The Minister Who Stole Hanukkah? Ultra-Orthodox Health Minister Frowns on Sufganiyot

Yaakov Litzman urged parents to find alternatives to the traditional Hanukkah snack during the holiday season in a conference to promote healthy eating.

Two traditional Hanukkah sufganiyot, filled with jam. One won't kill you, but two...

After voicing disapproval about McDonald's, soda and snacks, Israel’s health minister called on the public to refrain from eating the traditional Hanukkah treat sufganiyot.

“I call on the public to avoid eating sufganiyot, which are rich in fats,” Yaakov Litzman of the haredi Orthodox United Torah Judaism party said Sunday during a conference to promote healthy eating, Ynet reported. “You can find alternatives for everything nowadays and there is no need for us to fatten our children with sufganiyot, which are not in line with the principles of health and proper nutrition.”

Sufganiyot, or traditional jelly doughnuts, are deep fried and covered with powdered sugar, although variations include other fillings and toppings. They are ubiquitous in the weeks leading up to the holiday, with bakeries frying them on the street and selling them fresh to passers-by.

Israeli Health Minister Yaakov Litzman.
Hadas Parush, Flash90

“If I had to say this today, I’d say sufganiyot out,” Litzman said. ‘You can eat them, of course, because it is part of the holiday’s customs, but there are alternatives.”

This is not the first time Litzman slams the consumption of a certain food deemed as "unhealthy". In April, the minister attacked the fast-food chain McDonald's by urging Israelis to avoid "junk food." Another of his initiatives led to the ban of sugary drinks and meals in kindergardens and schools around the country earlier this year. 

Although healthy eating habits have gained popularity among Israelis, the ultra-orthodox minister seems to have taken the cause into his own hands. Litzman is working to implement better labels in food packaging and is a strong advocate for the nutritional education of children.