Friday, March 22, 2019

Dinner-Less Dinner’s roots in Chicago go back nearly 100 years

The Foodless Banquet, Drake Hotel, Dec. 21, 1921

     The quicker a published mistake can be corrected, the better.
     That might be an antique attitude, a musty journalistic convention that has outlived its utility in our online wordstorm, too much of which borders on pure hallucination.
     A year ago I wrote about a novel fundraising campaign, the “Dinner-Less Dinner” of The Ark, a Chicago social service agency aiding poor Jews, bringing food to shut ins and such. That costs money, and by collecting money for a dinner that is never held, they do away with the bother and expense of renting a ballroom, warming up chicken fingers, pampering Chaka Khan. They send out a disc of chocolate and a donation card. Supporters get to eat chocolate and do not have to dress up, go downtown, and decide how much to bid on a basket of gourmet pasta and olive oil at the Silent Auction. Everybody wins.  

     Last year I asked where the idea came from; executive director Marc J. Swatez said:
     “It goes back to the 1990s. We had a development director who saw an article about a New York charity that did it.”
     That’s as wrong as a carnival owner saying they got the idea for a Ferris wheel from some ride manufacturer in New York 20 years ago. There’s a richer story, right here in Chicago, as the folks at the Spertus Museum were happy to inform me.

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  1. Great column, great cause. But you must know that coconut shrimp, even as a theory of what one might have at an opulent dinner, would be a no go for any dinner sponsored by The Ark.

    1. Whoops. Funny. Originally it was "chicken fingers." On a second read, I thought I'd go for something more stereotypically charity dinnerish. Wasn't thinking of the Kosher angle.

  2. Sorry, I approve of charity and contribute what I can, but this "dinner-less dinner" concept makes no sense to me. As far as I can tell, it's nothing more than an unnecessarily convoluted form of solicitation. Just send a letter asking for money and leave the notion of dinner out of it.

    1. I agree with Scribe in general.
      However, this particular "dinnerless" event was specifically meant to emphasize the plight of starving Jews in Europe, hence the ministry of giving over actual dining. Brilliant.

  3. The dinner-less diner was a good gimmick, and one shouldn't underestimate it's symbolic value. But why does the cynic in me suspect that many of the attendees moved on to some other high end joint and enjoyed a pricy meal, paid for with funds originally intended for donation to the worth cause?



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