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Hanukkah binge on donuts, donations

An immigrant to Israel is scarfing down ‘sufganiyot’ to raise money for worthy causes

Renee Ghert-Zand is the health reporter and a feature writer for The Times of Israel.

Sufganiyot, the dangerous Hanukkah treat (photo credit: Courtesy of Yissachar Ruas)
Sufganiyot, the dangerous Hanukkah treat (photo credit: Courtesy of Yissachar Ruas)

You wouldn’t know it by looking at him, but the trim Elie Klein has eaten well over 100 sufganiyot (Hanukkah donuts) since the beginning of the Jewish month of Kislev. If all goes according to plan, he will have eaten a total of 125 of the oily, heavy treats by the end of the Festival of Lights.

As much as Klein, a 32-year-old Beit Shemesh resident and immigrant from New York, likes Hanukkah food, he’s not stuffing himself with fried dough only for gustatory enjoyment. He’s doing it for the money — not for himself, but for charity. For every donut Klein consumes, friends, family and complete strangers are committing to make a donation to a non-profit organization of their choice. It’s basically a one-man eat-a-thon.

Klein’s 2012 effort is his third and final fried-food fundraiser, which he’s dubbed Dough for Donuts. “Everyone loves a trilogy,” the donut scarfer told The Times of Israel.

Although Klein loves the year-over-year challenge (he ate 70 in 2010, and 105 in 2011), he doesn’t think he can stomach it anymore.

“It’s gotten tougher. I was younger back when I started this,” said the publicist, who promotes non-profits.

It seems that eating four to six sufganiyot each day for a month is no longer as enjoyable as it once was.

“I don’t feel bad, but it is taxing,” Klein admitted.

From the start of Kislev until the end of Hanukkah, he adjusts his diet to accommodate the 5,000 to 6,000 empty calories per day that accompany all those sufganiyot. He typically eats donuts for breakfast and lunch, and tries to counterbalance them with a dinner heavy on protein and vegetables. It’s a Hanukkah miracle that he has managed to maintain his weight of 147 pounds (67 kilograms).

On his Dough for Donuts page on Facebook, Klein records the variety of sufganiyot he eats. “I stick to the basics for the first two weeks of Kislev,” he reported.

But then, when bakeries and cafés kicked into high gear for Hanukkah, Klein begins experimenting with the increasingly different flavors offered. “I like to sample donuts from all over Israel, but to tell you the truth, I’m really more of a purist. The ones made at small, local bakeries are the best,” he proclaimed. “I’m old-school when it comes to what I like in a sufganiyah.”

Caramel cream may be his favorite type, but the best part of his Hanukkah campaign is the money he raises for charity. Klein is on track to meet his target of 65,000 shekels (roughly $17,140) for this year, which will bring his three-year total to 150,000 shekels, or just under $40,000.

All in all, pretty sweet.

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