Building Connections within our Communities
04/27/2022 · Making a Difference
Each summer, thousands of people flock to the annual Jewish Food Festival in Scranton, Pennsylvania to enjoy classic Jewish cuisine, live music, and entertainment. What started as a small fundraiser for the local Jewish Discovery Center has grown into a multi-day event that welcomes visitors from near and far.
“The event started as a concert; we made a huge investment in bringing in performers from all over, and we quickly realized the big hit was the food,” said Rabbi Benny Rapaport, director of the Jewish Discovery Center. “The natural, homestyle kosher cooking is what people were coming for, so we decided to make the food the star and the Jewish Food Festival was born.”
Wegmans’ Dickson City store, located just a few miles from the festival site, has supported the event for more than a decade, donating over $17,000 to the festival. Andrew Berry, Wegmans Dickson City service and merchandising manager, and Rabbi Benny work closely together to make a difference in the neighborhoods they serve. Over the years, they’ve grown the partnership into one that’s beneficial for the Jewish Discovery Center, the local Jewish community, and Wegmans.
“When we first reached out to Wegmans in 2008 for help with our annual benefit, we didn’t realize how valuable the relationship would become,” said Rabbi Benny. “Wegmans is so willing to help in the community, and I was very impressed with the concern they have for the kosher consumer.”
In addition to the annual festival, the Dickson City store supports a variety of events and programs run by the Jewish Discovery Center, from its education and after school programs, to its events promoting Jewish heritage and awareness, and its senior home.
“The center is well received by the entire community,” explains Andrew. “Rabbi Benny makes everyone feel welcome and at ease.”
In return, Rabbi Benny introduces new Jewish families in the area to Wegmans, highlighting the kosher section that he helped shape through insights and suggestions around product mix, ensuring the selection fits the community’s needs.
“Wegmans is 10 minutes from our center, and we’ve come to rely on their quality produce and kosher products,” said Rabbi Benny, who visits the store often for ingredients to use in catering orders for local Jewish families. “When new Jewish families come to town, we’ll do a store visit and show them all the options Wegmans has. There are so many kosher products throughout the store, not just matzo crackers, and gefilte fish.”
Rabbi Benny also introduced Wegmans to a local Jewish food pantry where the store now donates kosher products several times a year.
“The pantry receives a lot of non-kosher products, so it’s hard for their clients to abide by the laws of the faith and keep kosher,” said Andrew. “We provide kosher items they can hand out to local patrons and also have donated gift cards when they have a large need, allowing them to supplement what they already have.”
The relationship between Andrew and Rabbi Benny continues to grow; they connect several times a year to discuss ways to collaborate. It has also inspired Andrew to begin seeking out other groups the store can build a connection with.
“We’ve had such success over the past 10 years building a relationship with the Jewish community, I want to invest the time to discover opportunities for us to support other populations as well,” said Andrew.