(This article originally appeared in the Omaha Jewish Press.)

In honor of Brandon Thomas, who died in 2010 from injuries sustained in a traffic accident, the Gordman family has agreed to sponsor Temple Israel’s First Fridays dinners.

We know that wonderful dinners can provide ways for people who might not otherwise connect to get to know each other,” Andie Gordman, Brandon’s mother, said before the first First Friday dinner in September. “Brandon would have loved the idea and would have been one of the first people to volunteer to be in the kitchen.”

Brandon’s grandparents, Bob and Elly Gordman, along with Andie and her husband, Dan Fitzgerald, and Lindsey Thomas, Brandon’s sister, decided to sponsor the First Fridays in part because of Brandon’s love of food and family, Andie said.

Brandon was just a few credits shy of graduating from Metro Community College’s Institute of Culinary Arts when he died. He was one of the most promising students in his class, according to instructors.

“Brandon used his love of food to connect to people, especially his family,” Andie said.

Brandon was always helping in the kitchen as a child, Andie said. And he was the head chef for the family’s Thanksgiving meals for many years.

Because of Brandon’s connection to the Institute of Culinary Arts, some of the First Friday meals will be prepared by students from Metro.

“We are very excited that some of our meals will be prepared by students just like Brandon,” Andie said.

Another way to honor Brandon’s memory is to purchase the “Season with Sage” cookbook, available in the Temple Israel gift shop, added Danielle Gordman. The book was created by students and faculty of the Institute of Culinary Arts in memory of Brandon, with all proceeds going to the Brandon Michael Thomas Culinary Arts Memorial Scholarship at Metro Community College.

With one First Friday under its belt, Temple Israel is hoping to refine the monthly meals to make the evening go more smoothly, according to Program Director Wendy Goldberg.

The next First Friday will be on October 5, with a meal prepared by chefs from Metro’s Institute of Culinary Arts. And in addition to the main service, there will once again be a Tot Shabbat service in the Livingston Chapel, due to positive feedback from families who appreciated having the option, Goldberg said. Tot Shabbat will be led by clergy and filled with songs and activities.

Fifth and sixth graders from Temple Israel’s Religious School will participate in the musical, family friendly service in the sanctuary and will also lead the blessings before the Shabbat meal.

The meal will be served family style instead of a buffet, and members are invited to bring with them a bottle of wine to share with friends. To RSVP for the October 5 First Friday dinner, send an email to RSVP@templeisraelomaha.com or call Temple Israel at 402-556-6536.