Recently I had the pleasure of hosting a Supper Club Iftar alongside Sara of Add A Little Lemon as a fundraiser for UNRWA USA. Iftar means “breaking fast” or breaking of the fast, and replaces the word for “dinner” throughout the month of Ramadan in which Muslims around the world fast from just before dawn to sunset.
UNRWA USA is a nonprofit charitable organization that supports the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). UNRWA USA raises awareness and fundraises throughout the United States to support UNRWA programs that deliver humanitarian aid to refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. UNRWA USA’s #IftarForGaza campaign addresses feeding refugee families in Gaza.
Every $150 raised provides a family of up to 6 with a package of flour, rice, whole milk, oil, chickpeas, lentils and protein-rich sardines for an entire summer. Food assistance packages come four times a year to families in Gaza living under the poverty line, which is about half of Gaza’s population – UNRWA USA’s #IftarforGaza campaign is able address one of those seasonal cycles.
Through Add a Little Lemon, Sara focuses on Iraqi food and culture in an effort to dispel dehumanizing narratives about Iraq and Iraqis, “one kubba at a time”. I founded Olive & Heart to make truly delectable ingredients and goods produced by Palestinians in the West Bank easily accessible as well as to challenge typical b-roll imagery of Palestinians that excludes the voices, culture and aspirations of a people with deep agricultural roots and food preparation that mirrors slow food practices.
Among the fun parts of partnering with Add A Little Lemon is the variations of Arabic cuisine Sara brought to the table. I love Iraqi spice mixes about as much as I love the “lemony”quality of Levant dishes, elements that Sara folds into her cooking beautifully. If you haven’t found your way to onion dolma (yes, you can stuff an onion), an Iraqi specialty that hits your taste buds with both seasoning and acidity, I highly recommend it! (Onion dolma didn’t make the cut to this menu – it’s a meal unto itself!)
Guests delighted in a meal prepared by Sara, which included a clever spin on maqluba that used maftoul as a base, instead of rice. Empty Jenin olive oil bottles served as flower vases to complement the rustic feel of the space.
The evening celebrated the warmth and richness Iraqi and Palestinian culture have to offer. One of our guests even rallied her friends around the event to celebrate her birthday by giving!
We’re grateful to everyone who attended and participated in the online fundraiser. Together we raised $2,255, enough to provide food packages for 15 families. Volunteer events hosted across the country on behalf of UNRWA USA raised $118,000, which feeds about 800 families all summer long. You don’t have to celebrate Ramadan, or host an event to support UNRWA USA — anyone can make a donation any time of the year.
I encourage readers to take a look at UNRWA USA’s other annual campaign, the Gaza 5K. Held multiple times in cities across the U.S., the Gaza 5K raises funds for the organization’s Community Mental Health Program (CMHP) to help children and youth cope with the trauma in unlivable environmental conditions.