On October 11, the Jewish food community came together for a bake sale and community hug at the Maker’s Studio in Chelsea Market in New York City.
Cookbook author Adeena Sussman, who wrote “Sababa: The Cookbook,” was planning to have a signing and event in Chelsea Market at Seed+Mill. However, in light of the attacks by Hamas in Israel on October 7, Sussman and Rachel Simons, the owner and founder of Seed+Mill, decided to pivot. They partnered with Naama Shefi, founder of Jewish Food Society, to create an experience that would nourish the community’s heart and soul.
“The past week has been searingly painful, shocking and very lonely,” Simons told the Journal. “The opportunity to bring people in our industry together for a literal and metaphorical hug was so important.”
Sussman, Simons and the Jewish Food Society, a nonprofit that celebrates Jewish identity through culinary heritage, reached out to members and friends of the Jewish food community to bake and sell products to support the effort.
Participants included celebrity cookbook author Jake Cohen, Gadi Peleg of Breads Bakery, Elyssa Heller of beloved Brooklyn sandwich shop Edith’s, food blogger Chanie Apfelbaum, restaurateur Einat Admony and author and “spice king” Lior Lev Sercarz.
“It was inspiring to see our community pull together so quickly and so effectively,” Shefi told the Journal. “Food connects us all. It’s how we communicate with each other, it’s our solace in moments of sorrow, it’s our outlet of expression and it’s ultimately how we can show up for the people who need us right now.”
Cohen sold his famous date brownies and copies of his new cookbook, Peleg sold his unique take on a black-and-white cookie, Heller sold her caramel chocolate chip cookies, Apfelbaum sold hawaij gingersnaps, Admony sold copies of her cookbook and cupcakes donated by BCakeNY, Lev Sercarz sold his famed spices and cookbooks and Seed+Mill sold tahini brownies and blocks of halva.
All funds raised during the event went to emergency feeding efforts in Israel through Jewish Food Society’s partner organization: Asif: Culinary Institute of Israel. Virtually overnight, Asif turned its multi-level facility into an emergency feeding operation, preparing meals for displaced Israelis and families/communities affected by the attacks.
“There was no world in which I wouldn’t have been there,” Cohen told the Journal. “I dropped everything to bake and take part because our New York community needed to gather to mourn. We needed to show up for our Israeli brothers and sisters through the incredible pivot Asif has made on the ground.”
Nearly 400 people turned out with less than a day’s notice. Out of an abundance of caution for everyone involved, the event was not widely advertised. In fact, a special request was made to not distribute the flier; all outreach was conducted through personal networks.
Donations were traded for tickets, which were then redeemed inside for baked goods, cookbooks and swag. The team of Mesiba, an Israeli restaurant in WIlliamsburg, served batched cocktails and wine.
“Food is the heart of the Jewish community, and the experience really brought us all together in the most sincere way.”
– Chef Eli Buli
“The bake sale was such a meaningful event for Mesiba to take part in, especially for me on a personal level,” Chef Eli Buli of Mesiba told the Journal. “Food is the heart of the Jewish community, and the experience really brought us all together in the most sincere way. We hope to do more events like this, under hopefully better circumstances, in the future.”
Heller also felt strongly about contributing to the efforts of the Jewish Food Society and Asif.
“This fundraiser was a way to bring people together to celebrate our contributions to the Jewish culinary world but also create a place of support for everyone when a lot of Jewish people feel isolated,” she said. “To make sure that people have access to food during such a difficult time stands at the core of our values, so we just had to help.”
Over the course of the two-hour event, $27,000 was raised for Asif. Those first donations supported 2,000 meals for families who had evacuated to Eilat. As of press time, the effort has raised around $50,000.
“To see so many people in a room, embracing, crying, sharing stories of tragedy and also some of hope was a reminder that this feeling isn’t new for the Jewish people,” Simons said. “As the grandchild of two Holocaust survivors, I was proud to help organize the event.”
She continued, “We will not be silent, we will not be intimidated. We will stand up and speak the truth. I hope this is the first of many community events that bring us together with a shared message of hope, strength and unity.”