Tampa Bay Jewish Food Festival
When the temple began planning the first ever Jewish Food Festival at Temple B’nai Israel in Clearwater, many long days were spent recruiting volunteers, finding vendors and nailing down myriad details.
Still, before the temple grounds opened on Sunday morning, April 2, event coordinator Barbara Bloom fretted whether people would show up. She needn’t have worried, as the food fest exceeded all expectations by far.
The numbers alone paint the picture:
• Turnout: approximately 2,000.
• First item to sell out: 130 sour pickles on a stick were gone before noon
• Knishes sold: 300
• Homemade kugel sold: 200 pieces
• Corned beef and pastrami platters sold: 750
In addition to that, patrons scarfed down bagels and lox, falafel, matzo ball soup, hotdogs and other Jewish delicacies.
They sold out of kugel and bagels by 12:30 p.m. and by 2 p.m. all the food was sold, an hour before closing time.
“The crowd that turned out was so upbeat that people were OK that we ran out of food and said not to worry because they would come back next year,” said Bloom.
As director of the temple’s Membership Engagement, she was especially pleased at the collective volunteer effort of the congregants, involved in everything from overseeing parking to assembling the sandwiches in the kitchen and manning the food stations. Bloom especially heaped praise on members of Brotherhood, who, with guidance from Kevin Schauer of Lenny’s restaurant, spent hours carving up 700 pounds of corned beef and pastrami shipped in from the Carnegie Deli commisary in New Jersey.
“We learned a lot from the first one and already have lots of ideas to improve it for next year. We are hoping to add blintzes and we will bring prices and portions down for some things so it will be easier for people to sample a lot of the foods,” Bloom said.
The temple is looking at February or March for next year’s event.
Bloom noted the success of Art Festival Beth-El, now in its 44th year in St. Petersburg as that temple’s signature event and hopes the Jewish Food Festival can become a similarly significant fundraiser for Temple B’nai Israel in years to come.
She said the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties has already awarded the temple an innovation grant to help work out kinks (especially with the parking and traffic) as well as more involvement in the festival from other local Jewish institutions.
Twelve local Jewish agencies plus the Jewish Genetic Disease Consortium were represented at this inaugural festival, as well as 24 craft vendors. The Sunday Simcha radio show on WMNF-FM with Steve Schwersky, a member of Temple B’nai Israel, did a live broadcast from the food festival and several speakers and workshops were held during the event.
Additionally there was a slide and other entertainment for kids, a kosher wine tasting and performances by the Klezmer band Chai Notes, the Gulfport Senior Citizens Harmonica Club and the temple’s Kol Rina Choir.