My doorbell rang one recent Friday, and when I answered the door a smiling stranger handed me a paper gift bag. Inside, there was a small, fragrant challah from Zucker Bakery and a hand-written note:
“Hi Liza,” it said. “You’ve been touched by the Friday Fairy! We hope you have a great weekend and enjoy this special treat. Shabbat Shalom, The Jewish Food Society.”
Well well. This was indeed a whimsical and welcome treat. Also in the bag was a beautiful, colorful little picture of a crouching fairy feeding challah to a pigeon in Washington Square Park. A tiny card let me know the illustration was by Brooklyn-based artist Emily Parkinson.
What exactly was going on?
Okay, the delivery wasn’t a complete mystery to me, because Naama Shefi, the society’s founder, had pinged me to ask if I’d be home. (She didn’t exactly say why.) But I had never heard of the Jewish Food Society. What was it? As Forward contributing editor Leah Koenig recently found out, the Society is a brand new organization based in New York with the goal of celebrating, preserving and revitalizing Jewish food from around the world.
And the fairy? I called Shefi to see what I could find out.
“We thought we’d try to come up with ways to surprise people and let them know about the Jewish Food Society and really draw attention to Shabbat,” she said. “We take it for granted, but Shabbat is really the core of Jewish food.
“We want to make people happy in a simple way. We thought it should be very basic — homemade freshly baked challah, the art work — but with a lot of intention, which is why we’re writing the cards, handwritten notes, because we feel that this is really the value, to go back and highlight these gestures.”
Shefi’s partner, Ellie Backer, came up with the fairy concept — a “challah fairy” at first.
“But it’s more than the challah,” Shefi said. “People respond; people react. They say they just love it, but it’s also expressed like a larger yearning to celebrate Jewish food, to be part of it.”
Every Friday since September 30, a little delivery is made to 30 individuals around New York. And word has spread beyond the city, as recipients tag friends on Instagram and share the experience on other social media.
The fairy already materialized in L.A. — bearing challah made from Bread Lounge — and plans on enchanting Washington DC and San Francisco next.
“People say, ‘We want to meet the fairy,’” Shefi said.
If they’re very lucky, maybe they will.
Liza Schoenfein is food editor at the Forward. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @LifeDeathDinner