Kosher food bank Ezras Cholim of Phoenix is working around the clock to provide enough food for the Passover season.
Julia Almoslino, the bank’s volunteer food coordinator, said she expects Ezras Cholim to receive about 1,000 families to visit its new facility.
“There’s always an increase of families around holidays,” Almoslino said. “Specifically Passover, because it’s a much more expensive holiday than any of the other holidays due to the amount of food families need.”
She added that since moving to its new location on Seventh Street, the bank has more room for food and is better able to serve those in need during the holiday.
The new 2,600-square-foot location includes a kitchen, garage space and several freezers. The kosher pantry has nearly a dozen volunteers and offers everything from meats to produce to snack food.
Some 160 families rely on the food pantry for support on a weekly basis.
The nonprofit began in 2015 to serve the needs of people facing illness in the Greater Phoenix Jewish community. In 2017, Ezras Cholim was asked to operate a Sabbath pantry aiding the sick and needy. It launched the kosher food pantry in 2018, which is part of a national food-pantry network called Feeding America.
Yecheskel Friedman, co-founder and president of Ezras Cholim, said the pantry wants to supply the clientele with what it needs.
“The volunteers will deliver the food if they need to,” Friedman said. “And if they don’t have any ability to cook, we’ll cook it here for them.”
The nonprofit also offers hospital visits, advocacy for patients to provide medical support and rehab support. Friedman said that they’ve also provided food for migrant families and visiting families.
Regardless of where anyone comes from, Friedman said they are welcome to use the food pantry.
“Some people in the area are very shy about asking for food here, but we will accommodate everyone who walks in,” Friedman said. “It’s very important to me that they keep their privacy and we’ll always be there for them.”
The nonprofit has also worked to help those who need it get back on their feet.
One is volunteer Lenny Wechsler.
Before beginning his work at the food pantry, Wechsler — who is Jewish and has lived in the Valley for 35 years — was without a job and without a home. Ezras Cholim gave him a place to stay and work to do as a volunteer.
“I was in a bad place and I didn’t know what I was doing,” Wechsler said. “It wasn’t until a friend of mine told me about this place. I came in during the beginning of February and even though it’s been about 10 weeks, it feels like I’ve been here for years.”
Friedman learned to help those in need as a child in New York City. He said that in his school there were many students from Europe whose families couldn’t afford lunch.
“My mother would always ask my brother why I was always hungry after school,” Friedman said. “And he told her that I would be giving my lunches to those who couldn’t afford them.”
Now, at Ezras Cholim, there are plenty of lunches available -- and more.
“When people come in, they’re here because they’re in a part of their life where they need help,” Almoslino said. “There is enough people who show their appreciation that are thankful and grateful, and we see how we’re helping and so that’s a motivator to want to continue what you’re doing.” JN