Sweet help for the Philippines

November 20, 2013 by Henry Benjamin
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News of help from Jewish resources to those who survived the horrific typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines ranges from a baby  born in a rapidly constructed IDF field hospital being named Israel to a visit of Sydney’s Kesser Torah students to a Kosher chocolate shop owned by a Catholic Chinese Philippino who who loves his chocolate…and Chabad.

Alex Chan serves Kesser Torah girls

Alex Chan serves Kesser Torah girls

Alex shows his Kosher certification

Alex shows his Kosher certification

Food technologist 40-yr-old Alex Chan operates Boon chocolates with his sister Fanny in the Sydney suburb of Darlinghurst. During a visit to Chicago, the charismatic Chan was invited to a Jewish home for dinner and fell head over heels for Judaism. He told J-Wire: “I am a religious Catholic but I go to Yeshiva more than I go to chapel. There was just something about the Jewish way that I found affected me profoundly.”

Chan settled in Sydney in 1990 with his chocolate-maker sister Fanny. Chan started Boon in 2008 and aligned himself with Opportunity International Australia. He said: “I  wanted the needy in the Philippines to benefit from our efforts.Maybe it was because of Hashem or it was just beshert but we developed many Jewish clients who became Jewish friends so we became Kosher. I have always met Jewish people wherever I go. It was in 2000 when I had that first Shabbat meal in Ohio having made my new Jewish friends at work. I have always felt comfortable with Jews.”

Chan said that Hashem had “revealed” himself  to him when Chan was working in micro-finance projects in the Philippines. He said: “After studying Maimonides I fell in love with the ideology and knew that this was the community I wanted to be involved with.”

He became friends with the Yeshiva’s Rabbi Eli Feldman one Simchat Torah. Chan told J-Wire: “I had a friend at Emanuel who said we could get free food on Simchat Torah so we visited Emanuel, Central and Chabad I found affinity with Chabad.”

He has made his popular shop a drop-off point for those wishing to donate to the Philippine relief fund and is working closely with Jewish Aid. Chan added: “I have introduced the word ‘Mitzvah’ to the Philippine community explaining that it means to do good deeds…and I told the Philippine consul-general what it meant to give anonymously. I went to the Kosherfest in New Jersey on business taking time out twice to visit the Rebbe’s Ohel twice. I met Rabbi Aaron Groner during the Kashruth process in SYdney. He was the one who explained the meaning of mitzvah to me and I had learned this before the typhoon struck. I hope now to look into educational funding for those affected by the storm. Hashem has given me many tasks to carry out.”

Alex Chan looks at the Rebbe's photo

Alex Chan looks at the Rebbe’s photo

KTC donate to the relief fund for the Philippines

KTC donate to the relief fund for the Philippines

The Year 7 girls from Sydney’s Kesser Torah College heard Alex’s story before watching how Fanny makes her mouth-watering chocolate…under the watchful eye of a photograph of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Boon chocolates are about to go in to full production of chocolate menorahs and draidels for Chanukah.

Chan told J-Wire: “We are licensed under the Kashruth Authority  and have been since December 2011 following a long process even though we are open on Shabbat. After all I am a goy. But we are not licensed for Halal. However, as you know Muslims will eat Kosher food but they will not eat it if it contains alcohol. So we keep our products which do contain alcohol completely separate for our Muslim clients. Some of our chocolates are called Arabica and Fatima.”

Although very closed to Sydney’s community headquarters and the Sydney Jewish Museum, Boon chocolates does not have a huge local Jewish market. “We have set up a distributorship with Krinskys in Bondi”, Chan explained.

At the end of their tour of Boon Chocolates, the Kesser Torah girls bought plenty of examples of Kosher chocolate with very cent spent going into a special bucket earmarked for the Typhoon campaign.

How much of the chocolate reached their homes is in question. J-Wire suspects most of it disappeared on the bus ferrying them back to their school in Dover Heights.

Jewish Aid is still soliciting donations to help those affected by Typhoom Haiyan as there are many thousands who remain homeless.


Baby Israel born in an Israeli field hospital

Baby Israel born in an Israeli field hospital


Israeli doctor ar work in the Philippines


One Response to “Sweet help for the Philippines”
  1. ALEX says:

    Dear Henry,

    Thank you for the article you have written for us and our belief. May I just correct a statement. Rabbi Aaron Groner and I met in Sydney as he is the one who has given our shop a kosher certification (under the Kashrut Authority). Despite his busy schedule, organising the Australian Kosherfest, he will always take his time to drive to drive us to The Rebbe’s Ohel twice when we participated in the kosherfest. I remember fondly after we got koshered and he told us this “Only G-D knows your heart.” A word so simple and yet so powerful. Next day, John McGrath (the real estate mogul) who has been a regular of our shop came to our shop and asked me “Have you changed the shop ? It feels different!” I just grinned and told Fanny..”Now, our journey begins..” 🙂

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