Meet Jacob Kaufman (The Muffin Man)
National Muffin Day
Sunday, February 26, 2023
Find out how YOU can become a TY Muffinteer!
Bake with TY friends or family and make a difference #TYLovesMuffins
Greetings Tel Yehudans,
Today we are excited to highlight a TY alum who has a fun, unique, and delicious Tikkun Olam opportunity to share with you all. Chaverim and chaverot, please meet Jacob Kaufman, the Muffin Man!
TY: Jacob, thanks for joining us today! Please remind us, when were you at TY?
Jacob: Uh, let’s see. Atid ‘96. MH ‘98. Madrich ‘99 (not sure whose idea it was to let an 18 year-old be a counselor for a bunch of 15 year-olds, but that happened, and I’m assuming still happens today). Before that I was a camper from Offarim onward at Camp Young Judaea West (which I’m not sure even exists anymore…huge loss for the Western United States). I was also Social Action Programmer and later Mazkir (President) of Ruach Ha’Marav (Nevada/California Region), and the Ha’Maarav Merchav (West District) rep to the National Mazkirut. I was what was affectionately referred to back in those days as a “Young JuDork”.
TY: Oh yeah, that brings us back! Where are you now, and what are you doing?
Jacob: I’m actually back living in my hometown of San Anselmo, California, about a half-hour drive north of San Francisco. Like a third of us TY alums, I became a Jewish lawyer.
TY: And why do they call you the “Muffin Man”?
Jacob: *cracks knuckles* Well, I’m glad you asked. Back when I lived in San Francisco and worked in a law firm downtown, I used to hand out muffins to people experiencing homelessness on my walk to work. After doing that for a couple of years, my friend Julia Levy in Atlanta convinced me that it would be beautiful if we could get other folks around the country to do the same thing in their communities, so we created National Muffin Day to encourage as many people as possible to bake and give. If you want to see a passionate, dramatic, and painfully awkward interpretation of my origin story, check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHgFUtK7MkQ
We’re now in our 9th year of doing this! Our first year, we had 70 participants, but the past couple of years we’ve had over 500. This year we’re hoping will be our biggest year yet…and this outreach to the TY community just might bring us there!
TY: Wow, that’s great – such a mensch you are! So how can we participate?
Jacob: Participating in National Muffin Day is as easy as 1-2-3:
- Bake muffins! The yummier, the better.
- Give muffins! Donate your muffins to people experiencing homelessness in your city, or to local shelters.
- #givemuffins! Take a photo of your group and your muffins and post them to social media with the hashtags #givemuffins and #TYLovesMuffins.
But wait, let’s sweeten the deal (pun very, very much intended). For each person who participates, I’ll donate $5 to each of Project Homeless Connect, an organization that provides valuable resources to people experiencing homelessness in San Francisco, and Family Promise, a national organization that sets up programs around the country for families experiencing homelessness. That means that if you bake with your significant other, your first-grader, and your crazy Aunt Mabel who makes the best babka muffins this side of the Atlantic, then $40 will be donated to charities…except it might really be $80 because I can get donation matching from my employer. We’ve sent over $10,000 to charities each of the past 4 years!
TY: That seems easy enough – we’re in! What inspired you to start handing out muffins in the first place?
Jacob: If you’ve ever been to a city where homelessness is a problem, I think it’s hard to see that and not want to help people, even if it’s something small. And I definitely think there’s an aspect of Jewishness in helping others. As a kid, I received all kinds of Jewish education, including learning about the traditions at home, learning about the religion in shul, and learning about Israel through YJ. As an adult, I’ve thrown the metaphorical spaghetti of Judaism at the wall, and I’d say that Tikkun Olam is the strand that stuck the most. People really appreciate kindness. Giving a person experiencing homelessness a muffin isn’t going to radically change their life, but it will make them feel seen and (assuming the muffins are tasty) it will bring joy. That’s a good bit of tikkuning the olam, if you ask me.
TY: Amen! Do you maybe have a recipe you can share?
Jacob: I thought you’d never ask! Here is the recipe for my world-renowned banana chocolate chip muffins:
- 2 cups flour (I use 1 cup AP, 1 cup wheat)
- ½ cup sugar (or a bit less)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- ⅓ cup butter (or a bit more), melted and chilled
- 3 insanely-ripe bananas
- 1 egg
- Chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl
(completely optional pro tip: sift the flour). Don’t forget the baking powder!
- Mix wet ingredients together in a bigger bowl, mashing the bananas into delicious liquidy mush. Make sure the melted butter is chilled so you don’t cook the egg!
- Fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients. Stir for five strokes, add in a bunch of chocolate chips, then stir for 5 more strokes. DO NOT STIR FOR MORE THAN 10 STROKES TOTAL!!!! If the batter is a bit lumpy, that’s fine. This is the secret to amazing muffins.
- Divide batter into muffin cups (you should have enough for 11 or 12)
- Bake for 18-22 min, until toothpick comes out dry (other than melted chocolate chips)
- Bonus: you can use the same exact recipe for banana bread, but 45-50 min baking
TY: Are there any other online resources related to National Muffin Day that you could share?
Jacob: You betcha!
National Muffin Day has gotten some great press in past years — here is a non-exhaustive list: SF Standard, SF Chronicle, Forbes, CNN, ABC, CBS’ Inside Edition, J Weekly.
You can also follow us on social media, if you are so inclined:
- Facebook Event: https://fb.me/e/5jqzQHf4x
TY: Awesome! Thanks so much for dropping by, Muffin Man!
Jacob: Any time! Thanks for having me, and have an amazing Tu B’shvat, Purim, and National Muffin Day!
Are you a TY alum (or know one!) who is doing something cool out there in the world? We’d love to hear about it! If you’re up for sharing your story (or even just reminiscing a bit about camp with), drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can connect!