Bringing Communities Together by the Power of Food
As part of Make a Difference Week, Steve Adubato goes one-on-one with Melina Macall, Co-Founder of The United Tastes of America & Syria Supper Club, to discuss how the organization is using the power of food to bond neighbors and recent refugees in our communities.
"Welcome to One on One. I'm Steve Adubato. This has got to be, you have to be one of the most fascinating people I've ever spoken to, and people are gonna find out in a second, she is Melina Macall. She is the co-founder of The United Tastes of America, and Syria Supper Club, which is? Which is an organization that sprang from one event, which my partner, Kate McCaffrey, and I, set up in response to the xenophobic and Islamophobic rhetoric we were hearing in the area. But there's a food connection here? Because you were... There is. ...saying, right before we got on the air, you talked about food justice, there's a whole bunch of food issues. What is... what do food issues have to do with Syria and Syrian refugees, et cetera? Well rather than the food issues, it's the power of food to bring people together. We all eat. It's a nice common ground at which to meet people. And we wanted to bring people together and create connections, and show support of... at that point, initially, our Muslim neighbors, to show that there were people in New Jersey specifically, who did not agree with then-governor... well he still is our governor, but Governor Christie's... Governor Christie? Governor Christie's... As we do this program he is. ...yes, comment in November of 2015 that no Syrian refugees could come to the state. We wanted to respond, and we wanted to respond in a positive way, so we brought people together. Our very first event, we didn't know it was our first event, we thought it was an event, was a Christmas Day meal, a traditional Jewish Christmas Day meal of Chinese takeout with Jews and Muslims in a synagogue, and in fact the broader community as well. What was that like? What was that like? It was fantastic. What made it so great? The thing that makes all of our events great was first shown there, which is people's wanting to show a hand of friendship. and so people were just wanting to be there. There was a tremendous atmosphere of warmth. We work with trust all the time. So, as it turned out, we ended up with ten recently resettled Syrian families, and their first foray into New Jersey was coming to a synagogue, and that was a big leap of faith for them. And we had people who gave up their Christmas, who do celebrate Christmas, and they said, "We want to be here and show solidarity." And so that atmosphere, as the underscoring background to the evening, made everything else magnificent. Whether the food is magnificent or..."