Win-win Thanksgiving food drive – The Jewish Standard

Posted By on November 13, 2020

People want to connect.

Theyre craving opportunities to see each other and be close to each other, said Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner, explaining why Closters Temple Emanu-El offers so many drive-thrus for its members.

Weve been doing them since the end of spring, he said. We needed some points to connect with people. So congregants were invited to receive challah before attending open-air Friday night services; to get apples, honey, and honey cake on Rosh Hashanah; to take ice cream from ice cream trucks many times; to wave the lulav in a parking lot on Sukkot; and now, for Thanksgiving, to give back to the community by donating food.

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Rabbi Kirshner has seen certain trends in how members have reacted to the pandemic and how it has affected their relationship to the synagogue. The people who love the shul have seen it as a touchstone for the important parts of their life, he said. Its value is incalculable. For others, for those who have been substantially hit by the pandemic, some felt that the synagogue was the first thing they needed to abdicate financially. And of course, some as happened in all synagogues lost not only their money but their lives.

Still, Rabbi Kirshner insisted that it is unacceptable to the synagogue to lose a member over covid for financial reasons. If some business got stuck, he said, the affected member(s) would not be lost to us.

The drive-thrus have drawn between 100 and 250 cars, depending on different factors, Rabbi Kirshner said, noting that the challah give-away was extremely popular, as were the ice-cream trucks. The Sukkot event where gloved staff members gave out hot cocoa along with a lulav for a ritual shake also was a big draw.

The upcoming Thanksgiving drive-thru was envisioned slightly differently. Were still in the mindset of programming, Rabbi Kirshner said, discussing the upcoming event, to be held on November 18 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. While were challenged, we have it better than a lot of others, he added, referring to the majority of his members. Food pantries are depleted. Giving food is a good thing to do. The food collected at the drive will be divided between the Closter Food Pantry and the Center for Food Action.

To incentivize this giving, the rabbi reached out to Adam Steinberg, co-owner of Zadies Bake Shop in Fair Lawn. People who donate at least one pound of non-perishable food will receive a gift bag containing one of Zadies mini-meltaways.

He wanted to be part of this mitzvah, Rabbi Kirshner said. He said they wished they could do this for free, but theyre also victims of the pandemic. But they gave us an incredibly reduced fee. More than just helping, theyre partnering with us in helping the community.

The pandemic has affected Temple Emanu-El in a variety of ways. The synagogue now hosts bnai mitzvah every week, and allows up to 40 people, masked and socially distant, to be in the synagogue. We take their information in case they need to be contact-traced, Rabbi Kirshner said. Were having Friday night outdoors and will continue to do that. In addition, he added, the synagogue offers regular programming online almost every day. But we still need human interaction, he said. It serves an important purpose.

Mr. Steinberg of Zadies said that he is providing the shul with 225 cakes, at a substantial discount. The rabbi called and said he was doing a food drive to fill up food pantries, he said. I thought, if we can use our platform and our products to incentivize more people to contribute, why not do it? We love helping the community.

Mr. Steinberg said the pandemic definitely has affected his business. But while sales in some areas, like catering, have gone down, weve seen a lot of new faces. A lot of people have made an effort to shop local. Its definitely helping us. Were still a local establishment, a mom and pop store. Some people are coming in who we havent seen before.

The store also has started to make new products. We started making small individual cakes, paying more attention to the times were living in, Mr. Steinberg said. Were making smaller, more individualized items, realizing that people generally are not buying for company now, but for two or three people. This approach, he said, has paid off and well continue to try new products. As a side benefit, It makes people want to crawl out of their holes and take a trip. The shop allows four masked people in at a time, standing an appropriate distance apart.

Mr. Steinberg said he was flattered that Rabbi Kirshner asked him to participate in the food drive, but anytime we get any business, its an amazing thing, especially to get a call from someone you dont normally do business with.

Whats hes doing is also an amazing thing to ask people to give at a time like this. If we can be of any help, its a great thing to be a part of.

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Win-win Thanksgiving food drive - The Jewish Standard

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