Today’s news:

Forest Hills man enters latke-eating contest

Forest Hills resident Bill Lust will be stuffing himself with as many latkes as he can on television next month to help raise money for a Long Island synagogue that has received thousands of phone calls for financial help this year.

“There are a lot of hungry people we’ll be thinking of and hopefully can help,” said Lust, a security consultant in Queens.

Lust will be one of eight contestants in the first Kosher Latke Eating Contest, which will air as part of the 17th-annual Hanukkah Telethon featured on WLNY-TV from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Dec. 13.

Rabbi Anchelle Perl, who heads the Chabad of Mineola on Long Island, is hosting the telethon, which he hopes will bring in at least $500,000 to support the various charitable programs his synagogue runs. During the four-hour program, individuals may call in their pledges.

“We’ve gotten two and a half thousand phone calls to my office for help,” said Perl, whose congregation includes a large group of Queens residents. “This is the most number of calls we’ve ever gotten, and it’s increasing .%u2026 We’ll quietly pay off people’s food bills, or we’ll deliver a mattress if somebody has had to move out of their apartment.”

The latke contest will take place at around 9 p.m. and those vying for the $360 first place prize will scarf as many sour cream or applesauce latkes as they can.

“I have no idea how many I’ll be able to eat,” Lust said.

Latkes, basically pancakes made with potatoes and eggs, are one of the most common foods eaten during Hanukkah, which is celebrated from Dec. 12 to 19 this year.

“Hannukah is a holiday of lights and miracles and we’ll be celebrating how the efforts of a few made such a huge difference, and today we can all be modern-day Hannukah heroes by bringing hope to so many,” Perl said. “Even a small amount can make such a huge difference.”

Prior to the latke contest, Perl said they will air a wedding ceremony for a “young immigrant family from the former Soviet Union who had a civil marriage but not a Jewish religious one.”

Additionally, the telethon will include music and video pieces of the work members of the chabad do during the year.

“Despite our hardship this year having to deal with an anti-Semitic attack on our shul, we cannot allow cynicism and hatred to dampen our spirits,” Perl said in reference to swastikas being spray-painted on his building in July. “Our goal is to continue helping those who need money due to foreclosures, bankruptcy, job loss and further expand our charitable work.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.

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