The Latke Ball: “Jews having fun with other Jews.”
Posted by archangelinamerica on January 10, 2009
“Jews having a lot of fun with lots of other Jews,” was a comment the summarized this year’s Latke Ball. The annual party, now in its 12th year took place at San Francisco’s Ruby Skye and this year’s celebration beat last years in all arenas by a wide margin despite the challenging economic times.
For those of you not in the “in the know” the Latke Ball is the annual Hanukkah party thrown by the Bay Area’s Jewish Federation. The party is the year’s major fundraiser for Young Adult programming for the San Francisco Federation whose territory stretches from the Peninsula up to Napa. The event is organized by volunteers from the Young Adult Board of the Federation with support from Federation staff. This year, the festivities were spearheaded by Nathaniel Malka and Alexis Kershner. And although this was their first year planning the event, they drew a larger crowd and raised more money than last year’s event did.
This year, the organizers wanted to spice up the event while also being more inclusive. In previous years, a VIP event was organized during the ball for members of the Ben Gurion Society (BGS). This year, anyone could buy admission to the VIP event for an additional $20. And BGS members were admitted to the VIP event for free. VIPs were treated to an array of deserts, champagne and other spirits. It was also possible for groups to purchase a table in the VIP area. Few people took advantage of this option this year, but there is hope that this option will be available again in future years. It offered a good savings and an area to relax and leave your things. People who did get the table spoke of it as being a good deal and one of the reasons they chose to attend this year. The only criticism was the lack of separation. Some disappointment was expressed that as the night went on, anyone who wanted was wandering into the seating area.
The adjustments to this year’s Latke Ball appear to have had a big pay off. The total attendance was roughly 1000 people. That brought in revenue which beat out previous records by 17%. Profits however went up by 23% due to excellent cost cutting measures. One of the methods of cost cutting was the securing of the largest number of sponsors the event has ever seen including financial and in-kind donations. Most notable among these sponsors was the new organic kosher Prairie Vodka which was poured from a beautiful sculpture shaped like a large ice dreidel. Those who attended the VIP event were treated to a tasting of the beverage which was available for purchase for the rest of the crowd.
In the spirit of the holiday season, they also wanted to include tzedakkah. They included the charitable theme in the name of the event: Party 4 a Purpose on the 4th Night of Chanukah. Donations were made to Camp Tawonga to fully fund the summer programs for multiple children.
Given the great success of this years event, it seems like it went off without a hitch. There were a few unexpected roadbumps along the way though. Most notable, was a record number of Chanukah events organized in the Bay Area, many for the same night providing an unprecedented level of competition. The Matzah Ball was orignally scheduled to take place just around the corner from The Latke Ball. J-Date had partnered with LetMyPeopleGo. The Matzah Ball and Heebonism were also scheduled. With all the competition, Latke Ball was hoping to get enough attendance to have a good event. They hoped to have the biggest and best event and they blew the competition out of the water. The day before the Latke Ball, LetMyPeopleGo cancelled their event and gave an unsolicited reccomendation for their planned attendees to go the the Latke Ball instead. The Matzah Ball relocated to Berkeley. Heebonism still took place at The Make Out Room in the Mission. So the organizers of the Latke Ball deserve a big Tov Me’od for their success.
I spoke to several attendees over the course of the night and all comments were positive. Furthermore, those who had attended during previous years said this year’ss event was bigger, better, louder and more fun than last years event. Most first timers I spoke with said they came because friends had reccomended the event and came with them. Unfortunately, I sliced my finger open during a latke preparation earlier in the evening and missed the VIP event. I did speak to a couple of people who had reserved a table though. One of the things they suggested was that tables be marketed to married couples. The event is primarily part of the singles scene. However, the tables provide a place for groups to gather who are not interested in finding their next date. For those that did want to find a date though, there were plenty of attendees. Although I came alone, I ran into several friends from my past and my old youth group advisor. And I even managed to meet a few new people. And knowing me, that is no small accomplishment. Overall, the evening was a rousing success.
If you attended, please consider leaving a comment below. Tell us how you felt about the event. If you attended multiple years, how did this year compare with last year? Did you like the vodka? Will you go again? Do you have any suggestions for future years? And most importantly, did you get anyone’s phone number? Organizers are eagerly awaiting you response.