After seasoned fundraiser Brooke Bowles started working at the LJCC last fall, it wasn’t long before she started hearing about an event called the Jewish Food and Culture Fest. It sounded like a huge undertaking, and one that was very important to Birmingham’s Jewish community. May 15 would mark its return after a two-year break due to the pandemic.
“As I grew into my job,” she recalls, “I also learned about Jewish culture and values. Like the importance of kehillah, or community. And with May 15 marking the return of the Jewish Food and Culture Fest after a two-year break brought on by the pandemic, the idea of tikkun olam, or repairing the world, seems especially apt.”
As festival preparations accelerated, Brooke also became intrigued by the variety of new foods and flavors — new to her, anyway. While she knows corned beef and pickles, matzah ball soup and Jewish-style brisket will be new experiences. Seeing pictures from previous festivals, knowing the preparations needed for this year’s event, and hearing so many stories about the food all worked together to give Brooke an idea.
Past festivals had traditionally been funded largely by The Birmingham Jewish Federation and The Birmingham Jewish Foundation, along with small businesses. “We’re always so grateful for whatever the federation and foundation can do for us, and that continued support gave us a great foundation to build upon for this year,” says Brooke.
“But the festival is The J’s most visible gift to the Jewish and wider Birmingham communities. What if we sought wider support for such an important event? Why not find more partners to help us out this year — especially when we’re trying to jump-start it all after a two-year break.” Rentals and expensive kosher products plus other myriad event costs add up quickly.
Early last month Brooke tacked a hand-drawn thermometer chart to the wall outside her office. Staffers gathered to see how high she might be aiming. Brooke, who has always welcomed a good fundraising challenge, had optimistically scrawled $50,000 across the top. And knowing how festival proceeds would fund future programming at The J factored into her calculus.
Over the past month her red pen has been busy, and as of this week the thermometer shows that The J is only $15,000 short of the goal.
The success is thanks in large part to the likes of Fair Haven, a faith-based senior living community and rehabilitation center that’s just a five-minute drive from The J along Montclair Road. Brooke made a compelling case to them. Although they’ve never sponsored an LJCC function before, helping such an important community event in their neighborhood was a no-brainer.
“Fair Haven has high regard for amazing food and impactful culture,” says Sherri Easdon, director of public relations at Fair Haven. “Our sponsorship of the Festival is a great way to remind people that we serve all faiths and cultures, should they need us some day.”
So far nearly 20 families and companies have signed on as sponsors at a variety of levels, and there’s still time to round up additional names before the event t-shirts sporting all the sponsor logos are printed. “Those shirts might be pretty full,” Brooke muses.
If you want to sponsor, donate to, or volunteer for this year’s Jewish Food and Culture Fest, you’ll find everything you need on this page.
Current sponsors include:
- Altec Industries
- Balch & Bingham LLP
- The Bernstein Family
- The Birmingham Jewish Federation
- The Birmingham Jewish Foundation
- Chad & Patti Hagwood Foundation
- The Corenblum Family
- Martin & Heidi Damsky
- Day Star Construction
- Dent Moses, LLP`
- Fair Haven
- Lewis & Feldman
- Morris Bart & Associates
- Realty South
- ServisFirst Bank
- Total On 1st — Advanced Clinical Spa
- Salta Capital
- Jeff & Jennifer Sokol