The New Haven Register covered the program, calling the operation a "well-oiled machine."
"The program brings a smile to many faces in need," B’nai B’rith leader Harold Miller told the paper.
The organization’s Project H.O.P.E. oversees the undertaking that had volunteers young and old packing and grouping bags like a well-oiled machine out of the Jewish Community Center of Greater New Haven for folks from New Haven to Greenwich.
Now in its 40th year, the program brings a smile to many faces in need, said B’nai B’rith leader Harold Miller, who has been in charge of the program in this region for more than 25 years.
“When you see the smiles and hear the ‘thank-yous’ there’s no substitute for that,” said Miller, who also plays Santa Claus at the Veterans hospital in West Haven Christmas Eve.
“Once you get into the mode of community service, it’s a family thing,” Miller said. His wife Bobbie, a guidance counselor at Amity Middle School in Orange and son Steven, an actor, were among the volunteers.
The need has remained steady through the decades, he said, noting 135 families in New Haven would receive the packages, 100 in Bridgeport, 15 in Greenwich, 30 in New London and in other communities.
The money for the items come from fundraising, including donations from groups such as the Masons, the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, New Haven Jewish Federation, the federation of Waterbury and from “giving” individuals, Miller said.
Passover marks the Jews’ freedom from slavery and being able to leave Egypt where they were enslaved. The Jews were freed after 10 plagues were brought upon Egypt, each harsher than the previous one. The last plague was the slaying of the first born.
When the pharaoh finally let the people go, they had to leave right away — some 600,000 — so there was no chance for the mothers to finish baking their bread. The bread didn’t have a chance to rise because they had to leave.
To commemorate that, during Passover, there is no bread, rolls, cake or other leavened products allowed. The food eaten during the holiday must be kosher for Passover, meaning more restrictions than everyday kosher food.
Products manufactured with care and supervision during Passover, when Seder dinners take place, don’t contain wheat, barley, oats, rye or spelt, Miller said.
Often, because the there is so much involved in producing the products, they are pricier than their non-kosher for Passover counterparts, Miller said.
Aside from matzo, gefilte fish and macaroons, Sunday’s care packages — which were mostly distributed through helping agencies — included chamomile/mint herbal tea, matzo ball soup mix, pineapple tidbits, chocolate-covered marshmallows, apple sauce, borscht with beets and grape juice.
Tyler Pepe, who belonged the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization while growing up, and was a Project H.O.P.E. volunteer, now works with Jewish youth himself and brought a group to help out Sunday.
“It’s important to pass on the character-building thing for the youth,” he said. Good deeds or mitzvahs are central to the Jewish religion.