In a time of deprivation, they made sure everyone had enough.
Jewish groups gave out kosher-for-Passover fare at holiday food giveaways in Coney Island, Brighton Beach, and Sheepshead Bay over the last week, reaching more than 2,000 people who needed help putting food on their Seder plates.
Passover is at once celebratory and solemn, commemorating the Jews’ subjugation in Egypt and their eventual deliverance. Tradition puts tight strictures on observers’ diets during the eight-day holiday, but it is also a time of sharing and celebratory meals, one organizer said.
“The Passover Haggadah [a religious text] teaches us to let all those who are hungry come to our table,” said Rena Resnick of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty.
The Shorefront Jewish Community Council gave out packages of eggs, juice, fish — and, of course, matzoh — to about 1,000 people during a drive in Brighton Beach on March 26, said Leah Mikhli, who directs the group’s food pantry operation.
The next day, the Be Proud Foundation passed out matzoh, fruits and vegetables, juice, and fish to more than 500 people, according to director Raisa Chernina.
And on March 30, the Jewish Community Council of Greater Coney Island and the Met Council distributed scripture-approved vittles to another 600 folks in Coney Island, Resnick said.
The number of people coming to area food giveaways has been climbing in recent years, because an increasing number of observant Jews need help getting kosher food, Mikhli said. Cuts to the federal food stamp program have made it tougher for the Tribe’s poorer members to afford kosher food, which is typically more expensive than non-kosher fare, she said.
Passover compounds the problem, because special proscriptions against many grains and leavening agents further narrow shoppers options and can put a greater strain on budgets, advocates said.
And for the first time ever, the Be Proud Foundation also handed out chocolate and cake for another upcoming holiday.
“This year we gave to people not only for Passover but for Easter, because it’s very close,” Chernina said.