Monday, January 24, 2022

Approximately 85 food bloggers, influencers and brand representatives gathered in Suffern, New York for the Jewish Food Media conference on November 8, the annual gathering an opportunity for both newbies and veterans to gain a greater understanding of how to use social media to take their businesses to the next level.

Held at Rendezvous, a retro-style café in the greater Monsey area, JFM 2021 was presented in partnership with the Masbia Soup Kitchen network, which has seen a 500% increase in the need for its services since the pandemic hit. Masbia Executive Director Alexander Rapaport has a long history with the food-blogger and influencer community, many of whom have rolled up their sleeves and helped prepare food for the needy or have otherwise joined forces with the soup kitchen network to help those facing food challenges.

“The goal here is to say thank you to those who helped us during the pandemic, and as lots of new people enter the blogosphere, we want to recruit them as well so that they can also become part of the solution to hunger,” said Rapaport.

Conference founder Melinda Strauss explained that the goal remains the same each year—community.

“I believe we grow better when we grow together, as we learn from each other and have the opportunity to ask and answer questions in a room where you can network and connect within our industry,” said Strauss.

Strauss offered tips on using TikTok to gain a following, emphasizing that part of the platform’s attraction is that people showcase their everyday lives, instead of looking to dazzle viewers, providing a healthy dose of realism. “People don’t want ‘perfect’ anymore,” she observed.

While Strauss was addressing an audience focused on food, much of her social media advice was equally applicable to other industries as well. That also held true for a panel discussion featuring kosher travel blogger Dani Klein; cookbook author, columnist, recipe developer and blogger Miriam Pascal Cohen; and digital influencer and lifestyle blogger Alyssa Goldwater. All three gave advice on a variety of topics including growing a brand, gaining a following, getting paid to promote content, and the importance of ethics when endorsing or highlighting a product or service.

In a night that was filled with food and networking, the JFM conference also had another, more lofty dimension. Masbia used the event to kick off its Chanukah giving campaign, with donors receiving a copy of Rivky Kleiman’s recently released “Simply” cookbook, which sold out just days after its late-October release. Also on hand was Alex Sachs, who was promoting Geb A Challah, an initiative that has donors signing up to give just $3.50 each week to send a challah to a needy person in Tzefas. Sachs said that Geb A Challah, a project of the Monroe-based Lehachayois, is currently helping 1,000 families each week.

“Israel has a lot of poverty and Tzefas is definitely an underserved community that has fallen through the cracks,” said Sachs. “We hope that as we continue to gain sponsors, we will be able to bring this movement to Israel’s northern communities so that we can continue sharing the warmth of challah with those in need.”

With the JFM conference taking place the night before Kosherfest, it was a golden opportunity for those in the business who live outside the greater metropolitan area to gather together and broaden their horizons.

Cooking teacher, blogger, columnist, recipe developer and personal chef Naomi Nachman, who spoke early in the evening about building strong relationships with brands, summed up the night in just seven words.

“It’s all about lighting up the world,” said Nachman.

Sandy Eller is a freelance writer who writes for websites, newspapers, magazines and private clients. She can be contacted at [email protected]

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