FoodFestFaire brings community together for JFS

By Stephanie Goodling
HAKOL Editor

On Sunday, Nov. 8, supporters of Jewish Family Service of the Lehigh Valley were guests to an all-day virtual festival that left mouths watering and hearts warmed. Thanks to the generosity of dozens of sponsors, the event raised funds to support the JFS’s Community Food Pantry and their signature Mazel Meals program.

Starting at 11 a.m., a new video was posted every half hour on both the JFS website and Facebook page. Featuring a number of volunteers showing off their skills in the kitchen through cooking demonstrations, viewers of the virtual food film fest also got the opportunity to learn more about the work of JFS and the community members who make that possible through giving of their time and talents. Those who liked and shared the videos were entered into a drawing to win prizes.

Then, at 4 p.m., ticket holders gathered around their computers for the Food Pantry Throwdown. Event co-chair Marcia Berkow welcomed the guests and reminded them why they were there. 

“Jewish Family Service of the Lehigh Valley, guided by Jewish values, helps individuals and families live healthier, more stable lives. The vision of Jewish Family service is that no one in our community should suffer hunger, isolation, abandonment, emotional or physical distress, or lack of community support and caring. For the past four decades, JFS has served the whole community with the belief that if we can help one person in need, we are helping us all,” said Berkow.

Her co-chair Susan Sosnow added, “Since the start of Covid, we have expanded sections of our pantry dedicated to providing a wider selection of foods for people with diabetes, allergies such as celiac, and a robust kosher-only section to meet the needs of all people experiencing food insufficiency.”

Sosnow then introduced the host of the event, committee member Naomi Schachter. Schachter explained the concept of the Throwdown: members of the local community who love to cook were given a box of ingredients from the kosher section of the Community Food Pantry and challenged to come up with their own signature dish. They were judged on how well they incorporated the given ingredients, creativity and taste.

“I’d just like to remind everyone that, while we hope they have enjoyed getting great ideas for their next meal from the videos, this isn’t just about fun, but that all of our cooks gave of their time, energy and talent to benefit our community through the work of JFS, who is committed to tikkun olam,” said Schachter.

Three rounds of the competition had taken place through social distancing with proper safety measures in place and were pre-recorded. Schachter got a chance to chat with each of the three contestants in each round live after their videos were shown. She also was on-screen with some of the judges asking about what stood out to them through the whole process of getting to taste each dish.

At the end, the winners were announced. For the amateur home cook round who prepared appetizers, the contestants were Terrence Baker, Jane Levine and Judith Rodwin. Baker won with his tuna croquettes, a recipe inspired by his father. For round two, professional chefs Leslie Goldsmith, Mary Grube and Eric Rappaport faced off to create the best entree, with Rappaport coming in first. And in the final dessert round, each of the three local junior chefs received a special prize for the area in which they individually stood out. Thalia Levine won Most Creative, Shelby Tenzer earned Most Innovative Use of Basket Ingredients, and Jackson Bub was named Best Overall Execution. 

JFS President Rabbi Allen Juda and JFS Executive Director Debbie Zoller both gave closing thank-yous to the audience, reflecting on the importance of the day.

Sponsors of The Great JFS FoodFestFaire also received an exclusive cookbook made up of over 250 favorite vegetarian recipes from members of the Lehigh Valley Jewish community. Cookbooks as well as JFS aprons are still available with a donation to the fundraiser.

To see videos and donate, visit