Passover Event Features Heart and Sole


You’re invited to put your best foot forward for Passover this year — literally.

As the holiday approaches, Young Jewish Leadership Concepts (YJLC), a networking organization for Jewish young professionals, will hold its annual longstanding Matzah Aisle Meet-up on March 25 in Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York City.

Ashley Hawthorne, YJLC volunteer, and Elissa Gruenberg, wife of the Congregation Beth El rabbi, collect shoes for the “Heart and Sole” campaign. | Photo provided

It’s a different take on a “happy hour,” as those in their 20s and 30s meet at a designated grocery store — in Philadelphia, it’s the Whole Foods on Pennsylvania Avenue from 11 a.m. to noon, and in Princeton it’s the Lawrenceville ShopRite from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. — to network, meet new people and pick up a free box of matzah in the process.

New this year is a community service component.

If you have gently used shoes lying around you’re looking to get rid of while you rid your home of chametz, American Friends of the Kaplan Medical Center (AFKMC) will take them off your hands.

The organization is launching a national “Heart and Sole” campaign to raise funds for a new cardiac center at Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot, Israel. The campaign places shoe collection boxes and information on college campuses, synagogues and churches throughout the United States.

“This is the first time with our Matzah Aisle Meet-up where we’re linking up with a project connected with Israel to do one of the most critical things for Israel and the future of the West, really,” said Lou Balcher, AFKMC national director and YJLC co-founder. “We’re helping to build the largest high-tech cardiac center in the Middle East with the Heart and Sole project.”

For him, this event coupled with the opportunity to raise money for a large scope project in Israel is a chance for young adults to do something worthwhile.

As the shoe boxes are encouraged to be set up in synagogues they belong to — or maybe belonged to when they were growing up — as well as college campuses, it’s a chance to reconnect with their Jewish upbringings.

The first synagogue to sign up was Congregation Beth El in Yardley, which has filled 17 boxes, Balcher said.

“We give young adults [a chance] to get in touch with that Jewish piece of themselves and use that to connect with their peers who also are Jewish young adults,” he said.

So far, about 20 synagogues have signed up to help, according to Vlad Vestel, YJLC co-chair for the Heart and Sole campaign.

As someone who has had heart disease affect his family, he is personally connected to the cause and the technology and solutions the new cardiac center could offer. Many Americans are not familiar with the hospital, he added.

He hopes for a big turnout for the Matzah Aisle Meet-up and that more people will sign up to be “foot soldiers” in the campaign.

“One, they’re able to meet and greet,” Vestel said. “Two, they’re able to make friends. And three, they’re able to do something together that’s really awesome and can positively help people. So overall, it’s a good time spent.”

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