On Tisha B’Av, We Are Not Weeping Alone


We weep and fast this year together with millions starving all around the world. Children’s mass grave in Dadaab, Kenya.

— by Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Last night, Rabbi Marcia Prager led Philadelphia P’nai Or (“Faces of Light”) in a powerful observance of the beginning of Tisha B’Av — the midsummer mourning that began in the burning, scorching heat of mid-summer Middle East and that traditionally was focused on the burning of two Holy Temples in Jerusalem. In addition to the classic mourning chant of Eicha, the Book of Lamentations, Reb Marcia brought us the dirge of Karaite Jews, with its refrain: “We sit alone and weep.”

She invited me to make the transition from “We sit alone …” to “We sit together …”  That is, we are transforming Judaism to mourn not alone, a people mourning only its own disasters — but a people that mourns along with other communities grieving their own disasters — and mourning those disasters that afflict us all.

Continued after the jump.
This Tisha B’Av is especially poignant, for we weep and fast this year together with more than a billion Muslims, who are fasting in this month of Ramadan. Some Muslims are fasting in sorrow for thousands killed in a civil war in Syria, and hundreds killed in an incipient civil war in Egypt. For hundreds of children killed by U.S. drones. For tens of thousands killed, and millions driven from their homes, by the U.S. war against Iraq. Other Muslims — millions of them — are fasting to turn themselves away from pointless materialist obsessions and toward the spiritual life called forth by the best of the Quran.

We weep and fast this year together with more than a hundred prisoners in Guantanamo, on hunger strike to protest their being held for years illegally and immorally by the U.S. government. These are prisoners whom the U.S. has acknowledged were never guilty of any terrorism, any violence, any crime — but whom the U.S. government will not release. Indeed, the U.S. has responded to the hunger strike with forced feeding — a torture by itself.

We weep and fast this year together with more than 12,000 American prisoners in California, on hunger strike because they are subjected to overcrowding that is so abominable, that federal courts have ruled it is “cruel and unusual punishment” forbidden by the Constitution. But the Governor has ignored court orders, and even refused to release prisoners held in cells already infected by deadly “valley fever.” Among the grievances, the thousands in California are protesting against the use of solitary confinement, that for some prisoners has been imposed for decades. (Decades!)

We weep and fast this year together with millions starving all around the world, in famines created by the droughts, created by the global scorching that’s caused by addiction to burning fossil fuels. An addiction carried like a triumphant banner by Americans, who per capita are by far the worst at scorching our shared planet, and whose government refuses to take action to lay a cost upon the Drug Lords of Big Carbon, that profit from this addiction.

We weep and fast this year together with tens of thousands of American children who will suffer hunger, because their parents have been robbed of their jobs by rapacious corporations, and because their congress is hell-bent on cancelling food stamps, while increasing subsidies to wealthy farmland owners.

Last night, the mourners in our circle said, each as the spirit moved them, a line of truth and then another and another, of what we bewail and weep together. How can we heal these lethal wounds upon humanity, and the earth, our mother?

The Congressional SNAP Challenge: What Rep. Barbara Lee Forgot


Rep. Barbara Lee

Once in a while, a politician or two tries living on the budget of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for a day, or maybe a week. This week, 26 members of the Congress will do it, in reaction to the Senate’s Farm Bill, that would once again cut the SNAP recipient budgets. The current amount that the average recipient can eat on is $4.50 a day.

I was struck by Congresswoman Barbara Lee's (D-CA) blog post on her shopping trip:

Getting your budget down to $4.50 a day is complicated. You need to try to make sure you have enough protein, limit your sodium, and find good vegetables. If you have special dietary needs, like diabetes or an allergy, there's even more to think about.

Congresswoman Lee’s heart (and those of the other 25 members of Congress who took on the challenge) is in the right place, but she forgot something: She made a tuna noodle casserole part of her week's meal plan. She noted that she found a box that only required water, since milk and butter were not on her budget. Some SNAP recipients also don’t have electricity or gas. Therefore, they can not cook.

More after the jump.

In addition, food tends to cost more in poorer neighborhoods. I am not saying that only "the poor" are on SNAP — there are many people living in middle-class neighborhoods who have lost their job, and are eking out from unemployment compensation and SNAP. But if your only food source is a bodega, it is likely that a can of tuna will cost more than if you can compare prices at multiple markets from the flyers that get delivered weekly, and choose the best location. 

Having said all that, I applaud the members of Congress taking on this challenge. I wish that at least one of the members of Congress voting for the cut to SNAP would take it on also, and see how expensive it is to buy food.

Every time I write an article about SNAP, I look  at my log and see what I ate the day before, and how much it cost. Yesterday, I had three cups of coffee (58¢/cup), about a half pound of grapes ($1.50), a yogurt (79¢) and a salad from a fast food restaurant, plus dressing. I hit $4 before even figuring out the cost of the salad. I am a tiny eater, and I know that "regular" people wouldn't be able live on what I eat. Some people have no choice.

If you want to help, you could try eating on $4.50 a day, or just add up what you spent on food yesterday. And then call your Congress member. If they are participating, thank them. If not, ask why.

We have money for weapons, money for corporate welfare, tax cuts for the rich, but no money for kids who will be very hungry this summer, when they will not get school lunches. I called my Representative’s office. They wrote down my questions, but I doubt that I will get an answer. Maybe you will do better.

Welcoming The Stranger

The Jewish Social Policy Action Network (JSPAN) has issued its 4th Haggadah Supplement entitled Welcoming the Stranger to the Land. According to JSPAN Vice-President and Philadelphia Jewish Voice board member Kenneth Meyers:

We were immigrants in Egypt.  And we have been immigrants many times since then, until we achieved citizenship on American soil. The Seder is a time to reflect on our experience and the plight of others who have not yet achieved their freedoms here.  Millions of undocumented immigrants have no path to citizenship or the full freedoms we take for granted.  Consider what their status forever does to their lives, and how we can help them and America fulfill our common aspirations.

Links to JSPAN’s previous issue oriented Haggadah supplements follow the jump.
Each year, the Jewish Social Policy Action Network develops issue oriented material each year you can use to enrich your seder. Supplements to the traditional Haggadah relate the biblical story of the Exodus to current events and issues.

  • The 2012 Freedom Supplement, comprised of 16 pages with illustrations, is now available without charge. The Freedom Seder Supplement celebrates emerging freedom movements around the world with poems, texts and prayers. Editors Stephen C. Sussman Esq. and Kenneth R. Myers Esq. have drawn from far-ranging sources, from Lord Byron to Tibet. Each of the readings includes suggestions keying it into the traditional Seder service.
  • In 2010 JSPAN released its first Supplement, entitled We were strangers, on the theme of immigration in history and in the United States.
  • In 2011 the JSPAN Supplement, This is the bread of poverty, brought the focus to hunger here and around the world. The 2012 “Freedom Seder” takes up the human longing for freedom that is spreading around the globe, and concludes with four resolutions that we as American Jews can meaningfully adopt.

Hazon and Isabella Freedman Announce Merger

New York City, NY / Falls Village, CT
Monday, December 3, 2012 / 19 Kislev 5773

The boards of Hazon and the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center are today announcing the anticipated merger of the two well-respected Jewish non-profits.  Both organizations are rooted in the New York area; have national impact; are known for providing transformative experiences; and in particular play a leading role in the Jewish Food Movement and Jewish environmental movement.

More after the jump.
Board chairs Richard Dale (of Hazon) and Mark Russo (of Isabella Freedman) said, in a joint statement,

we’re proud of the accomplishments of each of our organizations, and we hope and intend that the merger will enable the combined entity to grow more strongly, to expand and enrich its programming, and to have a more significant human and communal impact, than either could by itself.

David Weisberg, currently the Executive Director of Isabella Freedman, and the CEO of the new organization, said,

People love being at the Isabella Freedman campus, and many find a spiritual home-away-from-home here, but we also wanted to have a more direct relationship with people in New York City and across the country. Meanwhile Hazon has had a huge impact on people’s lives, has been at the forefront of re-connecting American Jews with the natural world, but has lacked its own physical base. The merger is intended to bring more people to the existing Freedman site, and to enable us together to have a greater impact across the country. We’re excited that the merged entity will have a wide range of programs, great staff and volunteers in California, Colorado and elsewhere, and the opportunity to grow strongly in the future.

Nigel Savage, the founder of Hazon, a longtime Isabella Freedman board member, and the President of the new organization, added,

The strong growth of Hazon in the last decade is testament not only to our incredible staff, board members, volunteers, participants and funders; it’s also a reflection of the remarkable growth of the wider Jewish Food Movement and Jewish environmental movement.  Both Hazon and Freedman have become known for launching new programs that bring Jewish tradition to life in incredible ways, and we see on a daily basis that our ideas resonate with growing numbers of people. In the next decade we need to take this work to scale, so that we and our partners not only renew and strengthen Jewish life, but also enable the American Jewish community to play a distinctive role in creating a more sustainable world for all. That’s what this merger aims to achieve.

The merged organization is also expected to include the Teva Learning Alliance, which began in association with Isabella Freedman in the 1990s, but which until now has formally been a program of Surprise Lake Camp. Jordan Dale, the Executive Director of Surprise Lake, and Nili Simhai, the Director of Teva, both expressed strong support for the merger:

We’re incredibly proud of Teva, and of the impact that a growing number of Tevaniks are having around the country. We’ve worked closely with Hazon and Isabella Freedman over the last decade, and we hope and believe that the merger will enable the work of Teva and of our partners to grow in the future.

The new group will be called Hazon, will be headquartered at Falls Village, CT and New York City, and will have offices in California and Colorado. The retreat center will continue to be known as Isabella Freedman, which will be one of several “sub-brands” that are intended to grow in the future, including:

  • Adamah (the award-winning Jewish farming program),
  • Elat Chayyim (spirituality-based retreats),
  • the Jew & the Carrot (the Jewish Food Movement blog),
  • the Jewish Greening Fellowship (leadership and organizational transformation),
  • Makom Hadash (supporting second-stage non-profits),
  • Shmita Project (a multi-organization partnership to renew awareness of the shmita cycle),
  • Siach (strengthening ties between American, European and Israeli environmental and social justice leaders) and
  • Teva (focusing on environmental education for children and educators).

The chair of the new organization will be Richard Shuster, an Isabella Freedman board member for many years (and a passionate cyclist and skier). He said,

I believe in both constituent organizations, I’m impressed by David and Nigel, and I think that the opportunity-to create something that can touch people’s lives, for years to come, in powerful ways — is well-worth the challenge.

Isabella Freedman is a long-standing network agency of UJA-Federation of New York, and for the past several years, UJA-Federation has also provided various programmatic grants to Hazon. John Ruskay, Executive Vice President & CEO of UJA-Federation said,

UJA-Federation’s tagline is ‘Good Together’ and we think that Hazon and Isabella Freedman coming together and sharing each other’s strengths will have a lasting impact on the renewal of Jewish life in New York, nationally, and with deepened connections to Israel. We’re proud to have supported each organization in the past, and look forward to seeing how together they will strengthen our Jewish future.

The merger has been similarly endorsed by significant leaders in the foundation world:

Felicia Herman, of New York’s Natan Fund, a longtime supporter of Hazon, said,

Funders who support innovative young organizations have been wrestling with ‘what’s next’ for these groups.  Bikkurim’s recent Abundant Harvest report articulated some of the key issues and urged us all to think of new approaches to those struggles.  In addition to its own important programmatic work, Hazon has also always worked to address systemic issues in both the Jewish environmental sector and the innovation ecosystem, and this merger is another example of that creativity.  We need multiple approaches to strengthening the Jewish people, but each of those approaches doesn’t need to be a standalone nonprofit.

Lisa Farber Miller of Denver’s Rose Community Foundation said,

We’re proud to be a significant stakeholder in Hazon’s work in Colorado, and/but we’ve seen in general how important it is for second-stage non-profits to develop sustainable business strategies. Hazon and Freedman should be commended for getting to this point. I very much hope that the new merged entity grows and thrives.”  Dana Raucher, the Executive Director of The Samuel Bronfman Foundation concurred: “Second-stage growth requires nimbleness on the part of funders and organizations.  We applaud Hazon and Isabella Freedman for thinking creatively about their sustainability.

Similar support came from leading figures in the field. Adam Berman, who at different times directed Teva and Isabella Freedman, founded Adamah, and was a board member of Hazon for seven years, is now the founder and director of Urban Adamah, in Berkeley, CA. He said,

My own experience mirrors, in a way, that of many of the younger Adamahniks and Tevaniks, or the people who’ve done Hazon rides or retreats at Freedman. We don’t want to separate or hive off our identities; on the contrary, we want to grow as Jews and as human beings, to learn, to celebrate, to find new ways to give back.  The growth and partnership of Urban Adamah, Wilderness Torah and Hazon in the Bay Area is a good example of how we can renew Jewish life in incredibly profound ways. I’m excited for this merger, and I send love and blessings to everyone in the Hazon and Isabella Freedman families.

Merger discussions between the two organizations have been in process since the beginning of the year, and the merger is now contingent only on final due diligence, formal board authorization and the receipt of any necessary regulatory approvals.

Staff from both organizations, who have worked closely together in the past, are already planning the detailed integration of the two organizations. Over the Labor Day weekend, Hazon’s New York Ride was back at Freedman for the first time in five years; and Hazon’s sold-out Food Conference, taking place at Freedman at the end of this week, will see the first public celebrations of the merger. As David Weisberg put it,

The two organizations are like friends who’ve known each other a long time and one day realize they should get married. We already know each other and have shared values. Now that our engagement is public, we’re excited to start to weave a new enlarged Hazon that honors our history and the people who brought us here, while envisioning and creating a dynamic and exciting future.

For more information, please visit the FAQ on their websites.

2012 Jewish Community Food Stamp Challenge Continues

— by Benjamin Suarato

Rabbis and cantors in communities across the country representing all four major denominations are committing to living for one week on a food budget of $31.50, the average allotment for individuals on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly SNAP), as part of the 2012 Jewish Community Food Stamp Challenge, running from the lead-up to the High Holy Days starting September 7 and continuing through Thanksgiving. Participating clergy will take the challenge in order to educate congregations and communities about the realities of hunger and raise a loud collective Jewish voice about this crisis.

“Hunger and food insecurity touch every one of our communities, but it is rarely talked about and frequently misunderstood,” said Rabbi Leonard Gordon, co-chair of the Jewish Community Food Stamp Challenge representing the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and a member of the JCPA board. “The Food Stamp Challenge is a way for rabbis and cantors to make the invisible daily struggles of congregants and neighbors real while demonstrating the Jewish community’s deep commitment to help those in need. This includes education about the programs and assistance available.”

More after the jump.
“The involvement of rabbis and cantors from all streams of Judaism, in every region of the country is a testament to the centrality of ending hunger to the work we do as Jewish leaders and the unity of our community in elevating the conversation on poverty,” said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow. “This will be my third Food Stamp Challenge and each time, I am reawakened to the true struggle faced each day by those who depend on SNAP to put food on the table. It is a lesson that is now being brought to communities across the country through this committed involvement of religious leaders.”

SNAP participation has been functioning as intended, steadily increasing with the needs of those still struggling during the slow economic recovery, yet the program, one of the key instruments to addressing hunger in America, has been facing proposals of severe cuts to funding.

“On a budget of only $1.50 per meal, many SNAP recipients must settle for unsatisfying meals that lack the necessary nutrition and energy to meet the demands of work and family,” said Abby J. Leibman, President & CEO of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. “By trying to understand, even in a very small way, the challenge these families face, we will be better armed to protect SNAP from the threat of cuts.”

The 2012 Jewish Community Food Stamp Challenge is being led by a unique partnership of organizations spanning the religious spectrum, including:

    the Jewish Council for Public Affairs,

  • MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger,
  • the Rabbinical Assembly,
  • the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism,
  • the Union for Reform Judaism,
  • the Central Conference of American Rabbis,
  • the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association,
  • Uri L’Tzedek,
  • American Conference of Cantors, and
  • the Cantors Assembly.  

Resources created for this mobilization, include sample sermons, advocacy opportunities, programming ideas, and other tools for engaging congregations and communities. The Food Stamp Challenge is open for others besides clergy who are interested in participating in this experience.  More information and registration can be found online.  

The Steering Committee that is providing leadership for the Jewish Community Food Stamp Challenge includes:

  • Chaired by Rabbi Leonard Gordon of Congregation Mishkan Tefila in Chestnut Hill, MA (representing the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Lenny is also on the JCPA Board of Directors)
  • Rabbi Jay Kornsgold of Temple Beth El in East Windsor, NJ and Rabbi Ed Bernstein of Temple Torah of West Boynton Beach in Boynton Beach, FL  (both represent the Rabbinical Assembly)
  • Rabbi Harold Kravitz, Senior Rabbi at Adath Jeshurun Congregation in Minnetonka, MN (representing the committee as Chair of the Board of Directors of MAZON:  A Jewish Response to Hunger)
  • Rabbi Susan Talve of Central Reform Congregation in St. Louis, MO; Rabbi Neil Borovitz of Congregation Avodat Shalom in River Edge, NJ; Rabbi Nancy Kasten, an active teacher and volunteer in the Dallas Jewish community, board member of Hebrew Union College; and Rabbi Judith Siegal of Tempe Judea in Coral Gables, FL (representing the Union for Reform Judaism/Central Conference of American Rabbis)
  • Rabbi Shawn Zevit, who worked for the Reconstructionist Movement for fourteen years and now serves as the visiting rabbi at T’Chiyah Reconstructionist Congregation in Detroit, MI (representing the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association)
  • Rabbi Ari Weiss, Executive Director of the Orthodox social justice organization Uri L’Tzedek
  • Rabbi Sharon Brous, the founding rabbi of IKAR in Los Angeles, CA
  • Cantor Jack Chomsky of Congregation Tifereth Israel in Columbus, Ohio (representing the Cantors Assembly)
  • Cantor Shannon McGrady-Bane, co-chair of the ACC Social Action and Justice Committee (representing the American Conference of Cantors); and
  • Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs

For more information about the 2012 Jewish Community Food Stamp Challenge, please contact Robin Rosenbaum, JCPA Poverty Campaign Coordinator, at: rrosenbaum@thejcpa.org or (202) 212-6037.

Jewish clergy in all communities have been weighing in about how the goals of the Jewish Community Food Stamp Challenge have resonated with their varied experiences:

“I am taking the Food Stamp Challenge along with my family because it is important to not only talk about the fact that so many people in America are in need of food assistance, but also that we take action. When I take the Food Stamp Challenge I will have a better understanding as to what people who receive food stamps are feeling each and every day. By encouraging the members of my congregation to join me in this endeavor we will be making a statement that we must continue this important work of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) and advocate on behalf of those who are in need. This is what Judaism asks of us and what we must do.”

— Rabbi Jay Kornsgold of Temple Beth El in East Windsor, NJ

“With so much at stake in terms of how we are providing healthy, accessible and affordable sustenance in our country, inaction was not an option for me, challenged by my preparation for High Holy Days as visiting rabbi of Reconstructionist Congregation T’Chiyah in Detroit, to do more than only utter words and offer prayers for those in need. I have been spurred on by the wonderful response from friends, family, and clergy and members of faith communities everywhere. Let’s collect food for those in need this Yom Kippur and Thanksgiving and invite those who live with food insecurity to our sukkot, AND let’s work for systemic change for the millions who live on Food Stamps every day in our own communities, congregations and nation.”

— Rabbi Shawn Zevit who worked for the Reconstructionist Movement for fourteen years and now serves as the visiting rabbi at T’Chiyah Reconstructionist Congregation in Detroit, MI

“In my congregation, publicizing the Food Stamp Challenge has galvanized the community’s youth and social action leadership to make this a year to focus on hunger and food insecurity locally and in Israel.  Our students have adopted the slogan “Hunger is no Game” as the theme for the year (basing themselves on the recent movie, The Hunger Games”).  At a time when the social safety net is shredding and the alienation of rich and poor from their common humanity is increasing, taking the Food Stamp Challenge reminds us, in a small way, of our interconnectedness.”

— Rabbi Leonard Gordon of Congregation Mishkan Tefila in Chestnut Hill, MA (representing the United Synagogues of Conservative Judaism,  Lenny is also on the JCPA Board of Directors)

“We move about our communities like ships on non-intersecting courses across a vast ocean, not realizing how many among us are really struggling to feed themselves and their families on a daily basis.  The maze of public assistance in food and other resources is unknown to many of us — but is becoming known to more and more of us, even as powerful forces in our society seek to decrease the resources available to the growing number in greater need.  

“I hope that our involvement with this project will enable people to see and feel more clearly — and to remove the stigma attached to those who receive help.  I have long suspected that there are more needy among us than we know — that people internalize the idea that if they are Jewish they can’t be needy, so if they are needy, they mustn’t be Jewish — or full members of our Jewish community.  A project like this may shed some light and some heat.”

— Cantor Jack Chomsky of Congregation Tifereth Israel in Columbus, Ohio

“Our society is short on empathy for those in need. The Food Stamp Challenge is a tool to channel us away from indifference towards empathy for the food insecure. I’m taking the Food Stamp Challenge as a personal reminder to avoid indifference and to work with others to fight food insecurity.”

— Rabbi Ed Bernstein of Temple Torah of West Boynton Beach in Boynton Beach, FL

“The 18th century Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin said, ‘If you want to raise a person from mud and filth, do not think it is enough to keep standing on top and reaching a helping hand down to the person. You must go all the way down yourself, down into mud and filth. Then take hold of the person with strong hands and pull the person and yourself out into the light.’

“As Jews we know that it is not enough to make sure that others have enough to eat. We need to challenge ourselves to experience what those in need actually experience- the anxiety, the pain, and even the humiliation- so that we always remain motivated to fight for economic justice for all. At this time, when more children in this nation are food insecure than ever before, I feel compelled to motivate myself to find solutions in every way I possibly can. The Food Stamp Challenge is one path I am taking to motivate and inspire me to do my part to bring more light and wholeness into this New Year.”

— Rabbi Nancy Kasten, an active teacher and volunteer in the Dallas Jewish community, board member of Hebrew Union College

JCPA, the public affairs arm of the organized Jewish community, serves as the national coordinating and advisory body for the 14 national and 125 local agencies comprising the field of Jewish community relations.

Family Food Distribution Day Helps 220 Needy South Jersey Families

Collaboration between Golden Slipper Club & Charities and Samost Jewish Family & Children’s Service Brings 253 Volunteers Together to Help the Cause


Volunteers line up to prepare boxes of food for those in need in South Jersey.

— by Scott D. Bluebond and Lara Barrett

(VOORHEES, NJ) Golden Slipper Club and Charities and Samost Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Southern New Jersey (JFCS) hosted the first Family Food Distribution Day in Voorhees on Sunday, June 3, 2012. Volunteers traveled to warehouse space donated by NFI Industries in Voorhees, New Jersey to help to pack and deliver supplemental food boxes to over 220 families in need in Camden, Gloucester, Burlington and Cumberland Counties in South Jersey. The day represented a way to give back to the community, family style, for volunteers from toddlers to senior citizens.

More after the jump.


Volunteers from Golden Slipper Club & Charities and Samost Jewish Family & Children’s Services load cars for food deliveries.

155 adults and 98 children came out to support this cause. A long line of yellow volunteer shirts weaved throughout the warehouse — each person with a smile, a heart full of giving, and an arm full of food.Children who were not busy packing food were able to enjoy a special craft activity about food and charity. The day was as meaningful to the volunteers as it was for those who received a box at their doorstep. Family Food Distribution Day was a huge success, and another such day is sure to follow. Over $4,000 worth of food was delivered.

Family Food Distribution Day is just one of the many ways that Golden Slipper Club & Charities helps out the community. Others include activities for seniors, camps for children, and emergency grants for those in need. Samost Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JFCS) of Southern New Jersey offers senior homecare and support, special needs programs, mental health counseling, and food pantries. JFCS also offers support groups and community seminars offer coping strategies and help individuals, couples, and families learn new and effective ways of dealing with the challenges and transitions in their lives.


Golden Slipper Club & Charities chair of the board Steve Frishberg helps keep the volunteers organized.

Golden Slipper Club & Charities, celebrating 90 years in 2012, has taken a hands-on approach to support programs and services for the Greater Philadelphia area’s youth, needy and elderly, with some 600 active men and women who volunteer their time to serve people in need. Golden Slipper’s motto is charity, good fellowship and loyalty, first and foremost, in all its endeavors. It provides charitable services to those in need in the community. Golden Slipper Camp sends approximately 600 children to overnight camp in the beautiful Pocono Mountains. Golden Slipper Center for Seniors provides a daytime activities facility which offers social and recreational activities and meals for over 300 senior citizens. Other programs offered to help the community include HUNAS (Human Needs and Services)
which gives emergency grants to those in need and the Slipper Scholarship Program, which provides college scholarships to deserving and promising young students.


Golden Slipper Club member Janet Levine pitches in.

Samost Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JFCS) of Southern New Jersey has been providing comprehensive, caring social services to South Jersey residents of all ages, faiths, and economic backgrounds – strengthening the individual, the family, and the community, for over 65 years. JFCS is dedicated to helping people successfully meet the challenges of daily life. They are a nonprofit human services agency that provides quality, affordable, and accessible social services to Jewish individuals and families in need. JFCS places the highest value upon treating people with dignity and respect and are guided by the Jewish tradition of helping people help themselves. JFCS services are available to residents of Camden, Burlington, and Gloucester Counties in Southern New Jersey. No one is ever turned away because of financial hardship.

Group Picture (L-R): GSC volunteers in front in yellow shirts: Barbara and Steve Frishberg,
Megan Gilberg, Robin Cohen, and Brian Gilberg. JFCS volunteers in back in green shirts:
Jessica Gomel-Veksland, Steven Veksland, Mike Staff, and Michael Veksland.

Issue Oriented Seders: On Passover Hunger Is Not A Game

Let all who are hungry come and eat.

With 1 in 6 Americans struggling to put nutritious food on the table every day, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) and MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger hosted Members of Congress, Administration officials, and national faith and anti-poverty leaders at the National Hunger Seder at the U.S. Capitol Visitor’s Center. Seder participants made the case for protecting and strengthening funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) as legislators begin to negotiate the 2012 Farm Bill Reauthorization.

SNAP and MAZON have also developed a version of the 2012 Hunger Seder you can using in your own home to promote “hunger awareness and activism.

Similarly, the Jewish Social Policy Action Network develops issue oriented material each year you can use to enrich your seder. Supplements to the traditional Haggadah relate the biblical story of the Exodus to current events and issues.

  • The 2012 Freedom Supplement, comprised of 16 pages with illustrations, is now available without charge. The Freedom Seder Supplement celebrates emerging freedom movements around the world with poems, texts and prayers. Editors Stephen C. Sussman Esq. and Kenneth R. Myers Esq. have drawn from far-ranging sources, from Lord Byron to Tibet. Each of the readings includes suggestions keying it into the traditional Seder service.
  • In 2010 JSPAN released its first Supplement, entitled We were strangers, on the theme of immigration in history and in the United States.
  • In 2011 the JSPAN Supplement, This is the bread of poverty, brought the focus to hunger here and around the world. The 2012 “Freedom Seder” takes up the human longing for freedom that is spreading around the globe, and concludes with four resolutions that we as American Jews can meaningfully adopt.

More about the National Hunger Seder after the jump.
“Jewish people all over the world begin their Passover Seders by inviting ‘all who are hungry [to] come and eat,'” said Abby J. Leibman, MAZON’s President & CEO. “While we know we cannot include 50 million Americans in our individual Seders, these words remind us that, as a society, we are responsible for them – a powerful and timely message as Congress considers the Farm Bill and the fate of our nutrition safety net.”

The National Hunger Seder adapts the traditional Passover Seder, telling the story of the Exodus with an emphasis on the moral imperative to end hunger in America. The National Hunger Seder is part of the 4th annual MAZON/JCPA Hunger Seder mobilization, which includes more than 45 Hunger Seder events taking place in communities across the country around the Passover holiday.

“At a time of such startlingly high food insecurity, it is unconscionable to consider limiting access to a program like SNAP that not only keeps millions out of hunger and poverty, but does so with incredible efficiency and success,” said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow. “The enormity of hunger in our country belies our wealth and abundance, but can be stemmed. That will be the message in communities across the country as part of this unique mobilization. Over the past four years, Hunger Seders have brought together not only Jews, but hunger advocates, faith and political leaders to build awareness and support for the tools available to end hunger in America.”  

Participants in the National Hunger Seder included USDA Under Secretary Kevin Concannon, Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), as well as representatives from the White House. Also attending were delegates from Bread for the World, Half in Ten, Alliance to End Hunger, National Council of Churches, American Jewish World Service, Progressive Jewish Alliance & Jewish Funds for Justice, National Council of Jewish Women, The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, JCPA, MAZON, Jewish Primary Day School and others.

In addition to the National Hunger Seder and Hunger Seder mobilization led by the JCPA and MAZON, other Jewish social justice organizations are hosting Passover Seders to raise awareness about food and justice issues, including a Food and Justice Seder being hosted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in partnership with the Progressive Jewish Alliance & Jewish Funds for Justice and in cooperation with JCPA and MAZON.

Feed the Hungry: Add Your Voice to Philadelphia Jewish Activism

What Jewish person can live with the knowledge over 18% of Philadelphians live below the poverty line? Many suffer malnutrition due to poverty; over 12% of Jewish Philadelphians are impoverished to the point of needing help with affording food. There are things you can do immediately, beginning with watching the 4 minute video on the right.

List of things to do follows the jump.  

  1. Consider volunteering for, or, establishing fresh produce Gleaning projects that ensure food banks have more than canned and dried food to offer.

    These projects bring volunteers to glean for the poor what the machine harvesters miss, which is tons of fresh produce! After gleaning, the food is brought to food banks that are accessible by public transportation, unlike most farms. Those making the food accessible to poor individuals, families and elderly. These gleaning projects are great to engage your congregation, youth group, Hillel, fraternity, etc. Living on cheap canned goods, which are full of salt and low in fiber, is a huge nutrition issue for our poor and elderly. Two initiatives require your attention, both can make a huge difference:

  2. Letter writing and calls: to allow a higher savings ceiling for those seeking the $35/week Federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) vouchers that are provided under Pennsylvania State supervision. The Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition is taking the lead, and with them the leadership of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia continues to work with the United Way of Eastern Pennsylvania and the Coalition Against Hunger to influence Governor Tom Corbett and Gary Alexander, who heads Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare, to have vastly greater compassion and program regulations here in Pennsylvania.

    What if we ask these two men to volunteer to live for a few months on the levels of savings and possessions they are recommending. Lobbying efforts have already affected them slightly, moving their initial proposal: $2,000 total savings per regular household and for households with elderly or disabled members, no more than $3,200, up to $5,500 and $9,000. Imagine, that’s all you can keep as your personal “safety net” for the rest of your life to qualify for help with fresh vegetables! An impoverished 87-year old Jewish Torresdale resident has even filed an on-line Change.org petition to increase the power of protest.

  3. A third step is to support green space and communities gardens, such as through CityHarvest.org, and to supply food pantries city-wide, such as
    The Raymond & Miriam Klein JCC Mitzvah Food Project Pantry, where “Clients are welcome to access our Northeast Philadelphia pantry once a month on Tuesdays from 1:30-3:00pm. Please call in the morning before coming to the pantry. For more information on how to access the pantry or make food donations, please contact Lisa Sandler at 215-698-7300 x197 or lsandler@kleinjcc.org“.

    Consider Gleaning Projects and immediate activism with the legislature as your next mitzvah. The state hearing on SNAP is March 15th –  the time to send your letters and make calls is now.

Food Stamp Challenge: The Week The Rabbis Went Hungry


— by Eric Harris

This week Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and other members of the RAC staff, is taking the Food Stamp Challenge. Part of “Fighting Poverty with Faith’s” initiative to focus people of faith on issues of economic justice and the need to sustain vital social safety net programs, Food Stamp Challenge participants live for seven days on the standard weekly food stamp allotment of $31.50. Rabbi Saperstein will participate in the Challenge from October 27th through November 2nd, joining a half dozen prominent Jewish leaders and ten Members of Congress in this effort to call attention to anti-hunger programs and educate the faith community on the plight of hunger.

We are honored to be able to participate in the Food Stamp Challenge, and experience even for a brief time the ongoing struggle of the millions of Americans nationwide who are confronting hunger on a daily basis. We have long advocated for anti-hunger programs, like SNAP and WIC that meet the needs of the 49 million food-insecure Americans but the Challenge places in stark relief how difficult it is to obtain enough food and nutritious food on a food stamp budget – and why we must do better as a nation.

Jewish tradition teaches that feeding the hungry is a vital responsibility. The Midrash says:

When you are asked in the world to come, ‘What was your work?’ and you answer: ‘I fed the hungry,’ you will be told: ‘This is the gate of God, enter into it, you who have fed the hungry.’

Participating in the Food Stamp Challenge will not, by itself, end hunger in America; that will take a sustained commitment by our nation and its leaders. To that end, we are hopeful that our participation in the Food Stamp Challenge this week will inspire others to advocate for policies addressing families and individuals who confront hunger nationwide. During these difficult economic times, easing the burden on those who are most vulnerable must be our number one priority.

All members of our congregations are being called to register online, and join us in the Food Stamp Challenge and use it as an opportunity to educate your synagogue and community.

Other food stamp challenge participants are listed after the jump.

Who else is taking the challenge?

Ask your Member of Congress to take the challenge too.