Supper With Syria Fundraiser Raises Funds for Refugees

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Chef Ali and Chef Sanjiz hold their dishes that will be available at Supper With Syria
Chef Ali and Chef Sanjiz hold their dishes that will be available at Supper With Syria

Many of us were moved by the image of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, washed up on a Turkish beach. Supper With Syria is one way Torontonians can help Syrian refugees. Organized by residents of Ward 21 and other partners, Supper With Syria is a fundraising dinner on November 29, 2015 to raise money for two Syrian families to settle in Toronto with the support of Lifeline Syria. Taking place at Artscape Wychwood Barns, the evening will showcase the rich culture of Syria, highlighting the country’s traditions and culinary dishes.

Chef Ali and Chef Sanjiz hold their dishes that will be available at Supper With Syria
Chef Ali and Chef Sanjiz hold their dishes that will be available at Supper With Syria

Supper With Syria features four Syrian and Canadian chefs, who will prepare traditional Syrian dishes and share personal stories of home cooking and culinary traditions. Guests will enjoy sampling from eight food stations, along with beverage stations featuring Syrian drinks. The night will feature live music, art, and a silent auction of Syrian artifacts.

When asked how the event materialized, organizer Sang Kim said, “Inna Gertsberg [Co-organizer of the event] and I felt a real need to do something about the Syrian refugee crisis. Inna’s family were refugees themselves from Russia, so seeing the images flooding the media touched a deep nerve in her. Neither one of us are Syrian, so we brought Lara Zahabi on board…The three of us…put a plan together to bring two Syrian refugee families and re-settle them in Toronto’s Ward 21, where Inna resides.”

Horra' Osba'o, a potage of lentils and onions with coriander, garlic and fried dough
Horra’ Osba’o, a potage of lentils and onions with coriander, garlic and fried dough

“Each dish (eight of them) will be served canape style, therefore guests will have an opportunity to sample all eight,” says Kim. “Amal Khalili is doing a dish called Sheesh Barak (Meat Dumplings cooked in Yogurt). Her non-Syrian chef partner, Bashir Munye from My Little Dumplings, is doing his own inspired version of the same dish,” she adds.

Lara Zahabi-Bekdash notes that Syrian food “has been influenced by all the cultures and the civilizations that passed through Syria, from pre-historic civilizations, to Phoenicians, Egyptians, Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, Persians, Arabs, Turks and French among others.” Zahabi-Bekdash notes that Syrian cuisine varies across Syria with the western and coastal region of the country featuring Mediterranean, seasonal, vegetable-based dishes while the eastern desert region of Syria leans towards preserves, yogurt, and meaty dishes.

Syrian burger with lentils, zucchini, beef on Smoked Red Beet dip with cilantro, red onion, cucumber and avocado on flatbread
Syrian burger with lentils, zucchini, beef on Smoked Red Beet dip with cilantro, red onion, cucumber and avocado on flatbread
Zahabi-Bekdash adds that a typical Syrian meal would include “multiple small dishes of different vegetables,” with meat served as the main dishes and meals would take up to two hours  “reflecting the Syrian culture of hospitality and generosity.”

Gertsberg states, “Supper With Syria is raising $70K to help provide sponsorship funds for two Syrian refugee families. Citizenship and Immigration Canada…requires a Sponsor to have a minimum $29,700 to sponsor a family of five and support them for 12 months. When the families arrive, the funds will…help them pay rent, buy food, clothes, and other necessities.” She clarifies that Supper With Syria doesn’t “expedite” the [settlement] process. Supper With Syria will raise funds and form a core group of sponsors who will be formally responsible for the families’ transition for their first year in Canada.

Justin Trudeau’s new Liberal Government has promised to settle 25,000 Syrian refugees in Canada by January 1, 2016. Community-­based initiatives such as Supper With Syria are helping to assist in the settlement process.

Supper With Syria at Artscape Wychwood Barns, 601 Christie Street, Toronto on Sunday, November 29, 2015 from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Tickets to Supper With Syria are $75 per person and may be purchased by contacting [email protected]