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Performing Music and More

June 17, 2010 By:
Amy Purdy, JF Feature
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On Sunday, June 27, Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy alumni and students will present the second "Harmonies for Hunger Relief" concert to benefit Federation's Mitzvah Food Project. Deena and Sara Goldstein are reprising their roles as organizers and producers for the event, which will feature performances of classic and modern Broadway, Disney, rhythm and blues, pop, jazz and original compositions by 23 performers. The event will take place at 7:30 p.m. at the school at 272 S. Bryn Mawr Ave., Bryn Mawr. A dessert reception will follow, with treats donated from Max & David's Catering in Elkins Park.

Max and David's, Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy and Gratz College are event sponsors.

Lee Hillerson, chair of the Mitzvah Food Project advisory board, says that the staff and board were "so thrilled with last year's concert that we welcomed, with open arms, the Goldsteins' offer to hold a second one."

The 2009 event raised $2,600 dollars, and funds were used to purchase food for the six volunteer-run food pantries operated throughout the region.

The Mitzvah Food Project provides supplemental food packages to 2,000 food-insecure, low-income households a year in the Greater Philadelphia area.

Hillerson explains that in addition to raising much needed money for a worthy cause, the first concert also "raised awareness of the reality of hunger and food insecurity in our local neighborhoods."

The food project has responded to an increased need for its services during the past year.

"Although the economy may be improving, it's not for those facing hunger," says Hillerson.

Moreover, funding for Pennsylvania's State Food Purchase Program is declining, and is in jeopardy of being cut, says Drisana Davis, Mitzvah Food Project associate. This program is Pennsylvania's primary support of the charitable food distribution network, which provides nutritionally balanced food packages to low-income families, children and seniors.

The recent findings of the Federation-commissioned Jewish Population Study of Greater Philadelphia highlight the critical need for Mitzvah Food Project services. The 2009 study estimates that there are 11,300 Jews in Greater Philadelphia living with food insecurity.

And in the past year, according to the study, some 4,476 Jewish households reported having to cut the size of a meal or skip a meal due to financial reasons.

Hillerson emphasizes that the food-project staff and leadership recognize this increased demand.

"We are facing more requests for our food services, including home deliveries. We are also receiving requests for delivery from people who live quite a distance from pantry sites," reports Hillerson.

In response to this need, the Mitzvah Food Project is working to increase its volunteer food delivery corps.

"We plan to meet these challenges by stepping up our awareness campaign in unique ways," such as holding the concert, says Hillerson.

Event organizers have set a fundraising goal of $3,000 for the June 27 concert. They're also working on increasing corporate and individual sponsorship of the concert.

One of Deena Goldstein's goals this year is to continue to raise awareness about the vital work that the Mitzvah Food Project performs.

"It is disheartening," she says, "that people in our community are at risk of hunger and struggle to feed their families. We're glad to have the opportunity to bring together our peers for an entertaining evening that will also inspire the community to help alleviate food insecurity."

Deena, and her sister, Sara Goldstein, are Barrack Academy alumnae. Deena is a senior at Temple University, majoring in Spanish. Sara is a sophomore at Drexel University, majoring in communications.

Sara Goldstein sees her work on the concert as an opportunity to give back to the community: "There is a never-ending need to support those who are less fortunate, and a fundraising event like this is just the beginning."

To learn more about the Mitzvah Food Project, call Drisana Davis at 215-832-0531 (e-mail: ddavis@jfgp.org). For concert tickets and sponsorship information, log on to: jewishphilly.org/mfp.

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