IN 2009, Elie Klein placed a gentlemans wager with two neighbors in Bet Shemesh, Israel, to see how many sufganiyot (deep fried, jelly-filled donuts) they could consume between the first day of Kislev and the last day of Chanukah.
”We had a lively debate, updating friends via Twitter and Facebook,” Klein, 31, says from Israel. ”Shamefully, I came in a distant third I only ate 30.”
Undeterred, Klein repeated the sufganiyot challenge the next year. Only this time, one of his wife’s cousins donated $10 to Klein’s charity of choice for each successfully devoured donut.
Before long, sponsorships swelled like sweetly oozing hot raspberries.
A flurry of people signed up on Facebook and Twitter, designating money to their favorite charities.
At the conclusion of Chanukah in 2010, Klein downed his 70th sufganiya with a big powdery grin and generated $9,100 for 44 charitable organizations around the world.
The 2011 Dough for Donuts campaign kicked off Sunday, Nov. 27. It extends through Wednesday, Dec. 28 and may very well tip the calorie-laden financial scales.
In just two days, Klein had gulped seven sufganiyot (three caramel, four jelly) and secured $750 in pledges for 43 charities.
Im pretty confident we can surpass last years total and raise $12,000, he says.
Klein, a nonprofit public relations specialist with the international firm Ruder Finn Israel, is a whiz at social networking chutzpah.
He continually updates his progress on Facebook, which attracts new sponsors (total strangers who want to help others while enjoying some voyeuristic fun) at phenomenal rates.
Dough for Donuts is the 21st-century equivalent to watching college kids of yore pile into a VW Beetle.
But instead of providing mindless laughs, Kleins gastronomical antics are altruistically motivated.
This year, Klein has upped his personal ante by promising to eat “no less than 100 sufganiyot over 31 days,” he says.
WEIGHING in at 160 pre-sufganiyot pounds, Klein is unconcerned about digesting an estimated 800 calories per donut (yes, you read that correctly).
”I’m blessed with a good metabolism,” he says.” I actually lost two pounds after eating 70 sufganiyot last year. I also watch what I eat: leafy greens throughout the day, plenty of water, dinners that are high in protein.”
”I’m very busy at work, so walking is my workout.”
During the Chanukah season, Israeli street vendors and bakeries offer a prolific range of sufganiyot, from the traditional raspberry jellyfilled variety to chocolate, caramel, vanilla custard and contemporary twists.
”There’s a pretty wide selection,” Klein admits, “but I like the caramel the best. However, I intentionally eat several different kinds during the campaign so I wont get sick of the caramel ones.”
Klein, who was born and raised in Baltimore, worked in New York for eight years before making aliyah with his wife Leezy in 2008.
Fortunately, their two sons — one is almost five years old, the other two-and-a-half — have age-appropriate appetites.
”They’re little guys, so its hard for them to finish an entire donut per sitting,” he laughs.
THE organizations on the receiving end of sufganiyot-inspired charity are an eclectic bunch, says Klein, who names a few to illustrate their diversity.
Theres Atzum, dedicated to social justice; Aleh, Israels largest network of facilities for severely disabled children; the Koby Mandell Foundation; Chai Lifeline.
A brief perusal of Dough for Donuts Facebook page on Nov. 28 reveals an incredible span of charities and donation amounts:
2 NIS per sufganiya to Lemaan Achai of RBS; 3 NIS per donut to the Old City of Jerusalem Charity Fund; $1 for each to Gift of Life from the Elmans; 1 NIS per sufganiya to build our local shul (in Modiin). Thats around 10,000 calories per pixel; $1/sufganiya to the Mt. Sinai Jewish Center; 4 shekels per donut to Likrat Kallah Bet Shemesh.
Sponsors have also earmarked tongue-in-cheek donations for the Israeli Diabetes Association and Overeaters Anonymous.
”One of the beauties of being on Facebook is that you learn quite a bit about human nature,” Klein says.
For example, individuals frequently participate in walks and marathons to help cure diseases or benefit the nonprofit sector.
”But they all tend to meld together on Facebook,” he says. “And when a fundraiser becomes a nuisance, people stop paying attention.
“Dough for Donuts works because its unusual and entertaining,” Klein says. ”It holds your attention for 31 days. Complete strangers join the ranks of sponsors because they just had to get in on the fun.”
And the proceeds do not go to a single charity or cause. “I’m not asking anyone to do that. I’m simply asking people to give.
“Everyone has a cause or charity they believe in. This campaign is an excuse for them to finally open their wallets and support these organizations.”
Visit Klein’s site to monitor the progress of Dough for Donuts or to become a sponsor.
Copyright © 2011 by the Intermountain Jewish News