Let All Who Are Hungry
My father's favorite moment during the seder is when the leader proclaims, "Let all who are hungry come and eat." When I was growing up, he always made a point of inviting people to our seder whom we did not know well, but who did not have anywhere else to go. This always added such a rich and important dimension to our seder. Our tradition teaches us that each and every one of us is supposed to feel as though we were delivered from Egypt. Sharing that experience with people whom you know well and members of the community whom you do not, continues to be moving for me.
Last week I attended the annual gathering of Federation executives from communities our size. My colleague from San Antonio, Ronit Sherwin, gave a d'var torah during which she marveled at the poetry of the Jewish calendar. At regular intervals during the year, we celebrate a beginning or a renewal. Passover is certainly one of those marquis moments. It is in the spirit of Passover and our ability to rededicate ourselves, and my father's passionate invitation to those who need a seat at the table, that I draw our communal attention this month to a timeless problem which unfortunately persists at home and around the world: hunger.
Though we live in a land of plenty, it is shocking to learn how many of our neighbors and even our fellow Jews go hungry on a regular basis. When you speak to our colleagues at Jewish Family Service, our largest local recipient of funding, and hear about the needs they meet through their food pantry and other programs, you realize how prevalent this problem truly is. Without this vital resource, the situation would be even worse. To help address this need further, our own Women's Philanthropy division will be working with JFS on a new program called "Three Square." Children at risk in our community have the hot lunch at school as their main source of nutrition every day. Through "Three Square," we will give them much needed food in a backpack for their families to eat on the weekend when school is not in session. Stay tuned for more information on this exciting and meaningful undertaking.
I hope you have heard about the recent Young Leadership division mission to Cuba. While it may be less shocking to confront hunger in Havana than on the west side of Stamford, it is nonetheless a major problem for the Jewish community of Cuba. Each Cuban citizen has a meat ration of two pounds per month, and other food commodities are rationed as well. The three synagogues in Havana, thanks in large part to aid provided by our donations through the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), provide Shabbat meals and other food for people who truly need it. Thanks to JDC, the kosher butcher (which after the nationalization of all private enterprise in 1962 was for many years the only privately owned business in all of Cuba) sees to it that those who need kosher meat for their tables get it. Imagine how much more festive the seders in Cuba are each year, thanks to this much needed assistance.
Though the need is great and sometimes feels overwhelming, I take great pride in the work that we do and the help that we offer to alleviate the problem around the world and here at home. I hope you do too.
Chag Pesach Sameach.