Students and faculty gather for Syrian Cuisine

by Isis Kirkland, Copy Editor

The Seven Elements Social Justice Club hosted a Syrian Supper Club, where they invited immigrants to share their local cuisine.

The supper club took place on Nov. 14 at 6:30 p.m.

Members of the club, as well as faculty members gathered in the school cafeteria to indulge in some of the dishes that the immigrant family brought.

According to The United Tastes of America, “[The supper club] brings new and old neighbors together at food events, with resettled people cooking. It provides networking for refugees, and helps their integration into the US.”

Randi Metsch-Ampel, advisor of the Seven Elements Club, decided to organize the Syrian Supper Club for a multitude of reasons.

Chris Christie ended his support of refugee settlement. This left a gap in the government, which volunteers were left to fill. Her synagogue volunteered to help, resettling immigrants and helping them find jobs and learn the language.

After this, she heard a National Public Radio broadcast that inspired her to help once again.

“I heard about the efforts of two women in Maplewood that welcomed refugees into their community. They had the first supper club where people who had cooking skills made dinner, and members of the community who wanted to join the event paid to be there, had a meal together, and got to know each other,” Metsch-Ampel said. “So I contacted NPR and said ‘I heard this story, how do I get involved?’ and they connected me with Katherine McCaffrey.”

She contacted NPR and they connected her with one of the women from Maplewood,  Katherine McCaffery. McCaffery advised her to attend a supper club before hosting her own.

Metsch-Ampel and her husband traveled to Montclair where they attended their first supple club. From there, she began organizing her own.

The Supper Club has been in the works since last year. It was supposed to take place last April, but Metsch-Ampel sustained an injury and it was rescheduled to this year.

Although she enjoyed her experience with supper club in Montclair, she wasn’t given any specific information or materials to prepare her own. Metsch-Ampel didn’t want the same for her club members.

Metsch-Ampel posted articles and graphic short stories to help her highschool club members learn more about the refugee crisis. She wanted to “have kids think about what it might be like to come to a new country, flee persecution, adapt, and learn the ways of a new country.”

On the night of the Supper Club, the family brought at least 20 dishes. There were all different types of food to accommodate vegans, meat eaters, people with allergies, etc.

The night was spent eating and mingling with the family– mother Raina, father Muhammad, and daughter Zaina. Metsch-Ampel spent most of the time talking to Raina and Muhammad, while the student members of the club spoke to Zaina.

Chloe Siohan is a member of the Seven Elements Club and attended the dinner.

“It was really interesting to talk to someone from a culture that’s different from mine. She was really fun to talk to, especially because she shared a lot of the same interests even though we come from different backgrounds. Talking to someone that’s my age was cool because even though she’s from Syria we both follow the same trends. She had Instagram and Snapchat!” Siohan said.

Metsch-Ampel considers the night a success. She was very happy with the outcome of the evening, but is unsure if the Seven Elements club will host another one in the future.  

“We pay a decent amount of money per supper to establish parity, equality and dignity. It’s a way to help the families become more self sufficient in the country. It is about $60 per person. $60 per person is a lot, especially because there were about 26 people there,” Metsch-Ampel said. “What made it possible was a grant given to us by Mr. Arlotta. So it may be challenging to do this specific activity again because it’s a lot of money to come up with, but who knows?”