With much of its publicity centering in recent years on the issue of hunger in the community, it makes sense that Jewish Family Service of Bergen and North Hudson is using food to help attract attention to this growing problem.
Yet organizers of the group’s 10th annual “Night of 100 Dinners” are hopeful that the evening resonates on another level, as well.
“It’s about family,” said Jeff Nadler, JFS director of development. “There’s something different about this kind of event, where people who support [JFS] are welcoming people into their homes.”
The family-centered evening “is reflective of what we do,” he said. “We help stabilize families.”
Said Lisa Fedder, JFS executive director, “Over the past 10 years, Night of 100 Dinners has become JFS’s signature event because the message so clearly reflects our values and mission. Families who are facing often tragic circumstances come to JFS because we are a trusted member of the community.”
“In the past 10 years, JFS has delivered more than 200,000 Kosher Meals on Wheels to homebound elders and Holocaust survivors and helped tens of thousands of our neighbors in need,” Fedder said. “With the ongoing economic situation, we are seeing more and more families who aren’t able to keep food on the table – they are hungry. Night of 100 Dinners puts a spotlight on the hunger issue, and we invite the community to join us with contributions so we can help the families who seek our assistance.”
Nadler explained that the event – to be held Saturday evening, Dec. 3 – will kick off with a cocktail party hosted and sponsored by Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, which he called “wonderful partners in the community. They did a food drive for us right before Rosh Hashanah.”
At the gathering, guests will find out where they will spend the rest of the evening.
“It’s a kind of lottery,” said Nadler, although friends may go to the same home. “The idea is to create interesting matches for people. It’s a great way to meet new people yet come together for the same cause.”
“People love it,” he said, pointing out that some hosts open their homes year after year.
Shira Feuerstein, the event co-chair, said, “Each year, I look forward to hosting a dinner in my home and letting friends know all that JFS does in our community. Night of a Hundred Dinners is always a lovely evening shared by new friends and old friends joined together to help make a difference in our community.”
Vik Boden will be a host this year for the sixth time.
“Every year I look forward to meeting the people who hold our community together with their generous support,” she said. “It is a wonderful feeling to know that there are people who live very close to me who are willing to lend a hand to someone in need.”
Pointing out that a friend who has been delivering Kosher Meals on Wheels for six years will this year host one of the dinners, JFS trustee Sheryl Sarnak said, “It is wonderful to see the positive ripple effect that a mitzvah can have.”
“There are about 25 [host] homes this year, with five or six new hosts,” said Nadler, noting that dinners will be held throughout Bergen County. Together, they will entertain some 200 guests.
Individuals attending the event are asked to make a minimum donation of $200. Nadler stressed that since host families provide dinner, 100 percent of the proceeds go directly to JFS programs.
In looking for event sponsors, Nadler said JFS put the word out to all community organizations, seeking “people who understand and are committed” to helping those in need. Thanks to the dozen or so sponsors – including this newspaper – the costs of the event have been kept down, he said.
“Hunger is a symptom,” said Nadler. “There are other things that put people in those circumstances. What we do is to stabilize the family and get them back on the right track. I hope dinner guests will make that connection with this event, [held] in a family atmosphere.”