Teens at MJCC cook up plan to get kitchen items to emigres

Marin teens will forgo their usual dreidel-playing booth at this year's MJCC Chanukah fair. In its place, the teens will create a mock kitchen complete with donated items as well as utensils purchased for the display.

All of the items will be donated to immigrant families in need.

"It's a chance for people to come to the fair and give tzedakah," said Matt Biers-Ariel, education service director at the Marin Jewish Community Center in San Rafael, where the Chanukah fair will be held on Sunday, Dec. 13.

MAJYC, the Marin Jewish Youth Contact teen program, will host the GiveAway Kitchen booth at the fair, which is sponsored by the MJCC, the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation and Marin synagogues.

During past fairs, the MJCC sponsored a toy drive in conjunction with Jewish Family and Children's Services. But this year, organizers discovered that emigres and the indigent don't need toys, according to Biers-Ariel. Instead, JFCS asked them to provide kitchen items to Eastern Europe emigres who have moved recently to Marin County.

"JFCS finds [these immigrants] a place to live, but there's nothing in them," said Julie Saxe, co-director of MAJYC, which is comprised of about 90 teens.

The idea of the booth, she said, is for Chanukah fair visitors to become "matching partners" with the MJCC. That is, visitors can donate the value of any kitchen item so that the MJCC can then purchase an identical item to give to a second family.

Coordinating the GiveAway Kitchen was the perfect way to meet other MJCC goals: focusing the Chanukah fair on education and on teaching Jewish values.

The MAJYC teens were the driving force behind the mock kitchen, according to Biers-Ariel and Saxe.

"Three teens bravely took on the task of cold-calling," said Saxe, referring to Micah Julius, Rachel Julius and Monica Egan. Although the teens started with "a big `no' list," many businesses got into the holiday spirit. More donations are welcome, she added.

"What I'm excited about is we're building new skills for the teens. It's creative. It's all part of a big celebration of Chanukah and being part of the community."

All told, Saxe hopes the MAJYC teens will raise more than $1,000 in kitchenware for several immigrant families.

Biers-Ariel said the JCC expects up to 750 visitors at the Chanukah fair.

"If you only have one dollar, you can buy a fork," he said. "Everyone will have a chance to do this. It's a great mitzvah."