Community comes together meet the needs of kosher food-insecure neighbors

SOUTH ORANGE / WEST ORANGE / LIVINGSTON, NJ — Stop & Shop has made an emergency donation of one ton of kosher for Passover food to the Bobrow Kosher Food Pantry in South Orange. Representatives of the Food Pantry, Stop & Shop, area clergy and elected officials were joined by students from the Golda Och Academy in West Orange and the Aquinas Academy in Livingston as the youngsters from these two faith-based schools united to combat hunger in Essex County and across New Jersey.

“It is our hope that families in need will be able to enjoy Passover. Our effort to assist the residents of Essex County and New Jersey underscores Stop & Shop’s commitment to the communities we serve,” Arlene Putterman, manager of public and community relations of Stop & Shop’s NY Metro Division, said in a press release. “We appreciate the efforts of the dedicated volunteers of the Bobrow Kosher Food Pantry and of our elected officials as we work together to make this a joyful Passover.”

Diane Weiss, co-chairwoman of the Bobrow Kosher Food Pantry, said in the release: “As Passover approaches, we are most thankful for the generosity that Stop & Shop has demonstrated. The Bobrow Kosher Food Pantry of Oheb Shalom Congregation subscribes to the idea expressed in Isaiah: ‘Share your food with the hungry. Take the homeless into your home.’ Our members feel a responsibility to the community; as such, since 1991, Oheb Shalom has been providing kosher food to all those in our community that may be in need. Giving charity is more than just writing a check.”

The donation included matzah, matzah meal, shelf-stable milk, canned vegetables, canned fruit, canned salmon, canned tuna, gefilte fish, egg noodles, grape juice, apple juice, boxed mixes of potato kugel, packaged soup mixes and apple sauce.

“The donation of one ton of kosher food by Stop & Shop is a generous contribution that will allow families in need to properly celebrate the Passover holiday,” Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. said in the release. “It is important that corporate partners like Stop & Shop continue to work closely with the county to support the efforts of the Bobrow Kosher Food Pantry and all those who strengthen the social safety net to support any Essex County resident in need.”

“We salute Stop & Shop for leading the effort to donate one ton of food to the Bobrow Kosher Food Pantry so that those in need will have a joyous Passover,” Assemblywoman Mila Jasey said in the release. “Stop & Shop is leading the fight against hunger here in New Jersey, and its commitment to the community is to be commended.”

“When celebrating with our loved ones during this holiday season we need to remember the many individuals that rely on public and private assistance to feed their families. The one ton of kosher food donated by Stop & Shop will help feed many families during Passover,” Assemblyman John F. McKeon said. “This donation is one small step forward in fighting food insecurity, but hopefully this act of kindness will encourage even more individuals and companies this year to donate to fight hunger. Nearly one in five children — roughly 400,000 — face food insecurity in New Jersey every day. We all need to do more, especially those of us in elected office to help fight poverty in this state. No family should be forced to choose between buying medicine, providing shelter, paying utilities or putting food on the table every night.”

“On behalf of the Board of Trustees and the South Orange community, we are incredibly grateful to Stop & Shop for their generous donation of food for Passover,” South Orange Village President Sheena Collum said in the release. “This gesture represents the true spirit of our town and how we pull together to lend a helping hand. Food insecurity not only impacts our local community but is a growing challenge statewide and throughout the country.”

“Ensuring that all people have enough to eat is a basic human responsibility,” Rabbi Mark Cooper of Oheb Shalom Congregation, which founded the Bobrow Kosher Food Pantry in 1991, said. “The bounty of the earth is not the property of any one person, but belongs to us all. Ensuring that people in need are given what they need with respect is an essential Jewish obligation. As Jews, we aim to preserve and protect the dignity of every person. That is not because we are kind or generous. Rather, it is because we are summoned to do what is right and just.”

“On Passover, we not only celebrate freedom from slavery, but also acknowledge those who are still metaphorically enslaved in this country,” Rabbi Jesse Olitzky of Congregation Beth El in South Orange said. “For those that are trapped in the shackles of poverty and food insecurity, it is our obligation, as Jews and as human beings, to help. We say at our Passover seder tables ‘let all who are hungry come and eat.’ May we understand our obligation to help those in need so that residents of our state don’t have to choose between paying for food and paying for utilities or paying rent or paying for medicine. Let all who are hungry come and eat. This is a statement for all of us to live by — not just on Passover, but year-round.”

South Orange’s Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel Assistant Rabbi Alexandra Klein said: “Each spring, our synagogues read a selection from the Torah which teaches that when our ancestors harvested their crops, they were commanded to leave the corners of their fields untouched so that the needy in the community could come and eat. With this generous donation from Stop and Shop, we take part in this ancient tradition, and celebrate our shared responsibility to ensure that no one in this community goes hungry.”

According to experts who help provide for the food insecure in New Jersey:

  • more people are coming more often to pantries and other feeding programs because they are forced to use their ever-eroding resources to pay for other critical needs such as housing, transportation and medicine, with little or nothing left over for food;
  • almost 400,000 children in New Jersey are food insecure;
  • 77 percent said they had to choose between paying for utilities or food;
  • 73 percent chose between medicine and food;
  • 70 percent chose between housing and food;
  • 61 percent chose between transportation and food;
  • 35 percent chose between education and food;
  • 75 percent said they purchased inexpensive, unhealthy food as a way to cope;
  • 57 percent had a household member with high blood pressure; and
  • 28 percent had a household member with diabetes.

Photos Courtesy of David Frank