UPDATED: 04/22/15, 4:45 p.m.
For five decades, B'nai B'rith International has used Project H.O.P.E. (Help Our People Everywhere) to make Passover seders possible for the elderly and disabled, as well as those that do not have the means to buy kosher-for-Passover meals.
This year, the program served more than 2,600 meals in a number of communities across the United States, garnering attention from the local press and the appreciation of those served.
Read a recap of the localized impact, listed below:
As it has for the past 39 years, the B’nai B’rith Horeb Lodge in New Haven helped make Passover a happy holiday for families in need throughout the area through PROJECT HOPE – a kosher-for-Passover food drive organized by Lodge chair Harold Miller.
“I started by contacting various offices of the Jewish Family Service (JFS) and Tower One in New Haven. I am in touch with JFS in New Haven, Bridgeport, Danbury, Waterbury/Southbury, Greenwich, and New London,” Miller explained to the Ledger. “I asked all of them how many packages needed for the current year and then I arranged to provide for it.” After the packages were assembled at the JCC of Greater New Haven in Woodbridge, representatives from JFS and Tower One stopped by to pick them for distribution to their clients.
It’s hard work, says Miller, but well worth the effort.
“We distributed almost 400 packages this year,” he says.
“I wish to thank Project H.O.P.E. — You have certainly made it possible for me and my beloved son to have a joyous Pesach through your generosity of the kosher food. As a Holocaust survivor, I am especially appreciative. If there were more people like you, the world would be a much happier place.”
“During World War lI, I lived in the [concentration] camps in terrible conditions but always with hope. I thank Project H.O.P.E. for sending me Passover food … I am glad that good people care, that I should never be hungry again.”
These are just two of the numerous thank-you notes received by Project H.O.P.E., an organization dedicated to providing Passover-friendly foods to those in need in the Philadelphia region, since its inception in 1997.
Samuel Domsky, chairman and founder of Project H.O.P.E. (Helping Our People Everywhere) was especially proud of this year’s Passover distribution effort, which took place on Sunday. It is the chai, or 18th year, of his group providing much-needed Passover food to those who otherwise would not have the ritual foods for their seder.
“Some people assume Jews aren't in need. That’s not the case,” he said, as his family and hundreds of others gathered at Temple Sinai in Dresher to pack and deliver food to families across the region. “Families, the elderly, single parents — all need food to celebrate Passover.”
The Key Food supermarket in Woodmere, which has served the community for more than 50 years, according to Manager Jose Diaz, is closing, and the site — in a small shopping center between Franklin and Irving places — is expected to become home to a Gourmet Glatt Emporium, an all-kosher food store.
Anna and Asher Matathias were in Key Food last week to pick up the store’s Passover contributions to B’nai B’rith’s Project HOPE, and saw what Asher described as “rapidly emptying shelves.”
Asked about the possibility of a new Gourmet Glatt, Matathias said, "Of course, my wife, and those closer to the Woodmere [Long Island Rail Road] station than the Cedarhurst stop, are delighted with such a prospect.
"Needless to state that such an advent reflects the expansion of the Jewish community — Hewlett is already feeling the phenomenon by the way of the growing congregation of the local Chabad."
Joan Pavalow had planned a trip to the supermarket this week - with Passover just a few days away, she needed groceries. But then she decided not to go.
She just didn't have the money, she said.
So on Sunday afternoon, when the Kepniss family - David and Marla and their four kids - showed up at her apartment with two bags full of kosher-for-Passover food, Pavalow reacted with gratitude - and relief.
"This is a life-saver to me," she said. "I don't have the money to go to Shop Rite - and this is wonderful."
Pavalow was one of hundreds of people in the Philadelphia region who had food delivered to their doors Sunday in anticipation of Passover, which begins at sundown on Friday.
The program, run by the Jewish service organization B'nai B'rith and known as Project H.O.P.E., has been serving needy Jewish families in four states and the District of Columbia since the 1960s.
Philadelphia's Project HOPE program was begun 18 years ago by Dresher resident Samuel Domsky, who for several years ran the entire operation out of his garage with donated food. Now, he raises $30,000 a year to buy Passover staples such as matzo, eggs, and gefilte fish, and has gone from serving 75 families a year to 600.
"There's a general lack of knowledge of the extent of poverty in the Jewish community," Domsky said. "We helped raise awareness that there are many out there - seniors, Holocaust survivors, people just hanging on."
According to statistics from the Philadelphia Corporation for the Aging, 7 percent of Jewish people in the five-county Philadelphia region between 18 and 39 - and 6 percent of those age 75 and older - were living at the poverty level in 2012.
On Sunday, about 400 volunteers - the Kepniss family among them - gathered at Temple Sinai in Dresher to pack grocery bags full of food, load them into cars, and drive them to homes and apartments across the city.
The Kepniss family, of Philadelphia, was sent with more than a dozen bags to the Robert Saligman House, a Jewish retirement home on Roosevelt Boulevard. David and Marla Kepniss and their children - Talia, 13; Emmett, 11; Max, 8; and Joel, 6 - spent about an hour making deliveries in the narrow hallways.
For their trouble, they received hugs, smiles, and the occasional piece of candy for the children.
At her apartment door, Pavalow told stories about her father-in-law, a cantor at a synagogue who always made sure the prayers were read perfectly at their Passover seders.
"It's the contact with such a broad range of people," said Peter Adlowitz, of Philadelphia's P'nai Or congregation. "The giving, to me, doesn't feel like it's one way.
"Letting the kids witness the impact this has on families - these are real people, local people - is very meaningful as a parent," he said.
As the family gathered in the apartment building lobby after a full morning, Max said he felt "tired and good at the same time."
"It makes me feel grateful," said his sister Talia, "for what I have."
Last year in Philadelphia, 540 families received Passover food.
As a once a year Mitzvah Project, the Sunday before Passover, deliver Kosher for Passover food to our most needy, elderly and isolated Jews in the Philadelphia Region. The Project involves planning, fundraising, and volunteers to ensure success annually.