Wouldn't it be awesome if, during these Days of Awe, Jews could reflect and act on problems that impact thousands of their brethren? Through their participation in the High Holiday Food Drive, sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia's Mitzvah Food Pantry, area families and individuals can actively perform the mitzvah of feeding the hungry.
Through Oct. 19, the pantry is accepting donations of nonperishable food, personal-care items and household supplies at more than 50 synagogues and other sites throughout the Philadelphia area.
"This year's drive is more important than ever," said Drisana Davis, Mitzvah Food Pantry associate. She explained that "in the last quarter of its 2006-07 program year, the pantry's six distribution sites increased the number of food packages they distributed by 56 percent.
"And, according to the Consumer Price Index, food prices rose more than 6 percent in the first five months of 2007," she continued. "With recent increases in food and living expenses in the region, the number of clients requesting services from the pantry continues to grow."
The items collected during the drive will be sorted at the SHARE Food Program Warehouse on Sunday, Oct. 21, at 2901 W. Hunting Park Ave. in Philadelphia during Federation's Mitzvah Mania event, the Jewish community's largest single effort dedicated to performing good deeds.
The items then will be distributed over the next few months by the Mitzvah Food Pantry to at-risk families and individuals — from infants to seniors — in the five-county Greater Philadelphia area. During the 2006-07 program year, the pantry gave out more than 23,000 food packages.
'Tzedakah in Action'
Lee Hillerson, chair of the Mitzvah Food Pantry Advisory Board views participation in the High Holiday Food Drive as "tzedakah in action."
Through her involvement, Hillerson became acutely aware of the magnitude of the problem of Jewish hunger.
"Most of us take for granted that we enjoy daily meals," she said, adding that "most of my friends know that when they are hungry, they can go to the supermarket and purchase nutritious food to prepare for their families; however, many area families do not have this luxury."
Hillerson's work with the pantry and with the Mitzvah Neighborhood Project — where she and other volunteers helped to clean the homes of elderly residents of Northeast and South Philadelphia — demonstrates her personal commitment to a cherished family tradition of service to others.
Hillerson is the daughter of Marjorie Abrams, a longtime Federation leader who's served as the president of Federation's Women's Division.
"From the time I was a child, I learned from my mother the importance of giving back to the Jewish community," she said.
Donations made during the 2007 High Holiday Food Drive will help the pantry provide food and basic staples to an expanding number of recipients. Community members can increase the impact by donating money as well. This will enable the Mitzvah Food Pantry to stretch its dollars by collaborating with SHARE and Philabundance, accessing the wholesale distribution market and State Food Purchase Program. Because it's easier for donors to document a monetary gift for a tax deduction, the benefit of each dollar is optimized.
For more information about participating in the High Holiday Food Drive, sorting food during Mitzvah Mania, or making food or cash donations to the food pantry, call Drisana Davis at 215-832-0531 or e-mail: [email protected]
There is a Mitzvah Food Pantry drop-off location near where you live or work:
· SHARE Food Program Warehouse, 2901 W. Hunting Park Ave., Philadelphia. 215-223-2220. Hours: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Center City/South Philadelphia
· JCCs Stiffel Senior Center, 604 Porter St., Philadelphia. 215-468-3500 (Susan Hoffman). Hours: Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
· JCCs Klein Branch, 10100 Jamison Ave., Philadelphia. 215-698-7300, Ext. 197 (Nina Cohen). Hours: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
West Philadelphia/ Main Line
· JCCs Kaiserman Branch, 45 Haverford Road, Wynnewood. 215-832-0531. Hours: Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If more than two packages, make sure to call in advance.
· Congregation Tifereth Israel of Lower Bucks County, 2909 Bristol Road, Bensalem. 215-752-3468. Hours: Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; Friday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
· Congregation Kol Emet, 1360 Oxford Valley Road, Yardley. 215-493-8522. Ask for Debi Weiss or Wendy Jacobson-Simon, co-chairs of the Social Action Committee. Hours: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
· Beth Tikvah-B'nai Jeshurun, 1001 Papermill Road, Erdenheim. 215-836-5677. Ask for Valerie Hurwitz. Hours: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Accepting donations Oct. 1 through Oct. 11; make sure to call to confirm details.
· Beth Sholom Congregation, 8231 Old York Road, Elkins Park. 215-887-3625, Ext. 100 (Terry Strauss). Hours: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call in advance.
· Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel, 8339 Old York Road, Elkins Park. 215-887-8700 (Rabbi Peter Rigler). Hours: Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call Drisana Davis at 215-832-0531 or e-mail: [email protected] org.
· Congregation Or Ami, 708 Ridge Pike, Lafayette Hill. 610-828-9066 (Melissa Lowdermilk). Hours: Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
· Congregation Ohev Shalom, 2 Chester Road, Wallingford. 610-356-8700 (Michael Muderick). Call for more information and drop-off times.
· Congregation Or Shalom, 835 Darby-Paoli Road, Berwyn. 610-644-9086 (Rabbi Alan Iser). Hours: Monday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to noon.
· Kesher Israel Congregation, 1000 Pottstown Pike, West Chester. 610-696-7210. Hours: Monday and Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Accepting donations until Oct. 17. Make sure to call before making a drop-off, and refer to the food drive as "Operation Isaiah."