Elie Klein digs into a donut
Elie Klein digs into a donutCourtesy

Elie Klein is no Homer Simpson, but he can pack away donuts – especially if it's for a good cause. And this year, the third in a row, Elie plans on eating no fewer than 100 “sufganiyot” - Israeli-style filled donuts to raise money for dozens of causes. With donuts the traditional Chanukah food in Israel – donuts are fried in oil, reminding us of the Chanukah oil miracle – Elie began his gustatory gambit last Sunday, at the beginning of the Hebrew month of Kislev – giving him a bit more than a month to consume no fewer than 100 donuts, which he aims to to accomplish by the end of Chanukah.

If you like donuts – and Klein does – it's a dream come true. “A few years ago, “a few of my neighbors and I made a gentlemen's bet regarding who could eat the most sufganiyot between Rosh Chodesh Kislev and the end of Chanukah,” says Baltimore-born Elie Klein. “We turned it into a contest, updating our Twitter and Facebook statuses to 'keep score. I joked with my wife that I was eating so many sufganiyot that someone should sponsor me.”

And so they did, with friends and neighbors sponsoring Klein for each donut he eats – with friends, neighbors, relatives, and people who heard about him donating over the internet, via his Facebook page. Sponsors contributed from NIS 10 to $10 per donut and more – and when it was all over, Klein's “Dough for Donuts” program raised NIS 32,788.60 (roughly $9,100) for 44 causes and charities around the world.

The causes Klein is eating for include a panoply of social service and educational organizations in Israel and the U.S., including MDA, Zaka, Aleh, Lema'an Achai, the Koby Mandell Foundation, Chai Lifeline, NCSY, and many others. Donors can name their own causes, or let Klein pick one for them. Either way, all the money is donated – Klein pays for the donuts out of his own pocket.

Can he do it? Well, 100 is a lot of donuts – but Elie already has a track record. Last year he ate 70 – and as of Wednesday night, he was already up to seven (6 caramel, 6 jelly, 1 vanilla; you can keep track of his progress on his Facebook page).

The worst part, though, is the aftermath. Not for him, but for those who were expecting him to blow up like a balloon. “I was blessed with a crazy metabolism, which apparently thought it was starving as I was eating donuts last year – and as a result, I actually lost a kilo!” Needless to say, friends and neighbors – especially those who have been gaining a bit of weight without the fun of donut-eating – weren't too happy about that.

But they've forgiven him and are willing to give him another chance this year – eating more donuts and raising more money. “In just a few days I got 50 sponsors for 75 causes, raising NIS 8,000. I believe we can reach and exceed this year's goal of NIS 45,000,” Klein says.

Not only is donut-eating for charity a fun way to raise money – it's unique, which is a big part of the appeal of his drive. “Everyone has friends who are running in marathons, cycling, bowling or walking to raise money for causes they believe in,” Klein says. “While these are all fantastic initiatives, the problem is that they all tend to meld together after a while, especially on Facebook. And when a fundraiser becomes a nuisance and just 'more of the same," people stop paying attention. In addition, while the causes chosen may speak to those managing the initiatives, those asked to sponsor often don't feel the same way.

“'Dough for Donuts' works because it's unusual and entertaining,”Klein adds. It catches and holds your attention for a full 31 days. Last year, several sponsors (complete strangers) commented that they felt compelled to join the ranks because they 'just had to get in on the fun.' And there is no one, defined charity or cause: sponsors can choose where the money goes. I'm not asking anyone to give to a specific cause but rather just to give. Everyone has a cause or charity that they believe in. This initiative is about giving them "an excuse" to finally open their wallets and support those causes.