Where does chocolate come from? Of course, we know that it came from Mexico and was carried by the Spanish conquerors back to Europe. But who then cultivated, processed and distributed chocolate around the world? Almost all of the people involved were Jewish! And many modern brands were founded by Jews fleeing the Nazi’s rise to power, including Elite Chocolates (founded by Eliahu Promchenko who moved his successful chocolate company from Latvia to Israel in 1933) and Barton’s (chocolatier Stephen Klein’s business that he brought to New York from Vienna in 1938)
When, due to the Inquisition, Jews were forced out of Spain and Portugal they brought chocolate to other European countries. After settling outside Bayonne, France, for example, refugees began processing and exporting chocolate, establishing Bayonne as the chocolate capital of France.
Sephardic Jews also brought chocolate to the Americas and other countries in the New World. One of the first people to cultivate and process chocolate was Benjamin d’Acosta d’Andrade, a Portuguese Converso who returned to Judaism upon his arrival in Brazil, where he modernized the processing of cacao. In the 17th and 18th centuries, all New York City chocolate makers were Sephardic Jews.
Some scholars believe that the locusts that Jesus’ Jewish cousin John the Baptizer ate don’t refer to grasshopper relatives, but to locust beans, which are the fruit of the carob tree. This fruit is dried, ground and used as an alternative to chocolate to this day. They are also known as “St. John’s Bread.”
When Benjamin Franklin stated that “Out of Adversity Comes Opportunity” maybe he was snacking on a chocolate bar made possible by fellow early Americans…why not?