(Washington, D.C., March 25, 2021)--Leading up to Passover, B’nai B’rith’s Project H.O.P.E.—Help Our People Everywhere—collected and distributed food to Jewish seniors and Jews living in poverty who would otherwise be unable to access the ritual foods of Passover. Project H.O.P.E. works with community family service agencies and local Jewish social services to provide and deliver food packages to communities in need across the United States.
In the Chesapeake Bay Region, Project H.O.P.E. partnered with the Jewish Social Service Agency of Montgomery County, Maryland to distribute baskets of kosher-for-Passover food to more than 500 needy families in the Washington, D.C. area on March 21.
The baskets were assembled by students at the Berman Hebrew Academy in Rockville, Maryland. Volunteers from synagogues in Maryland and Virginia, along with B’nai B’rith members, delivered the baskets.
Project H.O.P.E. in the Liberty Region in Philadelphia has been serving communities for 24 years. On March 21, the project partnered with Jewish Relief Agency (JRA) to provide packages of food to those in need. B’nai B’rith volunteers picked up the packages from the JRA distribution center and delivered them to the most vulnerable in the community.
On March 24, the New York Metropolitan area Metronorth Region Project H.O.P.E. distributed Passover meals to some 110 seniors experiencing isolation, illness or food insecurity. The project worked with the Mid-Island Y Jewish Community Center (YJCC) in Plainview, New York, the Ruderman Family Food Pantry and a local caterer to create and distribute the meals.
In the Great Lakes Region, Project H.O.P.E. donated funds to the Yad Ezra Food Bank, which provides kosher food to people facing food insecurity in Southeast Michigan. The donation also included B’nai B’rith COVID-19 relief kits, each containing a cloth face mask and travel-sized hand sanitizer, which have been distributed around the country as part of B’nai B’rith’s pandemic relief efforts.
Project H.O.P.E. has served vulnerable communities since the late 1960s, when it was created by B’nai B’rith Brooklyn leaders, and has expanded to encompass regions across the country and hundreds of volunteers. Year after year, Project H.O.P.E. fulfills the B’nai B’rith tenets of helping those in need and connecting them with the Jewish people.
B’nai B’rith International has advocated for global Jewry and championed the cause of human rights since 1843. B’nai B’rith is recognized as a vital voice in promoting Jewish unity and continuity, a staunch defender of the State of Israel, a tireless advocate on behalf of senior citizens and a leader in disaster relief. With a presence around the world, we are the Global Voice of the Jewish Community. Visit bnaibrith.org.
Do we have a final head count for the Seder? Can you pull the folding table and chairs out of the basement? Who’s bringing the gefilte fish? Do we have enough matzah? These are typical questions cropping up this time of year as the preparation for Passover is underway. And while these conversations are being held in many households across America and the world, not everyone is so fortunate.
For the poor and elderly, Passover may be a difficult time. It can be a time that conjures thoughts about family that moved far away or passed on. It could bring to light an illness preventing someone from attending a Seder or the fact that there is no supermarket filled with kosher specialty items for Passover nearby. Some are living on a fixed income so the extra cost for the kosher-for-Passover product stymies them from setting up a Seder of their own.
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 help those who are unable to obtain and prepare the necessary holiday fare.
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 B’nai B’rith will distribute more than 2,600 kosher-for-Passover packages.
“Project H.O.P.E. is one of the most impactful programs that B’nai B’rith has to offer,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “The genesis of it is uniquely B’nai B’rith. There was an unmet need with those unable to have a Passover meal and B’nai B’rith members rose up to fill that need, to help their neighbors, and eventually expanded the program to communities across the country.”
The program is currently underway with hundreds of volunteers already having turned out to buy, store, pack and deliver the food to those in need up and down the east coast. And these volunteers are not only B’nai B’rith members. Project H.O.P.E. works with community family service agencies, local Jewish social services and local synagogues to organize the people power it takes to perform a project of this scope. It also requires funding and B’nai B’rith is grateful to those who support this project each year. Donations are always welcome to ensure this project and allow for expansion.
“Once again Project H.O.P.E. has made a difference in the lives of our elderly who would not have had all of the Passover goodies,” Vivian Kantrow, director of development and community relations at the senior living community Tower One in New Haven, Conn., said of this year’s program. “You and your team really make a difference and on behalf of all of your friends at the Towers, a very big thank you!”
The community action project, created by B’nai B’rith leaders in Brooklyn, has expanded to communities throughout the Northeast and across the United States. The recipients include singles, couples, families, assisted living residents and group homes for the disabled. This year, in addition to distribution on Long Island, New York, the program is being held in Philadelphia, Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia, Michigan and Washington, D.C.
“Project H.O.P.E. is really a great example of what B’nai B’rith excels at as an organization,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “It gives us an opportunity to fulfill our commitment to helping communities through ‘gemilut chasadim’ by making Passover memorable and accessible for those who might have viewed the holiday as just another day on the calendar.”