Tastes and Torah: Arkansas Jewish Food Festival prepares for thousands

There are Jewish food festivals, and then there is the Arkansas Jewish Food and Cultural Festival.

The Jewish Federation of Arkansas is preparing for over 15,000 visitors to the April 10 event, held at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.

This year’s festival is about much more than the food. There will be an opportunity to take part in Project 613, an educational and outreach effort of Congregation Etz Chaim of Bentonville. The congregation is restoring a 200-year-old Torah that was taken by the Nazis during the Holocaust and warehoused in Prague. The congregation has been holding educational and letter writing fundraising events, and the scroll and scribe will be at the festival.

The festival will include traditional Jewish foods: corned beef sandwiches, kosher hot dogs, cabbage rolls, blintzes, kugel and more, as well as homemade Jewish treats including rugelach, babka, challah, and chocolate-covered matzah. Israeli dishes, such as falafel, hummus, and Israeli salad, will also be available.

Visitors are invited to bring a bag of non-perishable food items to donate to the Arkansas Foodbank.

The festival will also feature booths on Jewish and Israeli culture. At the ever-popular Ask-the-Rabbi booth, visitors can learn about Judaism itself, from Jewish holidays to life-cycle customs. At a replica of the Western Wall, visitors can leave a note of prayer, just as people do at the actual wall in Jerusalem. Judaica, jewelry, and other gift items created by local Jewish artists will be on display and for sale. Inflatables and other activities will be available for kids.

Entertainment throughout the day will include contemporary and traditional Jewish music by local and regional musicians.

The Jewish Food and Cultural Festival brings together the Jewish communities from throughout the state of Arkansas who take pride in sharing their traditions with others. “It is incredible how our Jewish community volunteers come together to make the Festival happen,” explained Marianne Tettlebaum, JFAR Executive Director. “We are so excited to share and celebrate our food and culture with the broader community.”

Proceeds from the festival go to benefit the Federation’s work in the community, which includes allocations to Jewish and non-Jewish charitable organizations, financial assistance to Jews in need, scholarships and other resources for Jewish children and families, and funds to support charitable work in Israel.

Tzedakah Boxes will be located throughout the stadium for people to deposit tickets they purchased but did not use; proceeds from the boxes will be divided among local charities that the Federation supports.

War Memorial Stadium has ample free parking, indoor concourse locations for food booths and shopping, and the opportunity for kids to run around on the football field.