Helping those in need celebrate holy days is the goal of many organizations in the Jewish community. One way to do this is to provide food for them and their families. This allows them to meet at the celebration without the burden of holiday meal costs.
Avrohom Adler, Executive Director of Families Strengthening at the Jewish Family Service Association in Pepper Pike and Cleveland Chester Center in Cleveland Heights; Devora Alevsky, director of the Kosher Food Pantry in South Euclid, discussed how their organizations are providing food assistance to families as holy days approach.
“We offer a monthly shopping experience to our customers,” Adler said.
He noted that customers shop “with pride and dignity” in a store-like atmosphere with shopping carts and aisles.
“It’s an optional store,” he said. “They can choose what they want to take in and what they want to leave, which gives them an appearance of control and makes them feel good.”
Adler said the Cleveland Cheside Center adds to its regular distribution around the Great Holy Days.
“We add the grilled matzo ball soup mixture, graham crackers crust, dates, and honey,” he said. “We also try to get, from food banks, special foods that are eaten as symbols on New Year’s, such as apples, carrots and squash.”
Adler said they get these items from the Great Cleveland Food Bank or buy them from a local company.
There is a special package for school teachers that includes chicken, grilled fish, mustard, kishka and salami.
“(It can) really lighten the burden of holiday expenses when preparing food for their families on many meals, whether it’s the New Year meal or the pre-Yom Kippur meal, after the Yom Kippur and Sukkot holidays, so it really does make a difference for families, especially with the price of items food and inflation as it is now,” Adler noted.
One of the center’s missions, he said, is to ensure that families in the Jewish community are able to celebrate their holidays with peace of mind.
Adler noted that with today’s many challenges to mental health, employment, inflation and education, it is important to give families in need the opportunity to sit down to a meal, especially during holidays or Saturdays.
“It just makes a huge difference to them,” he said. “We are here to fill the need of the community.”
Alevsky said feeding souls and bodies is a central mission of the Kosher Food Pantry.
She noted that during Holy Days, the pantry adds to its regular food distributions of produce, canned goods, dry foods, and eggs.
“We serve special food in Rosh Hashanah, including chicken, apple, honey and challah round bread,” she said.
Alevsky said volunteers are providing door-to-door food deliveries to 10 large low-income apartment buildings and a weekly payment service is offered to families for food.
“Many of the people we are helping are elderly and some are still at home,” Alevsky said. “To enhance people’s celebration of New Year’s Eve, we offer traditional holiday foods and a connection to our ancient heritage that they might not otherwise experience.”
She noted that fall comes with increased costs such as school supplies, so it is especially important to provide families with food aid during this time. Since the holidays also fall at the beginning of the school year, pantry services lighten the burden of food costs.
While the store only distributes kosher foods, it is intended to serve not only the Jewish community, but the wider community as well, Alevsky stated.
“No one answered,” she said.