As Passover approaches, families across the world are thinking about their family Seder—what dishes they will prepare and how they will set the table. If they happen to be the guest this year, they consider what wine they should select for their host.
Recipe books are consulted, shopping lists are compiled, cleaning commences and the hunt is on for the food purchases needed for the many meals that require special ingredients for the week, choosing from supermarket aisles filled with the latest replacement for chametz from several kosher companies.
But, if you are poor and elderly, this is the time to think about your family that may have passed on—or have moved too far away to visit. You may be too far and sick to visit anyone as a guest. You may be living in a neighborhood that has changed and there is no supermarket filled with kosher specialty items for Passover nearby. Perhaps, you are living on a fixed income so the extra cost for the kosher-for-Passover product is just too much to add to your food budget.
B’nai B’rith leaders saw this happening in the late 1960s and created a program called Project H.O.P.E. (Help Our People Everywhere) as a means to respond to this need.
The program evolved over time, but continues to include the essentials of food for the holiday such as matzah, eggs, grape juice, canned goods, jam, cookies, oil, gefilte fish and horseradish for their Passover table. In some communities, there is fresh or cooked chicken included.
This year, Project H.O.P.E. will deliver Passover food to close to 2,600 households in several communities in six states, such as: Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia and Michigan.
Due to the dedication of the chairs of Project H.O.P.E., shopping bags of kosher–for-Passover food are delivered to the door of a senior citizen or community center that serves the surrounding area.
Recipients are chosen in consultation with social service agencies that work with senior populations in need. The visit by a volunteer delivering food is as important as the food itself.
But, before that bag goes out the door to its recipient, preparations for that year’s delivery must be made. Funds must be raised, food ordered, packing locations reserved and maps of delivery routes are created.
These volunteers are often comprised of the same families. They come back year after year and bring their own children to learn firsthand what it means to help others. Schools and youth groups benefit from the opportunity to use this program to learn about volunteerism.
These volunteer chairs and all of the volunteers who participate each year have full time jobs and lives but make their work with Project H.O.P.E. a full time labor of love. Each year, they put the direction of the Passover Hagadah into practice .
“Let all who are hungry come and eat. Let all who are in need come and celebrate Passover.”
Happy Passover to you and your family.
Rhonda Love is the Vice President of Programming for B'nai B'rith International. She is Director of the Center of Community Action and Center of Jewish Identity. She served as the Program Director of the former District One of B'nai B'rith. In 2002 she received recognition by B'nai brith with the Julius Bisno Professional Excellence Award. This June will mark her 38th anniversary at B'nai B'rith. To view some of her additional content, Click Here.
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