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Agencies to promote unity in diversity
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Agencies to promote unity in diversity

‘Top Chef’ to celebrate food, dance, culture of Jews worldwide

Lilli DeBode prepares shakshuka at last year’s Top Chef event.
Lilli DeBode prepares shakshuka at last year’s Top Chef event.

Unity in diversity — international and local — seems to be the key concept of a program being offered for the first time as a collaboration of three MetroWest agencies.

The Partnership for Jewish Learning and Life, a beneficiary agency of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ, has teamed up with Rimon: Collaborative Jewish Learning in MetroWest and the Legow Family Israel Program Center of MetroWest to promote a positive — and delicious — learning experience for teens and adults.

Top Chef: The International Jewish Edition will be held on Sunday, Oct. 10, at the Aidekman campus in Whippany. The program is based on the reality television series on Bravo in which chefs compete against each other in culinary challenges.

In the MetroWest version, the traditional fare of three Jewish communities will be judged, as teens and their parents cook foods, learn dances, study Jewish texts, and share cultural experiences about Jews from Yemen, Greece, and Israel. The program, said Shmuel Greene, the Partnership’s director of teen initiatives, aims to present Israel as a gathering place “for all types of Jews from around the world,” and to educate teens that Jews come from a wide variety of places.

Top Chef is a continuation of the program that Greene created with former MetroWest shliha Natasha Gluzman last year at two area synagogues; Gluzman has a background in dance and helped organize that aspect of the program. Greene also partnered with Rimon last year in a separate program where parents and teens came together to watch video clips of TV programs and discuss related Jewish values.

‘One people’

At the Oct. 10 event, in separate rooms, teens and parents will prepare three different cuisines: malawach, a Yemenite fried dough/pancake dish; shakshuka, an Israeli dish of eggs cooked with tomatoes and spices; and Greek salad. In the process, Greene said, they will learn about kashrut through the examples of checking eggs for bloodspots and examining what makes a salad “kosher.”

He said the experience will “bring Jewish learning to life” outside of the typical classroom experience.

Rimon director Michael Jay called the collaboration with the Partnership “a perfect marriage of our programs.” Rimon itself is a network of 50 MetroWest synagogues and organizations that promotes adult Jewish learning opportunities.

“The bottom line is that Rimon is looking to get adults to take advantage of all the incredible activities taking place in MetroWest,” Jay said, “and we’re looking forward to doing more of it.”

The IPC will participate in the program through the coordination of folk-dancing sessions, said its Living Bridge coordinator, Randi Brokman, who organized a “Jews around the world” Shabbat experience at Congregation Agudath Israel of West Essex in Caldwell several years ago. Three new rishonim (young shlihim) are on board at the IPC this year, and they will participate in the program and help promote it through the area synagogues they are assigned to.

Said Brokman: “I loved the idea about learning about other cultures.” Discovering Jews from other countries, she said, demonstrates, ultimately, “how we are one people.”

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