A few years ago, two Jewish couples in Israel were discussing the mad rush for trinkets (flags, keychains and more) that are given out by thousands of Christian marchers to parade watchers along the route of the Jerusalem March during Sukkot. Northern Shomron (Samaria) resident Naomi Weiss said to her friends Gabi and Shmuel Tair, “They came all this way to support Israel. We should be giving them stuff!”
United in agreement, the couples brought some boxes of traditional Jewish rugalech to give out to marchers. The kosher pastries went quickly and were much appreciated.
The next year, they made the switch from rugelach to cookies and Cookies for Christians was born. “Shmuel Tair, my friend who started [the project], liked the alliteration of Cookies for Christians,” Weiss told Breaking Israel News. “If we had a really good budget, I would give them water.”
Although the Tair family relocated to the U.S., the project moves forward under the leadership of Naomi Weiss and her husband Simcha Herring, who live 90 minutes north of Jerusalem with their first child.
At this year’s Jerusalem March, the couple led a team of 15 people who handed out 1,500 cookies over an intense two-hour period. Weiss pointed out that they buy a specific brand of Israeli sandwich cookies because they are embossed with a smile.
The Cookies for Christians project is privately funded. “Sometimes people offer to help,” Weiss said. “But it’s our family’s thing.”
Now that the Weiss-Herrings have a toddler, “It’s taken on a new dimension as parents. We want to teach our son the lessons of expressing gratitude, having good manners and representing Israel in a good way.”
Weiss feels that the Jerusalem March, when thousands of Christians come to Israel to show their support, is a particular bright spot. “When things are very dark, it’s very reaffirming of my faith in humanity. People really love us,” she said.
Handing out cookies allows marchers to have what Weiss calls “bite-size human interactions. It feels good to acknowledge the love and to reciprocate it.”
Besides cookies, Weiss and Herring try to say a few words in the language of as many of the marchers as they can. They look for specific national flags and say “Thank you for coming!” in Dutch, Polish, Slovak, Danish, Portuguese and Spanish. “We try to catch them, but they move kind of fast,” Weiss explained.
The couple is able to have more meaningful conversations with the English speakers, including those from Ireland, Scotland and the US. “We would like to have more real interactions [with the Christians who are visiting] before the parade. That would be a goal,” Weiss noted. After the March, she researches the organizations that sponsored trinkets to thank them and to try to make connections.
They would also like to grow the project with more Jews participating and more cookies handed out. The team would welcome, “More of a showing from our contingent [to say] that we’re thankful and we appreciate them and we welcome them.” Weiss told Breaking Israel News that she is aware of other small efforts from Jews, including other groups giving away candies independently.
Asked to comment about the significance of Cookies for Christians, Weiss said, “First and foremost, it’s just human decency to say thank you. Jews are very wary of Christians, especially evangelicals. We all need to be better educated about each other.
“Gratitude is part of Judaism. Jews are in constant dialog with God, thanking Him.
I will extol Hashem‘s name with song, and exalt Him with praise. Psalms 69:31
“When we talk about the meeting of two cultures, it’s handy to have something that can be appreciated by both cultures.”
Cookies for Christians can be reached through their Facebook page.