Fairmount Chabad Ramps Up Food Distribution

Volunteers with Chabad of Fairmount and the IBEW Local 98 served more than 100 people on July 28 | Courtesy of Rabbi Hirshi Sputz

Chabad of Fairmount and the IBEW Local 98 shared more than just a neighborhood on July 28.

The two organizations, separated by just a few blocks on Spring Garden Street, came together to provide more than 125 people with 300 boxes of produce, dried goods and canned goods, safely delivered to grateful neighbors by dozens of volunteers. The distribution, according to Frank Keel, communications director for IBEW Local 98, was a “natural outgrowth” of a partnership between the union and the Chabad House going back a few years. 

For Rabbi Hirshi Sputz and Shevy Sputz, co-directors of Chabad of Fairmount, working with their neighbors to distribute food to those who need it has been as central to their quarantine experience as face masks. They’ve organized grocery delivery, cooked hot take-away Shabbat meals (partially sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia) and sent out so-called “Shabbat-in-a-Box” packages, all while Shevy Sputz continues to turn out baked goods for her online store, Shevy’s Babka Paradise. Suffice it to say, the commercial kitchen at their Spring Garden location has never been busier. 

“We realized the need,” Hirshi Sputz said, “because after talking to people about their challenges, people told me what their parents are going through, and we realized that we have to step up.” 

Chabad of Fairmount, which serves the Jewish community around the Philadelphia Museum of Art, has only been around since 2017. Since then, according to Hirshi Sputz, they’ve added outreach to other local organizations to go alongside the typical Chabad practice of outreach to Jews. The Spring Garden Civic Association has been a frequent partner, he said, and the ties to the union go back a few years, when the union started letting the Chabad use its event space for free for High Holiday services. 

“Ever since that, it’s been a really wonderful partnership between the two groups,” Keel said, noting that the organizations worked together on a hanukah candle-lighting ceremony as well. 

In addition to the recent distribution — which both Keel and  Hirshi Sputz hope to repeat soon — the Chabad has organized volunteers, Jewish and non-Jewish, to deliver groceries and run small errands for locals in need of assistance.

David Gregory, one such volunteer of the latter persuasion, was looking for volunteering opportunities while he searched for a new job, his old one a pandemic casualty. 

“I just had the free time, which I hadn’t for a while,” he said. “I’ve been wanting to get out and help people out.” Since noticing a call for volunteers from Chabad of Fairmount on Nextdoor, he’s taken part in the distribution with the union, and will soon deliver groceries to people in Brewerytown. 

Shevy Sputz, who typically sells babka, challot and other baked goods through online order forms, has kept up with such sales while adding Shabbat-in-a-Box. Each week, she packages wine, kiddush cups, challah, matzah ball soup, chicken, knishes and even the requisite Shabbat blessings to be delivered or picked by community members who find themselves without time to put together full Shabbat meals. 

“Everyone’s home anyway, so at least people can celebrate Shabbat with everything they need,” she said.

For Hirshi and Shevy Sputz, packaging and delivering meals with and to Jews and non-Jews alike is central to their mission. Developing deeper community ties and helping people at the same time is just the name of the game.

“Chabad of Fairmount is here to see what’s needed and to fill that void, which means we didn’t come to the community or establish the Chabad of Fairmount with an agenda,” Hirshi Sputz said. “We’re here to help and to grow Jewish life and general welfare, the general well-being of the neighborhood.”

jbernstein@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0740


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