It’s a question answered at the Klein JCC, where dozens of students from Gratz Jewish Community High School earn credit and make their own mark on the community as Mitzvah Heroes.
"Food for Thought" is a buffet of possibilities.
“The students learn about kashrut, how to read a recipe and cook as well as develop both team building and leadership skill,” says Klein director of community services Lisa Sandler.
The teens prepare about 200 meals each month that are then brought to Klein to be distributed to Home Delivered Meals clients, Sandler says. The program is part of a large network of Cook for a Friend volunteer groups making thousands of meals each month.
Sandler's counterpart at JCHS is operations manager and director of student records Julie Sinyakova, who helps set the table of contents that make up this program celebrating its silver anniversary: "This course is a powerful, multi-generational approach to teach students about the Jewish perspective on aging and Jewish responsibility. Students have fun while learning and contributing to the needy elderly of our community by preparing kosher meals," she explains, adding her compliments to the Mitzvah Food Pantry for its long service and contributions to the effort.
"The focus is on study and action: gimilut chasadim at the core. Students cook kosher meals for those elderly who are unable to do it for themselves. During this process, they learn about kashrut, traditional recipes, about nutritious tables for seniors, and Jewish values, about different Jewish cuisines from all over the world."
They also get that holiday feeling, relates Sinyakova.
"Students celebrate the Jewish holidays through food and study the context and food-related tradition," and the program dishes a multi-course lesson on Jewish values: "Respect for the elderly, providing for the needy, tikkun olam, personal responsibility, community awareness, tzedekah and study."
The cooks’ tour begins with students splitting into five groups and meeting at four temples: Congregations of Shaare Shamayim, Temple Sinai and, upcoming, Temple Sholom on Jan. 23; and Congregation Adath Jeshurun in Elkins Park, Feb. 4. Students, adds Sinyakova, "learn about hunger and poverty, and open a totally new side of this world to themselves."
Helping traverse that world are JCHS alumni/Food for Thought teachers Amy Blum, Hana Barnett and Karmi Oxman.
Truly it's chicken soup for the soul for these 50 teen meal-making Mitzvah Heroes.