Today is February 17, 2020 -

Congregation Beth Israel

A spiritual oasis for the Jewish community

6 Dundee Park
Andover, MA 01810

(978) 474-0540

The Leadership’s Corner

By Jonathan Brody

As you read this article, you will just have finished lighting the Hanukkah candles, opening the last presents and seeing a little more light each day as we move farther from the winter solstice. There is a natural rhythm to our seasons which includes our favorite annual traditions. At CBI, our winters wouldn’t be the same without the miracle of Hanukkah being shortly followed by our own CBI miracle otherwise known as “An Evening of Sweet Indulgence…and More!”

On February 1, 2020, our special evening will come to our home town of Andover and I hope that each of you by now has gathered friends and family and purchased tickets for a table to enjoy firsthand what our tiny shul can offer the greater community. Filled with music and magicians, a variety of auction and raffle items, celebrities and of course, great food; I truly hope you will experience an evening where you will be proud to say “I’m a CBIer!”

For those of you not familiar with it, An Evening of Sweet Indulgence is our major fundraiser event of the year. It is an appetizer and dessert tasting event where we bring in Billy Costa to promote the area restaurants while packaging that around a silent and live auction. However, unlike most of our other fundraisers and appeals, this one is designed to raise most of the money from outside our membership. It is usually attended by over 70% non-members and the money raised is over 50% from non-members.

It all started back in 2009 when Ellen and I went to the Taste of the North Shore which was run by Ellen’s cousin and took place at Temple Emanuel in Marblehead (the temple where we got married!). There were restaurants from all over the North Shore serving all types of great food and they brought in Billy Costa from Kiss 108FM, and more importantly TV Diner, to emcee the event. They raised about $35k that night and it got me thinking that we could pull off something similar at CBI. So in 2010, we went back to the same annual event in Marblehead and then to a similar event Billy did in downtown Boston to closely pay attention to all the details of how the events were run. Both events were packed and a lot of money was raised. So I had a discussion with Billy and offered that the Merrimack Valley had a lot of great restaurants and asked if he would come up our way and run a similar event.

We had a couple of challenges we had to overcome. First, the Temple in Marblehead was reform and therefore could host the event in their function hall and save a lot of cost of having to rent a place. Second, they didn’t have any limitations on food (Kosher style) and finding vendors to honor those restrictions. Also, they are a much bigger congregation than ours with a lot more resources. So we had to find a venue at a reasonable cost, get establishments bought into this new concept of a regional tasting competition and get almost 100% of our congregation to help out in one way or another to pull it off. The first year was a great success by any measure and also a great learning experience. We made about $13k, sold about 250 tickets and had a great time doing it.

The rest, as they say, is history. We have had the event every year since, except for two. Last year we could not have the event because of the Gas Explosions in the Merrimack Valley which occurred just as I started to reach out to establishments to join us.

The key is to not make the event about CBI. The event is about the vendors. Giving them a chance to market themselves and show what great food they have and to attract you as a future customer.

Along the way we have formed great partnerships with our Media Sponsors, WCAP 980AM in Lowell and the Merrimack Valley Magazine, as well as great relationships with many of the vendors. Some who have been with us for almost all the events.

There are moments of uncertainty and lots of stress and lots of late nights and always palpitations about February weather….. But, I have a tried and true committee that gets things done and we have enough experience in running it that we can pull off a great event and have a great time doing it, while raising critical money for our annual budget from outside our membership.

Please join us on our path towards February 1, 2020 as we need the whole congregation’s help to pull this off. We are asking each family to donate at least one item for the silent or live auction and need your help putting up flyers and promote the event to colleagues, friends, and neighbors so we can sell out. Finally, we hope to see you there that night. We will have various shift assignments for you to feel part of the success, but for the most part you will be able to enjoy the experience of Sweet Indulgence!

Happy secular New Year!
Jonathan Brody