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August 2017

Herb Leventer

Cooking for Syria Supports Refugees

The local grass-roots humanitarian group Neighbors for Refugees continues to focus on refugee resettlement. They have already resettled one refugee from Pakistan in the Mamaroneck area and are actively working to advocate for refugees in Syria.


In June, Herb Leventer, a Larchmont resident, philosophy professor and amateur cook, held a fundraiser at his home on behalf of Neighbors for Refugees to commemorate #WorldRefugeeDay. He was inspired by last year’s month-long campaign in November by Israeli-born Yotam Ottolenghi and other celebrity chefs in England to “cook for Syria” –holding supper clubs, charity bakes, cooking demos and restaurant dinners of Syrian food, with a share of proceeds going to help Syrian refugees.  It was the perfect summer evening, and more than 45 people gathered for a night of Syrian food, all prepared by Leventer and his wife, Dvora Rabino.


Leventer took his time preparing the meal, which took about 10 days. He chose recipes from three Syrian cookbooks, gathered kosher-certified sumac, tamarind paste, pomegranate molasses and other specialty ingredients from stores around the region and on line and ended up with a menu of roughly three dozen authentically Syrian dishes – mezzes, dips, soups, entrees and desserts – that not only created an interesting cultural and culinary experience for his friends and social activists from the community who attended but also raised nearly $4,000 for a cause he considers so important.


“I love to cook, I love to entertain, I was curious to learn about Syrian cuisine, and I want to help refugees in need,” said Leventer.  “For me, hosting this fundraising dinner was a perfect fit. Now, if any further refugees move into our community, we will be able to welcome them with a dish or two of food from their homeland.”


Besides the cooking fundraiser, Neighbors for Refugees have recently organized a few other successful events. “Welcoming Refugees. What You Can Do” took place at Westchester Jewish Center in Mamaroneck on June 11th. More than 200 people came out to hear the featured speaker, inspiring journalist Jodi Kantor from The New York Times. The event allowed the community to participate in the work of welcoming refugees on a real, actionable level by presenting the work of local organizations that work to change the lives of refugees who are here and those in refugee camps. They also hosted another lunchtime fundraiser in Larchmont Manor that raised a significant amount of money to support their efforts.


Neighbors for Refugees is also collecting goods that will be shipped to refugees directly in camps surrounding Syria, with the help of Greater NYC Families For Syria and NuDay Syria. Dates and times for the item collection can be found at the Neighbors for Refugees site at NeighborsForRefugees.com.


To volunteer with Neighbors for Refugees, sign up at