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Tuesday, November 30, 2021
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A sold-out crowd of 250 enjoyed food, wine and comradery at the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey’s Kosher Food Expo at Englewood’s Congregation Ahavath Torah on Monday, October 11. Restaurants and caterers from Bergen County and beyond set up tables to provide a delectable buffet, with producers and retailers of wine and spirits quenching thirsts.

At a VIP event before the main tasting, dinner co-chairs Cheryl Lasher of Englewood and Melissa Marans of Teaneck spoke about their affiliation with Federation. “Federation is deeply committed—as many of us are—to Israel, to securing our shuls and day schools, to education and to building a strong Jewish identity,” said Lasher, whose husband Lee is president. “They have the access and the resources to make sure the issues that are important to us—the Jewish community—are on the minds of elected officials also.”

Marans talked about her family’s long affiliation with Federation. “My husband Gabe and I remember our parents going to Federation meetings, traveling the world with Federation and making donations because Federation is the one organization that truly helps the Jewish community.”

President Lee Lasher called Federation the “eyes, ears and face of the Jewish community.” He said they have developed a close relationship with law enforcement, advocate to protect schools, and help formulate anti-BDS legislation.

Tying together the theme of the evening with current events, Lasher noted that wine is made by crushing perfectly good grapes to create something higher that we use to sanctify religious events and enjoy in celebration. Like grapes, we were crushed by COVID but are emerging better and stronger.

Jason Shames, CEO for over a decade, talked about how the Modern Orthodox community has sometimes erroneously been perceived as disconnected with Federation’s mission of advocating for the entire Jewish community. He noted the attendance of long-time supporters of Federation and many new faces that he hoped would get more involved. “We’re stronger together,” he said.

With just a slight early fall chill, the crowd mingled comfortably outside and inside the VIP tent and larger tent for the main event. Sizzling grilled meats, vegetables, sides and sweet treats perfumed the nighttime air. Elan Kornblum, publisher of “Great Kosher Restaurants” and the foodies Facebook group, arranged the participating restaurants. Familiar names included Teaneck’s Estihana, Heimish, Sender’s Smoke Joint, Yalla, Narruto Bowl, The Humble Toast, World of Goodies, Filler Up, Northern Valley Caterers and Esprit Events. There were a few newcomers, like Bimble Beverages, a sparkling drink in three flavors with 25 mg of hemp-derived, full spectrum CBD. Owner Jay Moskowitz, there with his wife Janet Silverstein, said the product is under OU supervision and available on the internet and places like Fresh Direct. Formerly a bond trader, he has become a beekeeper and said he uses his raw honey in Bimble beverages.

While the participating restaurants were familiar to many in the crowd, the attendees relished the chance to sample the best of each, rather than having to choose which to go to for a meal. “This was a great idea, getting all the restaurants together for a tasting,” said Rebecca and Seth Lipschitz of Tenafly, who are dedicated supporters of Jewish Federation. “We believe in its mission as an umbrella group for the Jewish community.”

The event was organized by Mindy Berman, a resident of Highland Park who has worked for many branches of Jewish Federation. She joined Federation about a year ago to engage the Orthodox community in supporting Federation’s work. Her idea for the Kosher Food Expo was enthusiastically approved.

The Jewish Link was a sponsor of the event. Publisher Moshe Kinderlehrer said, “I see firsthand and in my paper on a weekly basis how involved, active and vital Federation is to our community and I was happy to be a sponsor when asked.”

In her opening remarks, Cheryl Lasher said she and Melissa Marans welcomed the call to chair the dinner. “We both knew it had the perfect formula for success—great food, great wine and great friends.”

By Bracha Schwartz

 

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