Yom Kippur, Haftorah Introduction: Offer Your Compassion to the Hungry

Introduction by Rabbi Julie: Lynne Kurzweil, co-chair of MESH, a volunteer-run program for food insecure people living in Montclair, will introduce the Haftorah.

Before I begin I would like to give special thanks to my MESH Co-Chair, Aileen Grossberg, for all of her hard work planning, shopping and preparing meals for MESH and for writing these words

Are you all comfortable? Are you a little hungry- no breakfast this morning? Suffering from caffeine withdrawal? Think positively:  you saved a couple of dollars, didn’t have to stand in line at Paper Plane or the Local, didn’t have to think about meal preparation.
We are fasting. We are choosing to fast, to clear our minds of corporeal and material thoughts and concentrate on the spiritual.

However, in our community, there are people of all ages and status- children, college students, parents, seniors, the employed and unemployed- who do not choose to fast. They are forced to fast, to miss meals, to hear the grumble of an empty stomach.

Children go without breakfast or proper protein. Statistics show that children who do not have access to a diet rich in body building nutrients suffer.  A recent report says that children whose diets improved during the pandemic because of an infusion of federal funds are now actually losing weight since those funds are no longer available. Children are not supposed to lose weight as they grow. Think of your own growing  children and grandchildren and how quickly their clothes become too small.

College students, including many students at Montclair State University need food pantries like the Red Hawk Pantry to supply their meals. The latest survey shows that an amazing 44 per cent of students at MSU have experienced some degree of food insecurity. That’s close to half!

Working poor, who are supporting families, often are faced with the choice of feeding themselves or their children, of buying clothing or food, of paying rent or filling prescriptions.

Seniors have a food insecurity rate of at least 7 percent according to a national survey and often make the difficult choice between food or medications that control chronic conditions.

What is wrong? Why do such situations exist in a land of abundance? How can WE help?

In our small way, Shomrei is trying to help by stocking  the little pantry on the front yard with non- perishable food, by feeding 50 food insecure people twice a month through the Montclair Emergency Services for Hope (MESH) program, and by giving our usable leftovers to MESH rather than throwing them in the trash where food comprises up to 40 percent of landfill.

MESH is a volunteer led organization that provides food year-round every night but Sunday and shelter in the winter. MESH serves every demographic from families with young children, to college students, working adults and senior citizens.

Shomrei has been a partner since the beginning. Over the years we have seen the need for meals grow from 20 to 30 to 50 each night.

Our small but mighty group of MESH volunteers has not missed a week. If it’s a Jewish holiday we find a substitute to take our place or we buy a restaurant meal.

Week after week we have prepared nutritious, appetizing meals for this varied group of people from young children to seniors all of whom show up for food and fellowship. And those meals cost no more than a cup of coffee or two.

On Yom Kippur, as we do without food, we might ask if this is the fast that God wants of us?- to think of others rather than ourselves?

Please, we beg of you, don’t let our efforts flounder because we had no one in the kitchen.

If you can hold a knife we want you; if you can hold a spoon , we want you; if you are a great cook or not we want you to help feed Montclair’s vulnerable and thank God we are not among that group.

If being in the kitchen is not your thing, we are in need of people to help serve and socialize at the MESH site on Bloomfield Avenue from 5-6:30 on Tuesday evenings.

If you can’t volunteer, you can still help support Shomrei’s MESH participation. Sponsor a family meal for $25 or 50 individual meals for $360. We’ll find people to do the cooking.

In addition, help stock the Little Pantry on our front lawn and keep the local food pantries supplied by dropping off a bag or two of groceries during our Project Isaiah holiday food drive. If you haven’t already contributed, we will be collecting canned goods and specific clothing items through the end of Sukkot.

Be part of the fast that Isaiah describes in today’s haftarah:

And you offer your compassion to the hungry
And satisfy the famished creature-
Then shall your light shine in darkness,
And your gloom shall be like noonday.

L’shana Tovah
Lynne & Aileen


About MESH:

The Carol Starr MESH Cafe at Shomrei (Montclair Emergency Services for Hope) is a cooperative effort between the MESH organization and local synagogues and churches. While in-person service has been discontinued, we are providing hearty, nutritious take-out meals for the hungry. Shomrei’s turn is on Tuesday nights.

Please help fulfill this crucial mitzvah:

For questions, contact Lynne or Aileen
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