katrina synagogue 88.
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Once again, the Jews of New Orleans find themselves the recipients of continuous and unselfish charity. This Passover, those who lost their ritual objects will receive matza covers from the members of the Great Neck Synagogue of Great Neck, New York, hand decorated Elijah's cups from the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City, and Seder plates from the Fuchs Mizrachi School in Cleveland Ohio.
Through the Jewish Family Service, Passover baskets are being completely underwritten by private donations from congregants of B'nai Israel, a synagogue in Milburn, New Jersey. The packages contain everything a family needs for a Seder, from shank bone and Haggada to matza ball soup and macaroons, plus a generous grocery store gift card. Spearheaded by B'nai Israel congregant Evelyn Baron and her children, 18 volunteers aged 15-80, including the Rabbi, arrived in New Orleans recently to experience Shabbat with Shir Hadash and then pack and deliver the Passover baskets.
It is an awesome responsibility for us to be the objects of so much good will. First the Gary Rosenthal Hiddur Mitzvah Project brought us beautiful menorahs and other ritual objects for Hanukka. They treated us to a party also. Then hundreds of selfless volunteers came (and continue to come) from synagogues, Jewish youth groups and Jewish Community Centers across the country to roll up their shirtsleeves, pitch in and help us clean up our homes and our city or to cook meals for those who could not get out.
Just last week we hosted a group of teens, college students and adults from California: the Orange County Jewish Federation and Orange County Hillel. They worked at Woldenberg Village and at congregation Gates of Prayer, and presented a check for $100,000 to the New Orleans Jewish Federation from the Hebrew Loan Society.
Performance artists have treated us to free concerts, and many of our community Seders will be paid for, in whole or in part, through donations from our fellow Jews.
Last but not least, the Jewish Endowment Foundation has begun the JEF Helping Hand Grant Program, designed to assist families and individuals who find themselves in a temporary financial crisis. It is funded with donations received from private donors and synagogues throughout the United States and is administered by Jewish Family Service.
This latest outpouring of generosity just in time for Pesach reminds us once again that we are not alone or forgotten when there are other Jews in this world.
I opened one of the matza covers and found a letter addressed 'To Our Dear NOLA Friends". The writer, Yaffa Lukash, writes:
"Our hearts and prayers go out to you all, especially now with Passover approaching. I hope this small token for your Seder table will remind you that we are thinking about all of our Jewish friends and hoping that soon the Jewish community will be back in full swing. The fabric and trim for all of these covers were donated by Sam and Magda Yehaskel; the covers were designed and conceived by Carol Smolinsky and myself (from Great Neck, N.Y.) and sewn by my mom, Margaret Schwartz (79 years old) and her friend Jack Fogel from New Jersey (83 years old). Enjoy them and have a wonderful Pessa!! Our best wishes to 'Ya'all' Love, Yaffa"
What more is there to say? Our Jewish family throughout the country is doing whatever it can to raise our spirits and enable us to celebrate the Passover holiday.
There will not be a single piece of naked matza in a Jewish home thanks to our family in Great Neck. Elijah will not need to drink from a single unadorned wine cup thanks to our family in Kansas City. And every Passover symbol will be clearly delineated on our Seder plates, compliments of our family in Cleveland, Ohio.
Thanks to our Jewish brothers and sisters across the country and here at home, there will not be a single member of our community who will be unable to attend a first or second night Passover Seder, or to celebrate Passover wherever they now live in or around New Orleans.
According to Rabbi Yochanan Rivkin of New Orleans Chabad, the Talmud states that even recipients of charity have an obligation to help those less fortunate than them. In the case of our community, being on the receiving end of so much kindness should make us even more sensitive to the needs of other, less fortunate communities.
Hag Sameah! Happy Holiday!
Julie Schwartz is the editor of www.jewishnola.org, the website of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans.