Who makes the best Jewish soup? Volunteers at Adath Israel in Merion Station are challenging people to find out by launching the "Jewish Mama Soup-a-Rama," a regional contest whose ultimate goal is to produce 10,000 pints of soup to feed thousands.
The innovative project was developed by Adath Israel's "Mitzvah Makers," social-action committee that's collaborating with the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and its Mitzvah Project Task Force. Organizers for Jewish Mama Soup-a-Rama are currently recruiting congregations, nonprofit organizations, youth groups, day schools and community groups to hold their own soup-cooking and tasting contests from February through March, and send their local winners to the citywide finals in May.
The first-ever Soup-a-Rama was a local event, generating 350 pints of soup for the Jewish Community Center's "Cook for a Friend" program while providing funds for Federation's Mitzvah Food Pantry.
"I'd always wanted to make soup for the 'Cook for a Friend' program, but it's hard to do alone and takes a long time to fix," says Paula Sunshine, who came up with the Soup-a-Rama idea. "I figured if we turned it into a contest, we could make it fun. And the people receiving the soup were so appreciative because they were able to have the kind of food they grew up with."
Federation's Mitzvah Project Task Force was so impressed with the Mitzvah Makers' proposal to expand the contest that it provided funding of $10,000 toward the effort.
"They're generating excitement and involving people across different age groups, while providing a valuable service in a very clever way," according to Peggy Carver, co-chair of the Mitzvah Projects Task Force. "This shows that social-action projects can be fun."
Organizations that sign up receive a participation guide, and are assigned a Soup-a-Rama representative to help drive team participation and ensure that the process will be simple. Teams must use approved kosher ingredients, and will be provided soup containers, labels and basic utensils (including large soup pots), The Soup-a-Rama registration deadline is Wednesday, Feb. 15, and "taste-off" winners must be chosen by April 2. Each organization's winning team will compete at the citywide finals on May 7 at the JCC Klein Branch in Northeast Philadelphia. Winners compete for the ultimate soup-makers' bragging rights and the prestigious "Golden Ladle Award."
But the real winners will be the recipients of the meals provided by "Cook for a Friend" and the Mitzvah Food Pantry, which will receive proceeds from the minimum $18 team donations and sponsorship support. Last year, more than 30,000 meals were delivered to homebound seniors by "Cook for a Friend" volunteers, and families visited the Mitzvah Food Pantry more than 14,000 times.
"This program fits in perfectly with our goals. Having volunteers get involved in cooking helps raise awareness about hunger-relief needs in our community," says Jessica Charmont, a senior mitzvah project planner with Federation's Center for Social Responsibility. "We hope people who participate will continue to stay involved in these kinds of efforts."
As part of the event, organizers are also asking folks to submit "soup stories" and recipes for a commemorative cookbook. Each "Soup-a-Rama" participant will receive the cookbook, and an apron.
For more information, call 610-934-1919. For a complete participation or sponsorship guide, log on to: www.souparama.com .