Fun with food

Shekel College hopes to screen its cooking show produced by special-needs students on Ynet and Community TV.

Moshe Segev (photo credit: Courtesy)
Moshe Segev
(photo credit: Courtesy)
There are quite a few wonderful organizations around the country that do their utmost to support and enhance the lives of people with special needs. Jerusalem-based Shekel is one of them and has, since its founding in 1979, made a concerted effort to help thousands of children and adults with physical, mental and emotional disabilities to live as independently as they can and to work, study and integrate into the community.
Among its avenues of assistance is Shekel College, which offers people of all ages the opportunity to acquire knowledge and skills in a wide range of areas – from learning how to be a professional DJ to producing graphic designs, and from studying English, Arabic or Hebrew to getting a handle on the mysteries of carpentry or learning how to produce some delicious culinary creations.
The latter, says Nurit Shroitman, is a natural choice and something we can all relate to.
“There is no one who doesn’t eat, so food is something we all share,” she says, “especially in this part of the world.”
One of Shekel’s most successful courses is the media and radio program, which teaches the students how to express themselves to the world and how to listen more actively and acquire the tools that will enable them to express themselves more clearly.
The evidence of the rewards of participation in the course was there for all to see at an event that took place at the Jerusalem Cinematheque last week, moderated by iconic TV news presenter Haim Yavin, at an outstanding Shekel worker awards ceremony. The idea for the annual event was initiated by TV producer and scriptwriter Gideon Drori, who died eight years ago.
In addition to the kudos presentation, the Cinematheque program included screenings of three films made by Shekel media students – We Are on the Screen, in which the Shekel students get in on the action at Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team’s Nokia Stadium; Ein Yael in the Eye of the Camera, about Shekel’s agricultural activities; and Cooking a Show with Sivan Cohen.
Shroitman, who initiated the Cooking a Show with Sivan Cohen series and serves as its editor, says the cooking venture has, like a good pot of hamin, taken time to come to fruition.
“I have been working on this for two years,” she says. “You have to get all the equipment together and the props and the budget and, of course, to train the people how to use a camera and get a TV studio running smoothly. We are not [TV companies] Keshet or Reshet. Everything is new here and happening for the very first time.”
Shroitman says she was very moved when the first show came together, with a group of Shekel students, including Sivan Cohen, Josh Aharonson and Yoram Kahan – as host, cameraman-production assistant and host-cameraman, respectively – ruling the roost. Shekel has a number of willing collaborators in the project, including the Shalem Fund and the Kagan Center in Katamon, and the series is produced as part of the Yotzeh Mihaklal (Extraordinary) community television program under the aegis of the Shekel Si’im, with Emmanuel Shen acting as head producer.
The idea for the Cooking a Show with Sivan Cohen started stewing a while back.
“Shekel has had a show running for the last 12 years – I have been involved for the last eight years – in which people make shows about themselves, about what they do with their lives,” Shroitman explains. “Shekel has 80 apartments in Jerusalem, and we went from apartment to apartment and thought about what we could shoot. Then we saw that they all took turns making meals, and then they sat down together to share a meal every day. I wish all families in Israel had that time together on a daily basis.”
Part of the thinking behind Cooking a Show with Sivan Cohen was to make cooking more user-friendly for the members of the Shekel community.
“They have all these cooking shows on TV, and no one really understands how to follow the recipes and instructions, so I thought it would be nice to have our own show with easy and fun explanations of how to make the dishes,” continues Shroitman. “Food is a common denominator among everyone, regardless of what you do in life.”
True to Shekel’s ethos, Shroitman says one of the main ideas behind the series was to create an interface behind the organization’s students and professionals and people from the general public.
“We thought we’d use food as a means of bringing the so-called regular population together with people with special needs. Let’s show the world that our guys know how to cook too, and they also enjoy food and know how to laugh and have a good time, and also show the public what it means to have special needs,” she says.
That certainly comes through in Cooking a Show with Sivan Cohen which, thus far, has featured a string of top gastronomists, including Moshe Segev and Ezra Kedem, with Tzahi Buchsester lined up for a forthcoming show.
“I started calling around, to see which well-known chefs we could get to come on the show, and they were all so enthusiastic and warm,” says Shroitman. “And all the Shekel guys do a great job, too.
Sivan does a great job of hosting the show – it was very important for me to have her name in the title of the program – and they are all consummate professionals.
The idea was for each of them to take a role which they felt they could manage well and become a real professional in it.”
They have all made great strides.
“I didn’t really think, when I came on board eight years ago, that I would reach a situation in which I sit in another room and give them instructions, like: ‘Josh, go for a close-up,’ and they get on with it,” admits Shroitman. “It is very gratifying.”
The show with Buchsester will be the fourth to date, and Shroitman says they are fast approaching critical mass.
“When we have six shows done, we’ll get them on to the Community TV channel and, hopefully, Ynet too. I want to do another series with them,” she says.
Shroitman has more ideas in the pipeline. “I want to do a series with Jerusalem chefs, too. I think that is also important because Shekel is a Jerusalembased organization.”
The series initiator says she was insistent on having the infrastructure in place that would enable the Shekel participants to produce the goods.
“When I talked to all sorts of authorities about getting us a proper TV studio, there were some who said things like ‘You can shoot the show at the Shekel apartments’ or ‘You can film it at the chefs’ restaurants; you don’t need your own studio.’ I found that belittling, and I didn’t want to make do with anything less than professional standards. We eventually got our studio, and I think that you can see and feel that professionalism, as well as the sense of fun,” she says.
For more information about Shekel: 672- 0157 and