Mayor Adams Encourages Kosher Cookbook Writers to Use Food to Fight Hate, Increase Cultural Understanding
By Yehudit Garmaise
“Food is powerful,” said Mayor Eric Adams, when he stopped by the elegant, kosher Japanese restaurant Sen Sakana in Manhattan, where more than 100 Jewish writers were gathering at the 9th annual Jewish Food Media Conference.
The conference’s participants were meeting to eat, network, and socialize on the night before attending Kosherfest, which is a business and trade event taking place today and tomorrow and attended by 4,900 people in Secaucus, NJ.
“All of us: we define ourselves by our food,” said the mayor, who is a food writer himself, as he wrote the cookbook Healthy at Last: A Plant-Based Approach to Preventing and Reversing Diabetes.
While the mayor said he “loves to eat good food,” and that he was “looking forward to looking at some of your dishes and delicacies,” what he came to discuss, however, was to propose that Jewish food writers consider how they can best use delicious food and writing about kosher food to fight anti-Semitism.
Referencing a program that he started when he served as Brooklyn’s borough president, which was the last position to which Adams was elected before serving as NYC’s mayor, Mayor Adams described to the dinners’ participants a program called, “Breaking Bread, Building Bonds.”
“I want you to help us with an initiative that we are going to do in NYC as we fight against anti-Semitism and violence against other groups,” said the mayor, who recalled hosting 100 dinners across the city to promote intercultural understanding.
“At each dinner, 10 people from different religious and ethnic backgrounds sat down and talked to each other,” said Mayor Adams, who said that now he wants to amplify “Breaking Bread, Building Bonds,” to create 1,000 such dinners citywide.
“If we want to increase the stop in hate crimes, then we have to start with something as simple as a conversation,” said the mayor, who also thanked Masbia for its enormous ongoing efforts to feed hungry people and provide for Jewish and non-Jewish New Yorkers in many ways.
“I have known this amazing organization [Masbia], since I was a state senator,” the mayor said. “I saw then how Masbia shows that people, who need assistance during difficult times, should not lose their dignity because they need dinner.”
Mayor Adams praised Masbia not only for “the atmosphere it creates, but for providing for those who are in need in the Boro Park community and beyond.
When a deadly fire broke out in the Bronx on Jan. 9, killing 17 people, injuring 44, and leaving the tenants of a high-rise building homeless, Masbia brought survivors food and clothing from Target, Mayor Adams pointed out with gratitude.
Alexander Rapaport, the executive director of Masbia, which sponsored the event that raised money for the soup kitchen, was pleasantly surprised that Adams did not only speak about providing food to those in need in the city, but to think creatively about how to fight anti-Semitism and other hate crimes.
When the mayor recalled sitting with his friends in Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn, he said that everyone at the table had a lot of questions for each other.
“We talked about what it is to have a sukkah, and what it means to go to different services throughout the holidays,” the mayor said. “That is how we change the dynamic.
“When we stop being afraid of each other, talk to each other, and food has the power to do so.
“So, for everyone who has a cookbook who is here. I would love for you to host one of those dinners: bring people together and show them the power of food.
“If we share a meal together, we are more likely to share our city together and stop being afraid of each other.”
“You never know when you invite a leader: what is he going to speak about?” Rapaport told BoroPark24. “The mayor used the opportunity to ask food experts, ‘How can they use food to bring people together from different communities and to fight hate?’”
To add to the pile of cookbooks that Jewish food writers provided to give to Masbia donors, the mayor signed 10 of his cookbooks.
“Let’s continue to lift each other up,” the mayor said with a smile.