Rabbi Chaim Slavaticki knocked on the family’s door, and their teenage daughter answered as her siblings played in the background. There to deliver food as part of a pilot program of the Goodman Jewish Family Services of Broward County’s Cupboard, Rabbi Slavticki helped put away the groceries, noticing that the pantry and fridge were nearly empty.
“When I put away the stuff the kids were so excited about what they’re going to be eating,” said Rabbi Slavaticki with Las Olas Chabad Jewish Center in Fort Lauderdale.
This week, Goodman JFS helped deliver 350 bags filled with food, including challah, fresh produce, two dozen eggs, cereal and milk, as well as Shabbat candles, to 10 synagogues, temples and schools throughout Broward.
“So many families reach out to us who are Jewish and who keep kosher,” he said. “This is such a wonderful thing that JFS is doing. People eating kosher can feel comfortable knowing it’s coming from a Jewish organization.”
From larger families with three of four kids, to singles and elderly community members, hundreds benefited.
“It’s heartwarming to see,” said Rabbi Slavaticki. “No family should ever go hungry. I’m grateful we were able to be part of this pilot program.”
The community-wide program included support from organizations throughout the county. Food Art Caterers in Fort Lauderdale donated the space to pack and keep all produce refrigerated. Prince Distributors, The Grove Kosher Market, Sylvia’s Kosher Place, Feeding South Florida, and Publix Super Markets donated the food.
It was a massive undertaking. A total of 18,254 pounds of food was distributed, including the potential to prepare 30,484 meals.
“We intentionally did not stay around to watch the congregants receive the food. We wanted them to maintain their anonymity and dignity,” said Goodman JFS president and CEO Randy Kominsky, who was on site helping unload food.
At Temple Beth El in Hollywood, Shai Habosha said many people have lost their jobs and have little or no income. Staff and volunteers dropped off food bags at homes, and some recipients came to the parking lot, where the food was put right into their trunks.
“Some of them were in tears,” said Hobasha, who serves as the temple’s executive director. “It’s hard times. It was very touching to everyone.”
At Margate Hebrew Academy in Coral Springs, Rabbi Shaya Denburg, director of development, critical to the success of the students is making sure they have everything they need, including food to eat.
While they have run the Chabad Food Fund for 25 years, since Coronavirus hit in March, many families who had never previously been in a position of financial difficulty have come forward needing help. Both mother and father have lost jobs, for example, or small businesses are facing losses.
“All of a sudden, we began to hear stories from people who had never been struggling,” Denburg said, “including not having food in the house.”
He said the JFS food program came just in time, as their free summer lunch program for students was wrapping up. “Just as our summer program was coming to an end and I was wondering what we would do… Randy from JFS reached out to me,” Denburg said.
“So if you want to see the hand of God in everything, this was the perfect timing. It’s phenomenal Divine Providence, and we are very grateful to the wonderful people at the Cupboard. The food is going to really supplement families who need a little bit extra.”
He added: “There’s a misconception of what food insecurity looks like. People think of poverty, homelessness, raggedy clothes. But especially in Corona time, people can have nice houses and cars but be out of work for months.”
At Young Israel of Hollywood, “Covid has greatly impacted many people in our Jewish community. Certainly food insecurity is part of it,“ said Rabbi Yosef Weinstock. “We are happy to partner with JFS and provide an outlet for food and beyond that, care to members of the community.”
At Young Israel of Deerfield Beach, which has 1,200 members during the season, shul president Rabbi Dr. Martin Schloss said he worked with JFS and was deeply involved with the process.
Located within Century Village, a sprawling retirement community where the overwhelming majority are ages 75 to 85, many of their congregants are widows and widowers struggling on fixed retirement income.
“So many of our members are physically unable to do shopping or because of compromising physical disabilities are really unable to care for themselves, and a number are financially struggling,” said Schloss.
Plus, he added, “The food was really quality and full of things that are staples.The beauty is that we were able to deliver it to people so they didn’t have to come out.”
Said one recipient this week, smiling through tears as two heaping bags of food were delivered to her home for her family of five: “People don’t realize how much a little food means to people,” said the young mother, whose husband’s previously thriving business is now struggling to remain open. “We were usually the ones helping others. I’m so grateful to my rabbi and to JFS for doing this for us.”