The Jewish holidays are ripe with tradition and Passover is no different. Families have long-standing rituals that have been passed down through generations, evoking memories of seder tables, searching for the afikomen, reciting four questions and a delicious meal.
There are several mitzvot associated with Passover. At the seder there is the retelling of the story of the Exodus, eating matzah and bitter herbs, drinking four cups of wine and reclining.
And thanks to the Bureau of Jewish Education, there is another mitzvah — one that has been a Passover tradition in Greater Phoenix for more than 30 years.
The annual Passover Food Drive is a collaboration between the BJE and community organizations such as Jewish Family & Children’s Service, Ezras Cholim and Jewish Free Loan.
The drive started originally to provide a community service opportunity for Hebrew High students and other youth groups, according to Myra Shindler, BJE’s executive director.
“There has always been a need in the Phoenix area to provide this kind of support to Jewish families during the holidays,” said Shindler. “What started as a volunteer project for students some 30 years ago has evolved into what
it is today.”
Kosher-for-Passover food supplies, such as matzah, gefilte fish, wine and grape juice, matzah ball and soup mix, candy, cookies and cake mixes, as well as other items, are provided to any family that requests them. All products must be in a sealed container and designated “kosher for Passover.”
Each year, approximately 220 families receive these Passover basics as well as a grocery gift card and a kosher chicken to complete their seder meal.
As this is the second Passover season to be impacted by COVID-19, organizers this year are expecting upwards of 250 families to request a food package.
Many of the families that receive Passover food supplies are participants in JFCS programs throughout the year, said Kathy Rood, manager of Jewish Programs at JFCS.
“We are thrilled to work with BJE and others in the Jewish community on this annual Passover tradition,” said Rood. “It is a mitzvah for us to ensure those that need assistance can have a traditional Passover meal, with all the basics covered.”
Seniors have been particularly impacted by COVID-19 since it may be difficult for some to get to the grocery store to purchase their favorite Passover items.
“We’ve made sure the seniors who participate in the JFCS Center for Senior Enrichment programs are aware that they can request a food package,” said Jennifer Brauner, director of Center for Senior Enrichment. “It is another great way to keep our Jewish seniors engaged in the holiday traditions.”
Members of the Jewish community who would like a Passover food package have until March 18 to request it.
Cash contributions will be used to purchase perishable items and grocery store gift cards.
Volunteers create the food packages and arrange for them to be delivered. Lisa Blumstein, JFCS’ volunteer coordinator, says this is a fun way to give back to the community.
“On Sunday, March 21, our volunteers will gather at the Martin Pear Jewish Community Center to sort and prepare all the food packages for delivery,” she said. “We’ll follow all social distancing protocols to ensure a safe volunteer experience.”
“We are so grateful to the community for assisting us with this project. Valley synagogues, youth groups, Jewish day schools as well as local grocery stores all make it possible to continue to do the Passover Food Drive each year,”
said Shindler. JN
Abbie S. Fink is vice president/general manager of HMA Public Relations.
non-perishable items can be dropped off at JFCS at 2017 N. 7th St. in Phoenix from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays until March 16; if you are interested in volunteering, email Lisa.Blumstein@jfcsaz.org.