On Sunday, April 17th, 140 volunteers took part in the annual Dr. Samuel S. Rockwern Passover Delivery project of Jewish Family Service, a day of community service in which hundreds of Kosher for Passover meals were delivered to those in need in the Jewish community. This year’s volunteers came from all different backgrounds, including a delegation from Cincinnati’s new Jewish motorcycle club and a group of young professionals organized by Josh Rothstein through the Mayerson JCC.
|Jewish Young Adults Volunteering for the 2011 Passover Delivery Project|
Volunteers convened at Cincinnati Hebrew Day School, which opened its building to host the event for the day and store the boxes and supplies. The boxes that volunteers delivered contained matzah, matzah ball soup mix, macaroons, gefilte fish, Passover candy, grape juice, nuts, apples, and a chicken dinner. Volunteers broke into small groups and were given the names and addresses of the homes to which Passover boxes were to be delivered. Because some of the homes receiving Passover goods were Russian-speaking, volunteers were also given a list of transliterated Russian phrases that volunteers could use if they wanted to test out their language skills. Once laden with instructions and boxes, the volunteers headed to their cars and spread out all over the city.
Delivering the boxes was a deeply personal way of connecting with community members and bringing a smile to someone’s face. I had the pleasure of riding along with Natalie Tinish, who had a great deal of experience working with the Russian-speakers we met through her work as a nurse and through her own experiences as a member of the Russian-speaking community in Cincinnati. “I thought that the Passover delivery project was very rewarding,” she told me, “and I think that people were very pleased and excited to get the box with all kinds of yummy goodies in it. People showed appreciation through their thanks and warm hugs and even treats.” Indeed, the people we met along our delivery route never missed a chance to express their gratitude and their own generosity. Second to helping local families meet their Passover needs, perhaps the next greatest impact that the Passover Delivery project made throughout the day was in connecting members of the Jewish community together in a unique and very meaningful way.
Delivering boxes of Passover goods to those in need was at times also a stark reminder that prevailing stereotypes asserting the total absence of need in the Jewish community are simply untrue. The fact that it took 140 volunteers much of an entire day to deliver over 400 boxes of Kosher for Passover food to families spread throughout the Greater Cincinnati area was illuminating in itself; even more sobering was the reality that the number of families in need in the Cincinnati Jewish community has steadily increased since the 2008 economic crisis. In interviews with WCPO and WLWT, Beth Schwartz, Executive Director of Jewish Family Service, reminded us that "the high cost of Kosher for Passover food makes observing the week-long holiday of Passover difficult for many low-income individuals and families. The rising costs of medical care along with rising unemployment force many to choose between buying food and paying for other necessities such as utilities or medicine." She also re-iterated that “Passover is one of our community’s most important holidays. It’s our springtime sacred holiday and so it’s important that everyone be able to participate in our Passover Seder.”
Originated as the Cincinnati Pesach Delivery Project in 1998 by volunteers from Northern Hills Synagogue and Yavneh Day School (now Rockwern Academy), the Dr. Samuel S. Rockwern Passover Delivery of Jewish Family Service today serves as a key volunteer outreach mechanism to help those in need in the Cincinnati Jewish community through JFS’s Vital Services programs. These programs enable JFS to not only make an enormous impact on the lives of those most in need in the Jewish community, but also enables JFS and the entire Jewish community to help those in need in a way that respects and honors the dignity of every individual.
Passover is a time when Jews are commanded to remember the miracles that took place in the deserts of Egypt so many years ago, and to remember the tribulations of the journey to freedom in the Promised Land. On Passover Jews the world over remind themselves that many others, even in today’s modern world, are still in need and should not be overlooked. Indeed, the Dr. Samuel S. Rockwern Passover Delivery of Jewish Family Service provides a compelling opportunity for us as Jews to reach out to those in need and see to it that every member of the Jewish community can enjoy all of life’s blessings with dignity and respect.
For more information on the Dr. Samuel S. Rockwern Passover Delivery of Jewish Family Service, check out http://www.jfscinti.org/volunteer/passover-delivery/. Local news coverage of the event can also be found at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42641928/ns/local_news-cincinnati_oh/ and http://www.wcpo.com/dpp/news/volunteers-deliver-passover-meals.
Andrea Nadel is a native of Cincinnati who has returned to the Queen City after a four-year hiatus. An alumna of The Ohio State University, Andrea confesses that she has absolutely no enthusiasm for football despite the Buckeyes’ best efforts, but she does enjoy travelling, learning foreign languages, following Israeli politics and music, and growing vegetables in her backyard.