Jewish women cooking up a storm for charity


By Jan Shure
September 11, 2008
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One of the attributes that still amazes and impresses me when it comes to the women of Britain's Jewish community is their energy and sheer indomitable enthusiasm when it comes to supporting good causes.

As, first, woman's page editor of the JC and then, until recently, as Community News editor, I was able to observe what they were doing to support and fundraise for a whole bunch of causes. There were the established groups such as Wizo, Emunah and the League of Jewish Women, as well as those like the 35s (now One to One), Jewish Women's Aid and the Mothers-and-Daughters Committee, most of which began at a kitchen table somewhere in Edgware or Clayhall or Prestwich, and would never have grown to make such an impact - nor to rake in such large sums of money - but for the sheer guts, imagination and determination of the women who set them up and then dragooned their friends to support them.

One such group of female fundraisers is the Fabulous Food For You committee which supports Hazon Yeshaya, the Israeli soup kitchen founded 10 years ago by Rabbi Abraham Israel which now provides 400,000 meals a day at 60 soup kitchens, distribution centres and schools throughout Israel.

So far, the 17-strong team, mainly comprising members of North-West London's Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue, has raised more than £250,000 through its series of cookery books and last year's Haimishe Housewives Yearbook, a diary, notebook and recipe collection illustrated with deliciously deadpan black-and-white photos by Rebecca Duke wittily depicting Jewish family life.
In fact, I was so impressed by the Yearbook and the first two recipe books - Have We Got Food for You and Have We Got Festival Food For You that when I (erroneously) believed that I would have some spare time after down-shifting from a five- to a three-day week at the JC, I volunteered to help with the editing of the latest book, Have We Got More Food For You, which comes out on September 23.

Along with pulling in high-profile contributions from Gordon Ramsay, Nigella Lawson, Heston Blumenthal, Nancy Lam, Annabel Karmel, Claudia Roden and US television cook Rachael Ray, this brilliant book is a perfect illustration of the professionalism and dedication which the team - and I don't include myself - bring to their task. Every one of them - along with the dozens of women from around the UK (and the world) who have contributed the non-celebrity recipes, as well as the rest of the women who fundraise every single day throughout our community - epitomizes the spirit of eshet chayil.

In giving their time and energy so generously, they improve the lives of others, in the UK, in Israel, in Eastern Europe and everywhere else they see poverty, emotional deprivation or physical handicap. They also allow the rest of us to feel good about how the Jewish community is perceived by the wider world. The least we can do to show our appreciation is attend their luncheons, buy their raffle tickets, join their sponsored treks or - in the case of Hazon Yeshaya's Fabulous Food for You team - buy their recipe books.

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