Blog  NFTY-PAR: Cooking With PAR

NFTY-PAR: Cooking With PAR

By Ali Petok, RSTY Advisor

I felt so lucky when a few months ago the NFTY-PAR Advisor Amanda Wachstein, asked me to teach a cooking chug (club) at the most recent PAR event, Hag/Mac.  The NFTY-PAR Board knows I love to cook so they definitely tapped into the right person to group lead.  After debating for a while which way I wanted to go (so many recipes to choose from!) I decided to make two healthy twists on kid favorites to play to the theme of youthfulness that weekend, PAR’s Playground.

As a team, a group of PARites, dedicated staff members, and I all cooked up quinoa mac n’ cheese and a summer three berry crisp.  Although a few of the teens verbalized their disappointment that we weren’t making anything with chocolate, or concern over what exactly quinoa is, everyone loved the dishes we created—and ate every last bite!  Working together I could see instant friendships forming and old friends bonding over a new memory; we cooked quickly and had time to enjoy both the savory and sweet while discussing our favorite foods and family traditions.


At the beginning of the session while explaining the two recipes, I talked to the group of teens about how healthy eating is important to me but that I still like to indulge (hence mac n’ cheese and a dessert).  I also discussed why cooking is important to me: as a teenager I spent a week-long trip in Florida learning all our most important family recipes from my grandmother.  Now that she has been gone for a few years, I am the matzoh ball soup maker every Passover.  On Passover, and every time I cook really, my grandmother is still with me because she taught me everything—the “right” way to chop, stir, and make really delicious soup.

As a former NFTYite myself, every event I get to attend as the RSTY Advisor is such a pleasure that’s full of nostalgia.  After the closing event of the year, Spring Kallah, feeling especially nostalgic I reached out to some of my closest friends from my time in NFTY-MAR.  10 years have passed and some of us have lost touch, but the bond we shared remains and I am reminded of it at every PAR event I attend.  My friend Jonah Perlin summed up the magic of our time in NFTY perfectly:  “We may not be in touch like we once were, but each of you will always be with me by virtue of being my closest friends during those formative years.”


Just as my grandmother’s soup brings her to my mind, the joy of spending time with PAR will always bring my NFTY experience to mind.  Even better, several of the PARites (and current Board members!) were my former campers at Camp Harlam.  Watching them grow over the years has been an incredible experience, truly embodying the concept of L’Dor Vador, from generation to generation.  Congratulations to the NFTY-PAR Board on planning a wonderful first event for the next generation of PARites and good luck on this whirlwind journey!