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Ohav Sholom to host Hungerthon on Nov. 9

Raising hunger awareness ahead of Thanksgiving

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Congregation Ohav Sholom, in Merrick, will host its first-ever Hungerthon in partnership with Long Island Cares, home of The Harry Chapin Food Bank, on Nov. 9. The fundraiser is a concert/food drive hybrid aimed at helping the hungry on Long Island.

To kick off his tenure, Ohav Sholom’s new president, Daron Rubensohn, and his wife, Sarah, brainstormed projects that would bring people into the building and also contribute to the greater good. And so, Hungerthon was born. Inspired by the radio broadcasts that pervade the airwaves before Thanksgiving, Ohav Sholom’s event will combine music and charity to collect food donations for Long Island Cares.

“We’ve never done anything like this before,” said Lonnie Ostrow, Ohav Sholom’s marketing director. “It’s an opportunity for us to have fun and make a difference in the community.”

Planning for Hungerthon began six months ago. Instead of paying admission, guests will be asked to donate non-perishable food. Before the concert, local humanitarian Bill Ayres will give a presentation on the need to eradicate hunger on Long Island.

Ayres is a board member of Long Island Cares and co-founder of WhyHunger (both of which were co-founded by Chapin). WhyHunger provides resources to support grass-roots movements and fuel community solutions in an effort to end hunger and advance the right to nutritious food in the United States and around the world.

According to a recent release by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 37 million Americans are hungry, and 11 million of those are children. WhyHunger Executive Director Noreen Springstead said that offshoots of Hungerthon, like Ohav Sholom’s iteration, help raise awareness of hunger in America.

Despite food insecurity being a national issue, “Hungerthon is really about these local activations,” Springstead said. “Harry Chapin was an artist and an activist in the 1970s. He was known to have concerts to advance his musical career, and then the next night he’d have a concert to fight hunger, so the congregation’s event is very much in that tradition.”

Ostrow said that Ayres’s talk would illuminate an issue that affects residents close to home, despite pre-conceived notions. “We live in an affluent community with nice homes, so the thought is, no one here is hungry,” Ostrow said, “but the reality is there are many people in Nassau County and beyond who are hungry and in need of support.” The presentation will cover why hunger is still an issue in 2019, and present ways in which the community can take steps to help solve the problem.

Local rock ’n’ roll group Northern Lights will close out the night, performing a set of classic rock hits and Chapin songs such as “Cat’s in the Cradle” and “Taxi” as a tribute to the singer. The band has played at fundraising events for Ohav Sholom for years, and jumped at the chance to headline Hungerthon.

“It goes without saying that we’re happy to be part of it,” said Mark Strauss, of Merrick, who plays guitar and keyboard in the band. “It’s a very important facet on Long Island and all over to provide food for those in need, [and] this will get a wide range of people to bring food in to support the community.”

Collection bins sporting Long Island Cares’ logo will be set up at the front and back of the synagogue, at 145 S. Merrick Ave., during Hungerthon. While any food donation is acceptable, Ostrow said the organization prefers non-perishable items synonymous with a Thanksgiving meal, including boxed stuffing and canned cranberry sauce. Long Island Cares will distribute the donations to people in need before the holiday. WhyHunger will also have a table at which people can make additional donations.

Hungerthon kicks off at Ohav Sholom on Nov. 9 at 7:30 p.m. For more information, call (516) 378-1988. For more information about Hungerthon or to launch your own campaign, visit www.hungerthon.org or email why@whyhunger.org.