Here are some numbers to chew on. Attendance at the inaugural NoshFest, Toronto’s Jewish food festival, exceeded expectations by at least 300 per cent.
“We thought there’d be about 400 or 500 people, and more than 1,500 people showed up. That doesn’t even include the children who attended,” Andrea Segal said.
She and Michelle Gordon organized NoshFest, which was held at Artscape Wychwood Barns in midtown Toronto on Nov. 13.
Segal said she and Gordon had noticed that many Jewish food festivals were taking place in large cities as well as in places with Jewish communities much smaller than the one in Toronto. “They have these festivals in places like Richmond, Va., and Atlanta, and we thought, why isn’t there something like that in Toronto?”
People happily lined up at some of the 20 booths to chow down on smoked meat and corn beef sandwiches, hummus and dips, brisket-stuffed matzah balls, cocktail beef knishes, pizza, fish tacos, pickles, olives, smoked white fish, gefilte fish, lox and bagels, brownies cookies and gourmet hamantashen.
There were booths selling drinks including coffee, craft beer, kombucha (a fermented tea) and a Middle-Eastern beverage called limonana, a popular Israeli drink made of lemon mint and cane sugar, as well as a textile arts.
Elise Kayfetz, said being at NoshFest was like attending a big Jewish reunion. “I get a chance to see people and eat great Jewish food.”
The food was also the draw for Yaffa Lattke and Avital Labunski. “We wanted to try some good Jewish food,” Lattke said.
Alicia Kirshner was there to support a camp friend who was one of the corned beef vendors. “It’s the best,” she said as she munched her deli sandwich.
Kayfetz, Lattke, Labunski and Kirshner were among the many millennials who came to NoshFest, which did not surprise Segal. The event was widely promoted on social media, she explained. “There’s a modern resurgence of Jewish food. Jewish food is becoming cool…
“There’s something about Jewish food that brings people together. Our mission is to celebrate Jewish foods and culture.”
Segal said she and Gordon wanted to attract people from other communities as well. “NoshFest was also about bringing out other cultures and exposing our culture to them. It was an opportunity to showcase the delicious and unique Jewish traditional foods and bring together members of Toronto’s diverse community.”
Segal said she and Gordon envisioned NoshFest as a community day for the whole family. “My bubbie [Lorna Yufe] was there having a bagel and lox with her sister [Thora Yufe] – my great-aunt. They really enjoyed themselves.”
Indeed, the mood was upbeat as klezmer music, performed by Jonno Lightstone and Rock the Shtetl, filled the cavernous barns.
At the Kinderzone, which was sponsored by Leo Baeck Day School with some support from Temple Sinai, there were face painting, arts and crafts, and music. Children participated in a drumming session led by Mystic Drumz and made edible dreidels out of chocolate, marshmallows and pretzels.
NoshFest also partnered with Shoresh, the local grassroots Jewish environmental organization, and a portion of ticket sales went to support Shoresh.
“Michelle and I were really happy with our turnout and we received extremely positive feedback from family, friends and the community. It’s our inaugural event and there’s always room to make it better in years to come. We’ll soon have be ready to start planning for NoshFest 2017.”