ELYRIA — Shortly after walking into Temple B’nai Abraham on Sunday morning, guests were greeted by a trio of ladies who thanked each guest for coming and asked one seemingly benign question:
“Are you hungry?”
Food was definitely plentiful — Bialy’s Bagels brought in fresh from Cleveland, lox and homemade noodle kugel — but there also was something else just as plentiful at this community event that has been a favorite for more than 25 years.
As the clock ticked on, politicians — both those who will face opposition come Tuesday and those who will not — walked through the door. Just as Elyrians know the bagel brunch is the best place to get an all-you-can-eat spread, they also know that with its date always being the last Sunday before the general election, it is a perennial stop for politicians on the campaign trail.
“Coming here has always been on my list of things to do,” said Chuck Martin, a Democrat hoping to unseat an incumbent and secure an at-large seat on Elyria City Council. “I came today on the urging of a friend who knows how much I’ve enjoyed campaigning and meeting new people.”
Martin, 60, said his inaugural campaign has taught him a lot about the “secret society” that sometimes is a part of Elyria politics. Knocking on doors and shaking hands were things that he knew were par for the course, but making sure to show up at the Apple Festival each September or the annual Kiwanis Halloween festival is the kind of inside information he has been lucky to glean from veterans in the city.
“But with each event that I show up at, I learn that Elyria is full of people who want to see the city prosper, and I’m hoping to be a part of that process, if elected,” he said.
The first bagel brunch in 1976 was just another celebration in a long list of bicentennial celebrations taking place all over the state and country. Embracing the melting pot that America had become over 200 years was seen as a good thing at the time. Over the years, as more people began showing up to the repeat event — an estimated 350 people attended this year — the temple’s congregation saw that it could be a great fundraiser.
“Once people come and eat the food, they always come back, year after year,” said this year’s event chairwoman Priscilla Goldstein. “And, all the politicians are here. So many of them come and go, I can’t name them all.”
While open to everyone, the event is a huge draw for those on Elyria’s ballot — candidates and issue supporters alike. No one is sent invitations to come, nor do they have to sign up for a table.
“They use this to get people in the door,” said Elyria Councilman Mark Craig, I-4th Ward, as he gestured toward a table full of election material. “But at the end of the day, this is a community event where you see residents you sometimes only talk to on the phone. You put a face to a name.”
Congregants of the temple — about 50 local families make up the membership, and they all help out to ensure a successful bagel brunch — don’t mind that their fundraiser is a campaign stop each year.
“They come every year because they want the bagels, just like the rest of us,” said Millie Amelson. “We don’t mind seeing them at all.”