread embodied the attempt to compensate for the physical inferiority of civilized Jewish settlers compared to indigenous Arabs by means of their intellectual advantage, namely, by recruiting science in the service of improving Jewish nutrition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-48
Number of pages26
JournalJewish Social Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
granting Histadrut full rights to his invention, providing that it would use the patent to introduce the bread into the workers’ diet. Although the rights were granted, Histadrut failed to act and Wilbushewich revoked the rights in September that same year.75 Simultaneously, he approached the Zionist Organization and Hadassah for financial support. Through the mediation of Henrietta Szold and Emanuel Mohl, the Palestine Endowment Fund granted Wilbushewich 400 Palestine pounds, which were eventually transferred to the Hebrew University in order to conduct research on the benefits of the bread.76 A special committee was established, which included two members from Hadassah, two from the Hebrew University, and one from the laboratory, in order to study the metabolic effects of Wilbushewich’s diet on a large sample of workers and accompany the implementation of the process.77

Funding Information:
Research for this article was supported by a grant from The Open University of Israel’s Research Authority (grant no. 41300). I am grateful for their support. I would like to thank Snait Gissis, Alma Igra, Gadi Algazi, Tamar Novick, Erela Teharlev Ben-Shachar, Smadar Sharon, and the members of the Food Studies Research Group at Tel Aviv University for their helpful comments on previous versions of this article, and Ofer Idels and particularly Maya Raanan for their help with the research. I also thank Muki Tsur, Avi Tsafrir from the Leḥem Ḥai bakery, and Nir Ben Yehuda from Angel Bakery for their help.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Indiana University Press. All rights reserved.


  • bread
  • colonialism
  • rational nutrition
  • science
  • Zionism


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