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Food for thought at the Jewish Arts Collaborative’s Trefa Banquet

Avi Shemtov of the restaurant Simcha.
Avi Shemtov of the restaurant Simcha. (Faith Ninivaggi)

How do food and identity intersect? When? Why? Tangle with this conundrum at the Jewish Arts Collaborative’s Trefa Banquet, happening on Thursday, July 11, at the Somerville Armory (191 Highland Ave.).

The event commemorates the anniversary of the Trefa Banquet of 1883 (trefa means non-kosher). The original banquet was held in Cincinnati, to celebrate the uniting of congregations in the fledgling Jewish reform movement. Just one problem: They served food — shellfish, meat, and milk — said to violate traditional kosher laws. It created a controversy that some say caused a split leading to the Conservative Jewish movement. Was it a catering fiasco or a philosophical point of contention? Jury’s still out.

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Just the same, chef Avi Shemtov from new Israeli restaurant Simcha will prepare a five-course banquet based on the original menu: stuffed mushrooms, sautéed chicken livers, non-dairy ice cream, and more. Meanwhile, experts on Jewish cuisine will chat throughout the meal, including Gefilteria cofounder Jeffrey Yoskowitz, author of “The Gefilte Manifesto.”

Get tickets ($50) at www.jartsboston.org/event/trefabanquet. The feast begins at 7 p.m.