Tyler Moses, Josh Baker and Aidan Gross pack Passover provisions for the Kosher Food Pantry
It’s hard enough to cook for one family for Passover – let alone all who are in need.
Yet, that’s exactly what a couple of Cleveland-area organizations aspire to do.
For groups like Bikur Cholim of Cleveland and the Kosher Food Pantry, they are busy all year and somehow even busier at Passover.
On a regular basis, Bikur Cholim houses those from outside the area who might be in town for a medical operation, for example, and provides them with kosher food. They also stock area hospitals with kosher food – should a patient require it.
“Obviously, during Pesach, it’s a very big job, because we have to change over everything,” said Chaykie Mann with Bikur Cholim.
While Bikur Cholim may make 100 meals for 40 families for Shabbat, that can turn to 400-plus for Passover, in part because of how much longer the holiday is and thus how much longer the food must last.
“We send out everything from soup to nuts,” Mann said. “We do it on a weekly basis for the Shabbos, but for Passover, we send out obviously much more because it’s a long holiday.”
At the Kosher Food Pantry, deliveries are expanded to cover the usual goodies – fruits, vegetables and produce – and Passover-themed items – both foods and brochures about the holiday and when the candle lighting time is. The organization also hosts weekly “shopping” days where people get needed goods from their pantries.
“What’s extra about Passover is we don’t cut back on the regular foods we give out but we supplement with Passover foods,” said Rivka Goldstein, project manager at the Kosher Food Pantry.
All of this requires plenty of labor.
Take Bikur Cholim’s hospital pantries, which need to be cleaned and restocked for the holiday. At some facilities, Bikur Cholim has numerous areas to be cleaned. For example, at University Hospitals, the organization stocks a pantry – as well as cabinets in the labor and delivery, and emergency areas.
“We’re sending our volunteers all over to change over all the cabinets and pantries,” Mann said.
The organization also needs drivers – “a lot of drivers,” Mann said – to deliver all the meals. She noted the hundreds of women that help cook meals and parcel them out.
“It’s a whole system and it’s incredible,” Mann said.
For the Kosher Food Pantry, where the usual delivery doubles for the holiday, lugging all that extra grape juice and matzah isn’t easy.
“There’s a lot of physical work involved in this. We don’t have any magic wand that just floats these bags into people’s houses,” Goldstein said, “but like I told everybody you’re going to feel really good when you sit down at your seder and you read that part in your haggadah that says ‘all who are hungry’ because you did something to help people who are hungry.”
Fortunately, Goldstein said that Passover seems to inspire the need to give in many community members. She spoke of a recent group of young professionals that came to help, driven by the desire to “come before Passover and do that good deed.”
Cash is also an appropriate gift, according to Goldstein. In fact, giving $18, for example, is preferable to giving $18 in food products, since the organization may be able to procure food at a cheaper rate.
The work these groups do is always important. There are always families in need.
Goldstein notes how expensive some produce can be. Just the other day, she said she marveled at the high price of sweet potatoes. Despite certain improved economic indicators, she said she is seeing more people in need than ever.
The need may bear extra significance for Passover, however.
“The haggadah starts with all who are hungry, and we don’t really believe in having an empty place at the seder,” Goldstein said. “This is the one time that all Jewish people gather together, no matter how committed or not committed you are the rest of the year.”