On February 20, a kosher café popped up at Congregation Etz Chayim, 3853 Woodley Rd. The social hall had been decorated to resemble an Italian trattoria, complete with red-and-white checked cloths and fresh flowers on the tables.
Rachel Rubin, 19, was very excited that it was being held at “my synagogue,” she said.
Rachel Rubin, 19, serves up dinner orders at this year's Friendship Circle Cafe Tuesday, February 20, 2018, at Congregation Etz Chayim in Toledo.
This one-night-only family-friendly restaurant was a fund-raiser for the Joanne Galler Rubin Friendship Circle, which is based at Chabad House of Toledo. The program pairs Jewish children and young adults who have special needs with teen-aged volunteer buddies for projects like bowling, art, and cooking.
“We have about 12 teams of kids and teens,” said Mushka Matusof, coordinator of the Friendship Circle, which provides social opportunities and a chance to develop life skills all while having fun.
“This is an absolutely incredible program, run by the heart of the community,” said Joel Marcovitch, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Toledo. “We are proud co-sponsors” and supporters, he said, as he surveyed the full room.
Eleven year old Jude Lingan smiled as he took orders from customers along with Jonah Musher-Eizerman, 14, carefully noting whether they wanted spaghetti or penne topped with meat sauce, meatballs, or pesto. Michael David Pasternak, who recently turned 21, smiled as he and his partner, Lexie Mann, 18, took a special order for both lots of sauce and meatballs.
Joshua Jaffe, 14, served his family’s table along with Ella Musher-Eizerman, 17. His younger brother, Benny, enthusiastically called out “Meatballs!” for his order, which their little sister, Anna, also chose.
The food was “the best,” said diner Anne Bauer. Her tablemate, Julie Treuhaft, added that the service from Rachel and her partner, Madison McQueen, 17, was “impeccable.”
Zoe Kuehn, 15, left, laughs with Cooper Kruse, 10, as they make Hamantashen cookies together in advance of Purim Tuesday, February 13, 2018.
In advance of the event, the Friendship Circle members had made hamantaschen – filled triangular cookies – to serve as dessert.
Owen Kruse, 8, had made them before, as had his 10-year-old brother Cooper who got advice from Zoe Kuehn, 15, about how to crack an egg. Michael’s sister, Olivia Pasternak, 16, worked with 10-year-old Zane Green who had never even tasted the unique treats before. Jude’s brother, 9-year-old Clint Lingan, focused carefully as he worked with his partner, Joey Liber.
Cayden Greenblatt, 11, gleefully ate some gluten-free dough as he was mixing it. “You’ve eaten, like, three whole cookies,” his partner, Daniel Leizerman, 17, said with a laugh. Andrea Wexler was also eating dough as she worked without assistance. “I love baking,” she said.
As the café came to a close, everyone headed home happy and well-fed.
“Friendship Circle is fabulous,” said Michael and Olivia’s mother, Marcia Pasternak. “It really is just such an amazing opportunity for people with special needs,” and for all the group’s members.
It’s great “any time you [can] support a part of the community that’s not supported usually,” said Nicole Coleman, who’d come to the dinner with her family. “They do such a nice job. It’s really amazing.”
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