Hot Dogs are Jewish?

With the celebration of the 4th of July coming this weekend, the hot dogs which you will cook and eat have a Jewish connection. “Sausages have existed since antiquity. The closest relatives of the hot dog are the frankfurter and the weiner both American terms based on their cities of origin (Frankfurt and Vienna respectively).”

Two German Jewish immigrants introduced the sausages to America. In 1870, Charles Feltman sold his pork-beef sausages out of a street pushcart on Coney Island. He added the bun to simplify eating his sausage, which he named Coney Island Red Hots. Later becoming known as hot dogs.

In 1872 Isaac Gellis opened his butcher shop on the lower east side and began selling all beef sausages, which kosher observant customers eagerly purchased. This quickly led to the inclusion of his sausages in such dishes as beans and franks and split pea soup with hot dogs.

Later, two other Jewish companies became famous for their hot dogs, Nathan’s and Hebrew National. Hebrew-National began selling their product in 1905 under the slogan, “We answer to a higher authority,” as their standards of production exceeded those which the law required. However, they didn’t reach the strict level of kosher standards. “But non-Jews, believing kosher dogs were inherently better, became the company’s primary market.”

The name that became synonymous with hot dogs, Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, began in 1916 when Nathan Handwerker, a Polish-Jewish immigrant, opened his hot dog stand to compete with his former employer, Charles Feltman. He created the initial fast food place calling his establishment ‘a grab joint.’ He eventually dominated the hot dog world, including sponsoring the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest in New York City.

So on this Fourth of July as you cook and eat the classic hot dog at your home, remember it’s an American food with a Jewish origin. Happy Independence Day!

Source: Joel Haber, The Times of Israel