Despite the fact that food is something so social, editing and writing a food blog can sometimes be a lonely pursuit. For the past four-and-some years, I had the privilege of bouncing ideas, digging into food trends and swapping food “gossip” with JFE® director Paul Entis, who left his position in August after many fruitful and delicious events and accomplishments.
If you attended any JFE® events over the past few years, you probably encountered Paul’s smiling face and buoyant personality. What you may not know, though, is that Paul is JFE® incarnate: On the one hand, he has decades of nonprofit and development experience, much of it in the Jewish world at organizations like Avodah: The Jewish Service Corps and the USC Hillel; on the other hand, he is a true foodie, and several years before joining JFE®, he took some time off to do a chef apprenticeship at the Fells Point Marriott. If there’s anyone who understands the intersection of food and the Jewish organizational world, it’s Paul.
When you speak to Paul, you get a sense that the wheels in his brain are constantly spinning. Sure, food brings us together, but Paul is always thinking of particularly creative and unique ways to do that and the right partners with whom to do it.
Among the events he thought up and developed were: the super-popular Latke-Palooza and Pre-Purim-Palooza (both at EatWell’s DC Commissary restaurant), which brought out people in droves to eat the Chanukah latkes and Purim hamantashen—particularly innovative takes on them at that—that people often don’t have time to labor over at home; cooking demos at Whole Foods Markets with local star chefs Todd Gray, Amy Brandwein and Mike Friedman; and book signings and tastings (because, really, shouldn’t all cookbook signings come with tastings?) by Joan Nathan, Paula Shoyer, Cathy Barrow and Danielle Frum at Moti’s Market.
Young DC transplants don’t always know where to go for holidays? He developed a series of eminently accessible Erev Rosh Hashanah dinners and first-night seders at Logan Tavern, The Heights and Equinox.
Locals aren’t familiar with the area markets and farmers? He created the popular Behind the Booth series offering guided Central Farm Markets tours.
Interfaith families don’t know where they fit into the Jewish community? He partnered with key movers and shakers, including PJ Library and Marion Usher’s Love and Religion, to put together the chef-catered PopUp series of Shabbat dinners and Havdalah celebrations at the hip Wonder Bread Factory downtown.
More significantly, when it comes to food, Paul is one of those people who sees not just the full plates, but also the plates that could be full—that is, of those who don’t have enough. At JFE®, he put together programs like the always-sold-out volunteer events at N Street Village and Cooking with Seconds, in which prepared food was donated to Nourish Now. But if you know Paul, you know that it’s not uncommon to find him at food-focused volunteer events put on by other organizations during his spare time, too. And he put the gears in motion for many of the important “Food & Justice” articles—about organizations doing crucial work to fight hunger, reduce waste and repair the world through kindness to the environment and our fellow living creatures—that appear on the JFE® website.
Paul, we wish you a delicious path ahead. We’ll miss you!
Words of Praise for Paul from JFE® Friends
Paul Entis will be dearly missed by N Street Village staff and clients. He was invested in creating both a delicious meal for the community and a positive experience for the Jewish Food Experience® volunteers. The women who visit with us on the weekends always look forward to the fresh fruit, waffles and new twists on healthy eating. Clients remark that they do no miss the fat calories because Paul really puts the zest in healthy food! We are grateful for his enthusiasm and sharing our mission with our Jewish neighbors.
– Heidi Gauthier, Associate Director of Corporate Partnerships and Volunteerism at N Street Village
Paul has an incredible curiosity about and passion for Jewish food. But most admirably, as I could see from my years working on events and articles with him, he understands the potential of Jewish food traditions to reach, engage and unite the Jewish community. He worked tirelessly to tap the potential of everyone working in and writing about food in the region and deploy the power of those ideas and wonderful foods to make a more vibrant community. What a great gift he’s given us during his highly successful time leading JFE®.
– Marcia Friedman, author of Meatballs and Matzah Balls and member of the JFE® Advisory Council
Anyone working in the field of Jewish engagement will tell you we spend much of our professional lives helping Jews find their place at the table of Jewish life. Love text study? Got that. Enjoy Jewish music? Concert on Sunday! But, food…food brings us all to the table. Quite literally, it is the Jewish experience we all consume. Paul Entis turned the kitchen into a beit midrash. He brought creative genius, tremendous personal warmth and the determination to always, always find room for one more at the table.
– Cookie Mandell, Director of Membership Engagement at Temple Rodef Shalom
Paul and I first met a decade ago when I was an Avodah corps member here in DC. At the time, he was working in their local offices wearing many, many hats. My most vivid memories of orientation week are actually of cooking with Paul during our retreat and him patiently demonstrating to us the most efficient way to cut a bell pepper. I had been cooking for many years by then and recall being very impressed. It’s a culinary skill I still employ today, and I am certain playing chef to a group of 18 20-somethings was not in his official job description. Even so, his culinary passion was obvious.
A few years later when I myself joined the staff of Avodah, Paul readily shared his experience with me and became an invaluable resource and mentor. It was a sincere compliment to be asked by Paul to contribute to the JFE® blog social justice section. I am always happy and grateful on the occasions our paths cross—whether in Jewish, culinary, social justice or overlapping circles. Paul is a natural connector. He has a true knack for bringing people together and is one of the most talented hosts I’ve met. His brunches are top-notch events! The future holds infinite delicious possibilities for Paul, and I can’t wait to see where we meet each other next!
– Jane Yamaykin, blogger at JFE®
What to say about Paul Entis? That’s easy. If you don’t know the definition of a mensch, you should just think about Paul. Of course, he’s a person of honor and integrity and working with him has been a complete joy. But more than that, he’s the guy you look to when you want to know how to treat others, and in my world, that’s the highest compliment one can offer.
– Laura Kumin, author of Hamilton: The Cookbook and blogger at MotherWouldKnow and JFE®