On Sunday, April 7, a group of youngsters from the Young Israels of Scarsdale and New Rochelle, along with their Bnei Akiva leaders, met at YINR to pack donated Passover food for the Bronx Jewish Community Council. The group assembled boxes, created colorful labels and packed non-perishable foods.
“Bnei Akiva Scarsdale and Bnei Akiva of New Rochelle had wanted to do a joint chesed event for the Westchester community,” explained Jacob Rivkin, the mazkir of Bnei Akiva Scarsdale. On the heels of a successful Bnei Akiva of Scarsdale Purim event, packing 170 mishloach manot packages, the Bnei Akiva leaders collected kosher-for-Passover food donations.
“Personally, for the past four years, every Sunday before Pesach, I have joined Tomchei Shabbat to deliver Pesach groceries to those in need. I believe that packaging events like this fulfill the important task of helping fellow Jews, and especially helping other Jews be able to celebrate chagim with as much joy as others who are fortunate enough to be able to,” Rivkin noted. “Through this event, I hope that the children in attendance internalize the message of ‘HaLachma Anya’ that we say every year at the seder. That mitzvah of Pesach is helping to ensure that all Jews are able to fulfill and celebrate the seder night and Pesach comfortably, regardless of financial means. I hope that the recipients of the boxes are able to celebrate Pesach with more joy, comfort and fulfillment of the holiday, and that they see that the Jewish community will always be there to lift them up when they are in need.”
The New Rochelle B’not Sherut explained the importance of the food-packing program. “Some people really need this food, and without it they will not be able to observe the seder. We see great importance in the value of giving, and we hope that in this project the students and the community will continue to ‘give without receiving.’” The B’not Sherut added, “As a nation, we left Egypt, and as a nation we have to celebrate together without class differences.” Moreover, “we hope the recipients of the boxes will feel our big hug, and now they can keep Pesach with happiness. We were so excited to see the community give with a wide heart, and we want to say thank you.”
Jeffrey Berger of Scarsdale, who participated with his 7-year-old daughter, Ella, stated, “It gives my wife and me great pleasure to show our children the beauty of helping others. Both my wife and I grew up in homes where charity and giving to others was of paramount importance. We try to show that to our children in a variety of ways. Giving food, packing boxes and drawing labels to people in need allows one to use their financial resources and time, both of which are essential. Personally, we get incredible joy watching our children grow up to be mentches and enjoying doing mitzvot and helping other people.”
He continued, “We just want [the recipients] to have a nice Passover and to know that people in the community care. We hope this is not a big deal and they don’t think too much about what others do. I just hope they get to enjoy the food and the holiday.”
Ella, a second grader at Westchester Day School, added, “It’s nice to give people something they don’t have. It’s nice to give a colorful label to people with the food. It will make them feel really good.”
Oscar Bodner, another second grader at WDS, noted, “The Jews had hard times when they were trying to leave Egypt and we should help Jews who are having hard times.” Oscar attended “because it is important to give charity and participate in chesed. I hope the recipients feel happy and cared about.”
Oscar’s fifth-grade brother, Eli, added, “It was important to pack boxes so people who aren’t as fortunate as we are can also have a festive meal on Pesach. When the Jews were in Egypt and eating Korban Pesach, they had to finish it in one meal. Often the lamb was too large for a family to eat and so neighbors were invited to come eat with them. By packing boxes with food we are sharing in our Pesach meal (Korban Pesach). I hope the recipients of the boxes know that they are not forgotten.”
Niti Minkove of the Bronx Jewish Community Council explained how these boxes are a portion of all the donated food that will add to the Pesach holiday of around 600 Bronx households. “People taking care of people in their own backyard is a beautiful form of tzedakah. Receiving these packages of holiday food may be their only Passover celebration.”
Ella Berger summed up her experience, “I liked packing the boxes because when you have food, it’s nice for me to give food to others.”
By Judy Berger