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Spotlight

Falafel for Florence

November 5, 2018
Caroline Kramer

San Francisco, California, United States

What motivates a group of teens to raise hundreds of dollars to donate towards natural disaster relief? For Joe Schneider, the answer was simple: falafel.

“I had the idea of holding a charity food eating competition for a while, but I needed a good cause,” Joe Schneider, an Aleph from Central Region West and the founder of Falafel for Florence said. Immediately following Hurricane Florence, a project began to take form. After hearing from various Alephs and BBGs of Eastern Region who were impacted by the hurricane, Joe sprung to action, brainstorming how to connect his idea of a food-eating competition to the damage in the Carolinas. And thus, Falafel for Florence was born. Whether it was the catchy alliteration or the possibility of eating mountains of falafel, the idea was golden, spreading rapidly across CRW.

Eight Alephs and two BBGs jumped at the opportunity. Soon, friends and family members alike donated to the cause, eagerly betting on how many falafels their favorite competitors could eat. The competition was to be held at dinnertime on Saturday, October 20th, at Regional Kallah. The funds were raised, the plan was set, and all that was needed was falafel and an audience.

Flash forward to Saturday. The 10 participants sat facing a table filled with mountains of falafel while hundreds of teens surrounded them, phones and cameras in hand. A countdown began and within seconds, the competitors lunged forward and quickly filled their mouths with falafel and the crowd erupted in screaming. Aleph Ben Cohen described his strategy as “stuffing as much food as possible into [his] mouth.” He reflected on the experience overall, recalling that “the intense competition and immense stomach pain [he] felt during the competition could not come close to comparing to the overarching sense of community and contribution to a good cause.”

But perhaps the most exciting moment of the night came after the competition was over. As amazed observers and full participants made their way back to their seats, Joe rushed to calculate how much money they had raised and returned with a number prompting cheers and applause all around: 613 dollars, the number of mitzvot in the Torah, would be donated towards Hurricane Florence relief. The fundraiser was a mitzvah, indeed. “[Participating] has proven to be one of the best decisions I’ve made,” Ben stated, “...I managed to contribute to an overwhelming donation to those who need it most.

Moving forward, Schneider hopes to inspire other regions to hold similar fundraisers for various causes. You can read more about the project here.

Caroline Kramer is a BBG from Central Region West who loves photography and strawberry lemonade.

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