The Atlanta Jewish community now officially holds a Guinness World Record after volunteers spent four hours Sunday, June 3, assembling the biggest flag mosaic composed of edible cookies the world has ever seen.
Shortly after noon, Guinness adjudicator Michael Embric made it official: The Israeli flag of blue and white cookies stretched across the floor of Congregation Beth Jacob’s Heritage Hall to celebrate the Jewish state’s 70th birthday was more than 32 percent larger than the cookie flag mosaic created last year in Pakistan to mark that country’s 70th anniversary.
The new standard for cookie flag mosaics is 3,224 feet.
“This is amazing,” Embric said after the cheers died down from the crowd standing close to the walls around the room in the Toco Hills shul. “It looks so good, and it smells so good.”
The cookie mosaic also is doing good. People sponsoring cookies for $10 each have contributed more than $103,000 to the Cookies for Israel project, and donations continue to be accepted at www.cookiesforisrael.org. With donations coming in from around the world, Cookies for Israel has the potential to raise more than $1 million but is aiming for $200,000.
Because other donors are covering the costs of setting the record, every dollar raised will be shared by three nonprofit organizations in Israel: United Hatzalah, the volunteer emergency medical service, which answers more than 1,000 calls a day; OneFamily Fund, which supports victims of terrorism; and the Jewish Agency’s Partnership2Gether program, which helps immigrant communities in the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta’s partnership region of Yokneam.
The flag used about 117,000 cookies, all of which are being donated to charities to be eaten.
Second Helpings Atlanta, an official food rescue partner of the Atlanta Community Food Bank, was the largest local nonprofit organization partnering with Cookies for Israel, and its volunteer drivers picked up roughly 60,000 cookies for distribution to the Toco Hills Community Alliance, Malachi’s Storehouse, North Fulton Community Charities, Community Assistance Center, Mary Hall Freedom House, UHope and Atlanta City Baptist Rescue Mission.
Rabbi Yitz Tendler, the executive director of Beth Jacob and the man who hatched the idea in April in the backroom of The Spicy Peach with Matt Lewis and Jodi Wittenberg, said the project couldn’t have happened without the immediate support of the four pillars of the project: Allen and Judy Lipis; Malcolm and Betty Minsk; the Williams family; and an anonymous donor.
Scores of volunteers wearing plastic over their hands, feet and hair placed the cookies on a plastic sheet with the flag pattern. The VIPs in attendance included former DeKalb County CEO Liane Levetan, who helped the project with a logistical matter, and Ambassador Judith Varnai Shorer, Israel’s consul general to the Southeast, who placed the final cookies in the mosaic exactly five weeks after some 4,000 people gathered at Park Tavern in Midtown for Jewish Atlanta’s official Israel@70 celebration.
Like that community event, the cookie flag serves as symbol of the close bonds between Atlanta and Israel: Rabbi Tendler said the state of Israel will be added to the Atlanta Jewish community as the official recordholders.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Shorer said about the cookie mosaic. She told the story of the Israeli troops who captured Eilat 70 years ago, only to find they had no flag. So they made one out of a white cloth and blue ink.
“We didn’t dream of having a flag made out of cookies,” she said. “Eilat is ours, but the cookies are also ours. I salute you, and I’m happy to be part of the cookies.”
Photos by Eli Gray