Helping those in need celebrate the High Holy Days is a goal of many organizations in the Jewish community. One way to do this is by providing food items for them and their families. This allows them to come together in celebration without the burden of holiday meal costs.
Avrohom Adler, executive director of strengthening families at Jewish Family Service Association in Pepper Pike and the Cleveland Chesed Center in Cleveland Heights; and Devorah Alevsky, director of Cleveland Kosher Food Pantry in South Euclid, discussed how their organizations are providing families with food assistance as the High Holy Days approach.
“We provide a shopping experience for our clients monthly,” Adler said.
He noted that clients shop with “pride and dignity” in a store-like atmosphere that has shopping carts and aisles.
“It’s a choice pantry,” he said. “They could choose as to what they want to take and what they want to leave, which gives them a semblance of control and it makes them feel good.”
Around the High Holy Days, the Cleveland Chesed Center adds to its regular distribution, Adler said.
“We add roast, matzo ball soup mix, graham cracker crust, dates, honey,” he said. “We also try to get, from the food banks, special foods that are eaten as symbols on Rosh Hashanah like apples, carrots and squash.”
Adler said they get these items from the Greater Cleveland Food Bank or buy them from a local company.
There is a special package offered to school teachers that includes chicken, gefilte fish, roast, chuck meat, kishka and salami.
“(It) really can ease the burden of a holiday expense when they’re preparing food for their family over many meals, whether it’s Rosh Hashanah or the pre-Yom Kippur meal, post-Yom Kippur and the Sukkot holiday, so it really makes a difference for families, especially with food prices and inflation the way it is right now,” Adler pointed out.
Making sure families in the Jewish community are able to observe holidays with an ease of mind is one of the center’s missions, he stated.
Adler noted that, with the many challenges of mental health, employment, inflation and education today, it is important to give families in need the opportunity to sit down for a meal, especially during the holidays or Shabbat.
“It just makes that much of a difference to them,” he said. “We are here to fill a need in the community.”
Nourishing souls as well as bodies is a central mission of the Kosher Food Pantry, Alevsky said.
During the High Holy Days, the pantry adds to their regular food distributions of produce, canned goods, dry foods and eggs, she noted.
“We provide special food at Rosh Hashanah, including chicken, apples and honey and round challah bread, as well as spiritual items such as Jewish calendars and Yizkor candles,” she said.
Alevsky said volunteers provide door-to-door food deliveries to 10 low-income senior apartment buildings and weekly drive-thrus are offered for families to pick up food.
“Many of the people we help are elderly and some are housebound,” Alevsky said. “To enhance people’s celebration of Rosh Hashanah, we provide traditional holiday foods and a connection to our ancient heritage they might not experience otherwise.”
With fall comes increased costs for families such as school supplies, she noted, so it is especially important to provide food assistance during this time. Because the High Holy Days also fall around the beginning of the school year, the pantry’s services ease the burden of food costs.
While the pantry only distributes kosher foods, it is dedicated to serving not only the Jewish community, but the broader community as well, Alevsky stated.
“No one is turned away,” she said.