How a Syrian Refugee’s NYC Dinners Led to a Cookbook

Mayada Anjari (Photo by Liz Clayman via West Side Rag)

In March 2016, Mayada Anjari and her family arrived in the U.S., welcomed by members of the Rutgers Presbyterian Church’s New Americans Committee on the Upper West Side. The group had sponsored the Syrian refugees and brought the family to their Jersey City apartment where food, clothing and furniture awaited. Six months later, Mayada expressed her gratitude with a home-cooked meal for the volunteers in her apartment. West Side Rag’s Lisa Kava reports that they were so impressed with her cooking, “We thought to organize some fundraisers at the church where Mayada could cook,” said committee chair Nancy Muirhead.

Shortly after, on November 6, 2018, an event called “Dinner with Mayada and Friends” took place at the Rutgers Church. Mayada cooked in the church’s kitchen and the dinner was open to all church members, neighbors and friends. There was plenty of good food and interesting conversation. “The dinner helped build understanding and support for refugees among the community,” explained Dave Mammen, Church Administrator for Rutgers Presbyterian Church.

The event was so successful that it inspired a series of additional dinners, which expanded to other churches and synagogues in Manhattan, according to Mammen.

Some guests suggested that Mayada create a cookbook. With the help of church members and their connections, everything came together in September 2018 with the release of “The Bread and Salt Between Us.”

Kava notes that in the early stages of putting together the cookbook, they ran into an initial hurdle – Mayada cooked from experience, not any written recipes. How did these family recipes end up getting documented? Find out at West Side Rag.

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