SCRANTON — The food was so good at the Jewish Food Festival at Nay Aug Park Sunday, that most of it ran out in just over an hour.
People waited in long lines for traditional Jewish favorites such as stuffed cabbage and potato knishes, as well as Israeli food including falafel and shwarama.
As she waited in line, Jennifer Dolphin, 34, of Scranton said she’s been eating a lot of Middle East and Mediterranean food since becoming a vegan five months ago. “I became a vegan for health reasons, and I’ve never looked back.” said Dolphin. “My health has improved significantly.”
The event, sponsored by the Jewish Discovery Center featured a stand-up comedy performance by “Modi,” a former Wall Street investment banker. Modi was recently honored as one of the top ten comedians in New York City and was lauded as “the next Jackie Mason” by the New York Times.
Dressed in dark jeans and a blazer, the two large fans stationed at opposite ends of a large white tent did little to cool off the comedian, who complained of the humidity. “Comedy Central, HBO, the Tonight Show and Scranton — this is how I planned my career,” he cracked.
“I lived for three years in California,” said Modi. “I had a TV project that didn’t get picked up; that’s why I’m working in a tent behind a parking lot between two squirrels and a guy walking around in shorts.” The crowd roared as he proceeded to yell at the shorts-clad man who was fumbling through the rows trying to find a seat.
Born Mordechai Rosenfeld, Modi continued to entertain the audience with hilarious recounts of his traditional Jewish upbringing in New York and the variety of stand-up gigs throughout his career.
“I feel like I’m on a cruise ship,” he said as he pointed out the many young families with children in the audience. Modi spared no one from his hurling insults. He took a long pause and as he watched a young, chatty girl carrying a plate of chicken wings and trying to decide where she wanted to sit.
“You gotta be quiet and let me get through this,” he told the girl. “Then I can jump in front of a car.”
This was the first year the annual event has been held outside, said organizer Rabbi Benny Rapoport, adding that it had been held previously at venues such as the Scranton Cultural Center, the Hilton and Lackawanna College.
Rapoport said that although 300 people bought food tickets in advance, he wasn’t prepared for the over 800 that showed up. “We sold out of everything,” he said.
“This is a sign that the community wants great and rich programming. Nearly three quarters of the attendees were not part of the Jewish community,” he pointed out. “This is a real cross cultural event. “It brings out people from all walks of life.”