Newport This Week

Music and Food Set Mood for Community Meal

Youth helpers, Ben Rushton, Aidan Rushton, Grayson Pimental.

Youth helpers, Ben Rushton, Aidan Rushton, Grayson Pimental.

It was fitting that the volunteers of Touro Synagogue fed the hungry under a giant beech tree that served as a soothing canopy on the front lawn of the United Baptist Church, a mere block away.

And, perhaps, symbolic.

The tree might be two centuries old, an apt metaphor for the affiliation of Jew and Gentile over the centuries. It brought to mind Paul’s analogy in Romans of an olive tree, or theologians who must note that Judaism is the incontrovertible root, while all of the latter Christian denominations are the branches.

Earlier this fall, volunteers from Touro did what they always do on the fifth Tuesday of a month; they fed the hungry, although this time with a flourish of violins, banjos, singers, folksy tunes and the warm embrace of a non-denominational community. The next meal is scheduled for Nov. 29.

“The music was to set the mood,” said organizer, Molly Robinson. “We set tables out there, picnic style, served pizza, ice cream, trying to make it a fun event, a community event.”

The pandemic had reduced previous attempts to takeout, with food distributed in plastic bags, and, as Robinson put it, “Be on your way.”

Before the pandemic, this gathering’s communal spirit was dreamed up by Maxine Bornstein, who could not attend this soiree due to the passing of her mother-in-law. “She deserves the credit,” said Robinson.

On this day, Ari Pimental, age 11, welcomed guests to sit with a song in Hebrew, called Shalom Alesham. “It was part of what we sang in Hebrew School,” she said.

She also sponsored the desserts with money saved from the Tooth Fairy.

Violinists Irene Glasser and Mary Jo Carr followed, as did banjo player Isaac Kardon. Pizza runners Ari, her younger brother, Grayson, brothers Ben and Aidan Ruston, and Alex Goldman served the food and cleaned up.

“We have a wonderful crew here,” said Rabbi Marc Mandel. “They are very passionate, devoted and dedicated. They don’t just want to serve; they provide music, and ambiance, so much more than just food. There is a sense of joy, a sense of beauty.”

Another beautiful sight was the approximately 40 people who partook of the dinner.

“Since COVID . . . this was the first sit-down meal service,” said volunteer Kathryn Rushton. “People are actually excited, which is nice. It is an actual meal again.”

One guest smiled after the dinner and concert, saying, “An outdoor meal and the weather is good, what else do you want?”

Another guest, Andre Gayton, who had arrived in Newport just three days before from California, marveled at the hospitality.

“I thought it was really sweet,” he said. “I liked the music and the community feel and all the vibes. I would like to express my full gratitude for all the kindness and the meal.”

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