We received an email from the Westfield Fun Club regarding their continuing efforts to assist refugee families in the Elizabeth area (including the families we have been assisting) during the coronavirus pandemic. As you can imagine, the Fun Club has been inundated with requests for additional assistance, and is now helping 55 families, up from about 20 just two weeks ago. We have found that the Fun Club offers us many valuable ways to help the refugee families that we would not have on our own. The latest example is that they are making regular deliveries of essential food and supplies to the families during this crisis period.
On Tuesday evening, 4/7/20, Shomrei’s MESH Cafe funded 40 takeaway meals from Villa Victoria Restaurant on Park St in Montclair. MESH Guests line up one by one in compliance with social distancing and are given a salad, 2 slices of pizza with protein and a beverage.
According to MESH Executive Director, Dr. Gwen Ames, our guests love this meal. If less than 40 guests show up, MESH staff distribute the remainder of the meals at the Bay Street train station where homeless often congregate. Mr Joe Tyson, MESH security personnel, told me that MESH is distributing masks to help the guests protect themselves from exposure to the virus.
Many thanks to Shirley and David Grill for contributing 30 takeaway meals for our MESH guests this past Tuesday evening. The bags were prepared by the Watchung Deli and included: 27 Turkey on Rye, 3 Vegetarian Sandwiches, chips, cookies and a water bottle. The deli delivered the sandwiches to Karen Altman, who included a note in each bag with the menu and a message from Shomrei to stay safe, healthy and to follow social distancing! Karen brought the meals to the Salvation Army driveway where the MESH Staff removed them from her trunk and distributed them to the MESH guests who were already lined up. Many thanks to Karen! Continue reading
We have reached out to the refugee families that we have been assisting during the past three years to find out how they are faring in the coronavirus crisis. Many have had severe setbacks to what had previously been a slow but steady assimilation to their new lives in the United States. A number of the men who had jobs as drivers have lost those jobs; one who had a steady job for three years delivering for a restaurant was let go because he had a seasonal cough. Some of the schoolchildren who had depended on the schools for breakfast are now going without that meal.
Because of the “lock down”, our usual guests at the Carol Starr Cafe are experiencing more food challenges than the normal week. MESH is making an effort to supply take away meals for all who need.
The Chaos Crew took the “Meal” challenge last night. We decided to perform a double mitzvah, feed our usual guests and support a local restaurant which is struggling to stay open. Jackie’s Grillette will not close their doors as long as they break even daily. They do not want to lay off any of their employees who need their paycheck to feed their own families. Jackie’s rose to the challenge and supplied 30 individual bags with a very hearty sandwich, cole slaw, and a bottle of water.
Yesterday Aileen and I met at Shomrei and, while standing six feet apart, we prepared takeaway meals for our MESH guests. The meal consisted of a hearty homemade tuna salad sandwich on a hard roll with sliced tomato and shredded lettuce. Semi-homemade cole slaw, a pickle and fresh fruit salad. Courtesy of leftover Purim goodies, we included chips, hamantaschen, a water bottle and a nutrition bar. We prepared 30 bags that MESH staffers, Joe and Ref, passed out to the 20 guests who showed up. Joe told us that he and Ref would then travel to the usual hangouts where the homeless go and distribute the remainder of the meals.
It was a balmy evening with a hint of showers as a full contingent of guests dined at the Carol Starr MESH Cafe at Shomrei.
The night’s meal was preceded, however, by earnest discussion as to how best to be welcoming to our guests and, at the same time, keep Shomrei safe in the growing health crisis. After some input from the MESH administration, we at Shomrei decided to be proactive and as of next week will be serving only takeaway meals to our MESH guests.
Shomrei members attended a session about immigration led by Reverand David Shaw of the Union Congregational Church on March 4. The session is part of the Interfaith “Break the Hate ” series developed by Union Baptist Church. Several of the people who attended share their recollections and thoughts about the evening:
Reverend David Shaw presented a concise and illuminating history of immigration and immigration restrictions. We were all reminded that, despite what Emma Lazarus’s poem on the base of the Statue of Liberty might say, the U.S. policy on immigration has been restrictive for much of our history. To be reminded of this was very disillusioning.
I also thought sharing with a small group was effective. The activity broke up the intensity of listening, made the history become real, and helped us examine our own relationship to the idea of “American.”
I was not sure what I expected from last night’s program, Impact of White Supremacy on Immigration. Each of the two previous programs seemed to be more of a reflection of the presenter’s personality, perspective, and background. As such, I am becoming more knowledgeable about the different faith communities in Montclair, the people, their history, and their spiritual perspective.
Reverend David Shaw was an engaging speaker who was comfortable in sharing his experience in coming to the United States as a ‘migrant’, the verbiage he most often used to discuss the people who come to live in the United States of America. He interspersed didactic information with allowing us to discuss our own experiences in smaller groups. This allowed us to form ties with congregants of different religious institutions throughout greater Montclair, which for me broke down the anonymity of the people attending the presentation. Indeed, in attending the three meetings of this series and being engaged in an interfaith women’s group on our town, I am beginning to recognize people who used to be strangers to me and feeling more and more connected to other participants who share common values.
History is not my strong suit, so Reverend Shaw’s review of the history of migration in the US and the evolution of our country’s attitudes to newcomers here was very informative and enhanced the discussions in the small groups.
I continue to learn not only from the people who present each evening, but from listening to the others attending the series. It is important to listen closely to our neighbors and move from being strangers, to acquaintances, and hopefully in the long term to being friends.
Several things struck me during the evening. I’ll highlight one – the discussion about who is a “real American”.
Reverend Shaw is an immigrant. He pointed out, however, that his is not the prototypical immigrant experience as he came from England. No one has ever questioned his right to be here and, now that he is a citizen, no one suggests that he is not a “real American”. This was also the experience an older gentlemen in my breakout group who came to the U.S. from Scotland about 25 years ago in response to a job offer. No one has ever suggested that he was taking a job away from a “real American”. Although he speaks with a noticeable Scottish accent, everyone he meets assumes that he is a U.S. citizen (which he is not) – a “real American”. I couldn’t help contrasting this with my family’s immigration experience as Jews fleeing from Eastern Europe or with how refugees and asylum seekers are being treated.
Click here for information about additional Break the Hate sessions
Photographs: Courtesy of Union Baptist Church
The Census is mandated every 10 years by the Constitution. It is intended to count every person residing in the United States, regardless of age, status or citizenship.
The federal government will allocate $675 billion dollars each year over the next 10 years. The Census affects how those funds get distributed among states to fund education, healthcare, food and nutrition, transportation, affordable housing, and other services. Census data is also used to redraw legislative districts and determine the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives. On a local level, Census data is used to make decisions about projects and plan for the future.
From Captain Lynne Kurzweil:
Last Tuesday night we welcomed a full house of 24 grateful guests to the Carol Starr MESH Cafe at Shomrei. We also provided 5 takeaway meals. Chef Arden Epstein whipped up a delicious, gourmet, totally from scratch meal assisted by her able sous chef, Zaniah.