Published On: Tue, Mar 31st, 2020

South PBC Orgs & Synagogues Bring $125K in Passover Food from Canceled Hotel Event to Neighbors in Need

When a Passover hotel program was canceled on short notice, leaving food for 800 guests, South Palm Beach County Jewish organizations and synagogues stepped right up to bring $125K in Kosher for Passover Meals and Groceries to those in need.

Boca Raton, FL – Passover’s usual joyous time with family and friends will be very different for everyone this year. But, as the effects of the Coronavirus crisis manifest around us, many more of our neighbors now face particular difficulties in covering the costs of Kosher for Passover food and getting out to purchase it.

So when a sudden opportunity to donate many truckloads of Kosher for Passover food to our neighbors in need arose, there was no doubt that the South Palm Beach County Jewish community would come together as always to make it happen. The Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, its Deborah and Larry D. Silver Center for Jewish Engagement and Jacobson Jewish Community Foundation, Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services, Hands On Tzedakah (HOT), and all of our local rabbis and synagogues stepped right up with their support.

It all started when Jerry & Shelly Abramson had to cancel their annual MatzaFun Passover Program on short notice, and were left with food for 800 hotel guests. Part-time Boca Raton residents, Jerry and Shelly knew from their previous experience aiding in our massive community Hurricane Irma response, that our community’s amazing partnerships could come together quickly and get the food to the people who need it. 

Within a couple of hours of Jerry’s call, our partnership had raised the funds to purchase about $125,000 of nonperishables, frozen meats and prepared dishes, and more, at Jerry & Shelly Abramson’s cost, and were already planning to distribute it for up to 10,000 Passover meals.

The first wave of trucks delivered their goods early last week for unloading and sorting on the Federation campus, where a line of cars picked them up the following day. The second and last huge delivery arrived, was sorted and picked up for recipient deliveries at the Federation on March 30.  

Reflections from some of the project’s participants bring home the power and meaning of this project:

Summer Faerman, the Tzedakah Learning & Chesed (TLC) Programming Director at B’nai Torah Congregation says, “As we prepare to celebrate Passover, a holiday about freedom from slavery, we must recognize that a hungry person is not a free person. This Passover food distribution literally will free people from hunger.” Summer’s experience with mass food distribution and her expertise in disaster recovery and response has been invaluable, as has HOT, under the direction of its President, Ron Gallatin.

This is a prime example of how strong our community is when we work together, as we do so well,” said Matthew C. Levin, President & CEO of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County. “Built on deep respect, friendship and critical shared values, our Federation’s partnership with all of our rabbis has a phenomenal impact on our entire Jewish community.” 

“Kosher for Passover food items are very expensive, and many families are already struggling with food insecurity,” said Danielle Hartman, Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services President & CEO. “This Passover distribution is another wonderful example of what makes our Jewish community so special.”  

“This incredible effort by our Jewish community has literally brought tears to the eyes of people we were able to help,” said Rabbi Dan Levin at Temple Beth El of Boca Raton. “I feel so proud that the community fabric we have so carefully woven together will hold us through this difficult time.”

“We were able to put this spectacular effort together so quickly because of the relationships we’ve built with our dedicated rabbis, who always look forward to working together for the benefit of our community,” said Rabbi Josh Broide, Director of the Federation’s CJE. “We understand we’re all in this together!”

“My grandparents survived the Holocaust scavenging the forest for food,” said Jerry Abramson. “It feels great to know I am helping people in need to keep Pesach.”

The messages of gratitude from the Passover food recipients also bring home the power and meaning of this project. Here are just a couple of them:

“Every trip to the store has been so stressful as we don’t have much to work with financially. I didn’t think we would have kosher foods for Pesach this year. I was just focusing on us being able to eat but now we have plenty…. Your mitzvot are miracles for us.” (sent to Rabbi Boruch Shmuel Liberow of our local Chabad Student Center)

“I am overwhelmed by the goodness and generosity and kindness of everyone who made such an incredible gift possible. I wish one day to overcome my family’s circumstances.  May Hashem keep us all safe and please God may I one day merit to pay it forward.” (sent to Lauren Cohen, Chair of Tomchei Shabbat at Boca Raton Synagogue)

If you or a neighbor are in need of help, please contact Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services (JFS) at 561-852-3333 – for those with food insecurity, JFS operates a food pantry with deliveries, and a kosher Meals on Wheels program for seniors. In addition, our main Federation telephone number, 561-852-3100, is being monitored regularly for voicemail messages.

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