The Jewish Family and Children’s Service’s Barbara and Harvey Brodsky Enrichment Center was a place of tikkun olam and mitzvot on Jan. 23-24.
The JFCS responded to the since-ended government shutdown with an emergency meal preparation day and distribution to aid furloughed workers who had missed two paychecks. Volunteers created 440 meals and baked rolls and challahs for those who may not have money for food.
“We respond to crisis situations all the time,” JFCS CEO Paula Goldstein said. “In our intake, we were getting calls that government workers needed assistance in this situation. Putting it all together, we mobilized very quickly to bring together people who work in our kitchen. We ended up with 60 volunteers to prepare meals and bake challah and rolls.
“We have the Mitzvah Food Pantry, run by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, in the enrichment center. We thought that would be a fantastic way to push the food out to people who need it. A lot of people are frustrated and feel despair over the shutdown. JFCS just had to help.”
JFCS, through its giving circle, The Bridge, bought 200 supermarket gift cards for its care managers to distribute to those affected by the shutdown, ensuring they had extra assistance to buy food.
In addition, many of the volunteers involved in the emergency effort were the intellectually and physically disabled clients the enrichment center serves. Their contributions formed the backbone of what was accomplished.
There was Ina Pitkis, who attends several enrichment center programs, thrilled to be baking challahs with the group.
“I love to bake and help others,” Pitkis said. “It makes me feel better. It makes me feel good inside. I work with several programs, cooking and art, and have been helping JFCS for 17 years. I have a disability, but I call it capability. I may be slower than others, but we need to be inclusive with tikkun olam, repair the world. I enjoy giving back to someone who needs something.”
Anna Bossard, who was Pitkis’ partner in rolling challah dough, had a smile on her face as she worked.
“[The enrichment center] is the best thing that came into my life,” she said. “And what we are doing today is a great cause.”
Mimi Milou also enjoyed chipping in.
“I love being with my friends,” Milou said. “We help each other. There are yoga classes and a lot of things for us. We learn.”
More than 120 meals were picked up at the enrichment center by furloughed government workers the first day they were made available.
“You know,” said Lisa Ney, the JFCS assistant director of individual and family services, “we have never made a bad challah.”