Last year, we used this space to urge the community to redouble its efforts to help organizations such as the Center for Food Action and local food pantries collect enough food to provide Thanksgiving dinners for their growing clientele.
This year, again, we make that plea, realizing that – in the scheme of things – one meal does not make that much difference. On the other hand, the symbolism of sharing a Thanksgiving meal with one’s family may be especially important to those who have lost so much else – including their homes, jobs, and savings.
As Jews, we know the importance of symbols and the value of gathering with our families to share a meal. We also know that, were we forced by economic circumstances to abandon those precious experiences, our morale and our pride would suffer just as severely as our stomachs.
Jennifer Rothman, CFA coordinator of community affairs, says the organization is seeing an “unprecedented 40 percent increase in new clients” this year, reflecting the recent economic downturn, and lists a dozen local synagogues helping to fill the gap by conducting holiday food drives (see page 10).
Other synagogues collect food for the center year round or assist through efforts such as Project Isaiah. Still other shuls, and many individuals, contribute through organizations such as MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger.
Nevertheless, says Rothman, “We are becoming increasingly concerned about not having enough food and funds to keep up with this level of need through the winter and beyond.” And Thelma Federle, CFA’s director of government and community relations, points out that the center’s homelessness prevention program is feeling the strain as well.
Says Federle, “The government funding we receive for this program is insufficient to meet the need. It is a daily struggle to help people in these desperate situations when we are constantly running out of funds.”
In our story, we talk about one woman whose creativity and compassion led to a new food collection effort for her synagogue. Her fellow congregants rallied to the challenge, and her town’s food pantry will now be able to help those seeking assistance.
None of us has to look far to see the need. Our challenge is to move past mere recognition of the problem and begin to address it.