Annual Kosher Chili Cookoff will celebrate its ‘Sweet Sixteen’ with 40+ teams and lots of goodies at Tiferet Israel this Sunday

By Deb Silverthorn
More than 40 teams — representing synagogues, day schools, youth organizations, camps, learning centers and more — have signed up to sizzle and serve more than 1,500 pounds of kosher meat at the 16th annual Tiferet Israel Kosher Chili Cookoff, Sunday, March 22, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Spicy, sweet or vegetarian, there’s certain to be a tongue-teaser for all.
“We are thrilled and always proud to be the host home of the Tiferet Kosher Chili Cookoff and, as this is the beginning of the 120th year of Congregation Tiferet Israel, this great event is a grand kickoff to a year of celebrations,” said Diane Benjamin, who returns as co-chair of the event, this year with Janet Bubis and Jay Abrams by her side. “On the 22nd we’ll have six hours where the entire Jewish community is together and all-inclusive, engendering camaraderie in a festive atmosphere — all of us, under the common helm of the DK, the Vaad Hakashrus of Dallas, for fun, great food, great music and a great time. Hineh ma tov u’ma nayim — how wonderful it is for brothers to gather together.”
Judges for the “Sweet Sixteen” celebration of the Tiferet Israel Kosher Chili Cookoff include Doris Coats (previous Terlingua International Chili Championship winner), Harriet Gross (TJP columnist and freelance writer), Michael Sweet (a Jewish War Veteran who cooks at the Veterans Administration) and Fred Washington (in memory of former Chili Cookoff judge, Duke Rudman). “We welcome back a couple of judges, and a couple are here for the first time. They have their work cut out for them,” said Harry Kabler, judging co-chair with Ann Margolin.
The Dallas Kosher, the Vaad Hakashrus of Dallas, supervises all aspects regarding the kashrut of the event. “Every detail is extremely important; from the initial meetings with chairpeople to educating the teams about kosher and coordinating the mashgichim [supervisors],” said DK’s Rabbi David Shawel. “We give a kosher primer to everyone involved that informs the participants of the appropriate kosher certification symbols and where to purchase additional ingredients.
“On the day of the event, we require that our mashgichim start the cooking process by lighting the propane burners. We inspect every single ingredient to be used, and new metal and glass utensils are immersed in a kosher mikvah prior to use.” said Rabbi Shawel. “Serving thousands of people kosher food is a great thing and we take great pride in knowing we help facilitate unity and shalom within our community by certifying the Tiferet Israel Chili Kosher Cookoff as a kosher event.”
In the past 15 years, more than $70,000, a portion of the proceeds of the profits, has been given to local charities. This year, JFS’ Career Services Group, the Life and Fire Safety Clowns from Lewisville, and Yavneh Academy of Dallas’ Students Against Terrorism have been chosen as the beneficiaries.
“We are so excited and proud to be among the beneficiaries of the Kosher Chili Cookoff,” said Aaron Liener, SAT president and Yavneh Academy senior. “Students Against Terrorism is all about community — our community here raising funds and awareness for our community of brethren who are suffering from the effects of terrorism. To be honored by a landmark organization, so dedicated and so much a part of Dallas’ Jewish community, is very special to us. Their support of SAT sends a strong message of community respect for us and we appreciate that very much.”
Students Against Terrorism, an organization founded by students at Yavneh Academy of Dallas, is the parent organization of the Points For Peace Basketball Tournament that will be held on March 15. The group has raised more than $250,000 in seven years through the annual tournament, the sale of “StandStrong4Israel” bracelets, learn-a-thons and other programs.
“We are so thrilled and honored. The Chili Cookoff always has a knack for having its finger on the pulse of developing support for the needs of our community,” said Michael Fleisher, executive director of Jewish Family Service, whose programs have, of late, seen significant increases across the board. “There isn’t anyone in our community who doesn’t know someone who has been touched by the recent stresses in the economy. The investment in services, to help people return to self-sufficiency, is an investment that couldn’t be more timely.”
“Fire safety is immeasurable and repetition is key, and each year we create a new program produced by a number of our reserve firefighters and some of their family members,” said Lewisville Fire Department Division Chief and Public Education and Emergency Management Public Information Officer Steven Carter. The LAFS team travels to schools, businesses and community events to bring the messages of fire safety to the residents of Lewisville. “Our clowns, a number of whom will be at the Cookoff, have an incredible passion to teach and a professionalism that is unequaled. The gift from this event will certainly help us to do more, help more and reach further into our community.”
Sponsorship opportunities are still available at the Habanero Pepper Level ($10,000), the Cayenne Pepper Level ($5,000), the Jalapeno Pepper Level ($2,000), the Poblano Pepper Level ($1,000) or the Bell Pepper Level ($500), as well as the sponsorship of individual event needs. Each level comes with tickets to the event, signage on the commemorative T-shirt, food coupons and other benefits.
In addition to entertainment by the Mazik Brothers, there will be a silent auction, a tent filled with vendors, and activities for kids of all ages, including a climbing wall, bounce house, pony rides, basketball hoops and a monster slide. The Jewish War Veterans Post 256 will participate in the opening ceremonies of the day. Transportation trolleys will run to and from the Jewish Community Center from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for those wishing to park off-campus.
“We’re excited to have been involved with the Cookoff for so many years and, this year, to co-chair with Diane,” Abrams said. “It’s a great community event which brings us together from one end of the spectrum to the other. Really, it’s the most inclusive day of the year in the Jewish community.”
Congregation Tiferet Israel is located at 10909 Hillcrest Road, Dallas. Tickets are $10/adults, $5/children ages 3–11 (includes a free hot dog). Children under 3 years old are free. For more information, call 214-691-3611.

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