The Kiwanis name brings a German club and an American-style café together to serve their community.

By Erin Chandler

Kiwanis is a truly international organization — and it brings people together all over the world. Nowhere is this more apparent than in a small New York-style cheesecake café in the city of Hamburg, Germany. 

It all began when Peter Keller, then president-elect of the Kiwanis Club of Hamburg, walked into Jeff’s Cheesecake one day in 2023 and struck up a conversation with the owner, Jeff Alpert.  

When Keller mentioned his involvement with Kiwanis, he says, “Jeff laughed — he knew Kiwanis.” 

Alpert, who is from New York, U.S., has fond memories of being invited to play at the local Kiwanis club’s meetings as a student at the New York State Music Camp. “Other than that,” he says, “Kiwanis has a sign upon entering many city and town limits in the U.S. I guess it’s impossible to live in the U.S. and not have heard of Kiwanis.” 

At the time, the Kiwanis Club of Hamburg was looking for a new place to meet on Saturday mornings. Jeff’s Cheesecake is usually closed at that time, but Alpert quickly agreed to open the café and outdoor pavilion for the meeting — which concluded with two cheesecakes topped with the word “Kiwanis.” 

“This was the beginning of a friendship between the Kiwanis Club of Hamburg and Jeff,” Keller says. 

The friendship between the club and the café grew in January. Because of its location in a city park where business often hinges on the weather, Jeff’s Cheesecake usually closes for a “winter break.” Keller proposed that the Kiwanians take over the space to run a mulled wine stand, and Alpert responded with what Keller calls his “typical reaction: ‘Of course, for a good cause, always.’” 

The stand was a success, serving as a perfect opportunity to raise funds for local children’s programs and spread the word about Kiwanis in the community. 

“Peter now has a set of keys to the café and has become part of our café family. And through him, Kiwanis,” Alpert says. “With the current state of the world as it is, we are happy to do our part to help children who are in need in any way we can. I’m sure this is only the beginning of a long-lasting relationship.” 

In fact, the Kiwanis Club of Hamburg and Jeff’s Cheesecake already have their next joint event planned: a jam session for the club and Alpert’s jazz trio. 

Who would have thought that an American fulfilling his dream of selling delicious cheesecake in Germany and a German helping kids in his community through a U.S.-based service organization would make such great music together? But that’s the power of Kiwanis to form international bonds.