36,288 meals packed for hungry children
By Katrina Diaz
On Sunday, Jan. 26, Congregation Ahavath Sholom hosted a mitzvah event in association with “Feeding Children Everywhere.” The goal: to participate in Mitzvah Day with a communitywide event in which 36,000 meals for children in need were assembled. Those meals would be distributed to families with hungry children locally, across the country and overseas. Not only did Ahavath Sholom meet the 36,000-meal goal, according to Rabbi Andrew Bloom, but also the total surpassed the goal with 36,288 meals to help hungry children.
The morning began with a rush of volunteers unpacking food and supplies in the Zale Auditorium. The scene was set for the youth in the Cohn Hall, ready to seize the opportunity to educate the religious-school students from five local Jewish congregations that would soon gather there, eager to participate in this community mitzvah. Quotes lined the wall to inspire the learner, including one of the core lessons of the day, “Advice and words will not feed an empty belly.” This day was a day for the children to learn about taking action to help others by doing a “hands-on” mitzvah. Jewish congregations that were hosted by Congregation Ahavath Sholom’s Learning and Engagement Center included Beth-El Congregation, Congregation Beth Shalom, Chabad of Arlington and Chabad of Southlake.
Rivka Marco and Rebecca Isgur planned every detail for the children to have a sensory-stimulating experience. In addition to the meaningful connections that Marco and Isgur made to students’ learning with the “Feeding Children Everywhere” activity, they made certain that the youth had eaten before entering the Zale Auditorium to begin the event. Marco explained to the crowd that this heavy snack was in order for the children to connect with their blessing of having plentiful food, and contrast that to children who are hungry. Representatives of “Feeding Children Everywhere” carefully reviewed the guidelines and tasks to be completed during the event and distributed colored hairnets for all participants.
Religious School students, teachers, parents, and volunteers teamed up and competed to reach the goal. There were 18 teams that acted as well-oiled machines as they worked together to measure, weigh, seal and pack the food packets. Popular Jewish music had the team members dancing as they moved quickly to fill the bags with the assigned ingredients on each table, which would combine to make a dish called Jambalaya. As teams finished completing the food to pack each box, the team rang a bell and cheered loudly, which motivated the other teams to move even faster.
The feeling of unity and the Jewish value of welcoming guests radiated throughout the shul and smiles beamed from the faces of every volunteer. “It was fantastic to look around to see my family and friends all sprinkled around the event, working together toward a greater cause,” said Ethan Bailey, teacher’s aide for LEC. “It was also great to work side by side with people I’ve never known, but yet we had one very important thing in common. We are all Jewish!” There was a genuine feeling that our Jewish community was an extended family working together toward the important goal of this mitzvah.
“CAS and its leadership always say yes to big community events, especially those involving families and kids,” said Isgur, co-director of Congregation Ahavath Sholom’s Learning and Engagement Center. “What could be better than kids and their families feeding kids?”
Many hours of work by various shul volunteers and staff went into the project. Marco took the lead on much of the planning, while she and Isgur worked with the CAS staff to prepare the venue. Marketing and publicity were executed by Rebecca Isgur, Debby Rice, and Ben Herman of Comark Direct. Volunteers included CAS Men’s Club, Ladies Auxiliary, the CAS board of directors, CAS LEC parents, CAS volunteer Susan Ellis, plus numerous fantastic congregants that came in early and stayed late to help things go smoothly.
Rabbi Bloom wanted to make this event happen for some time. Private benefactors generously funded the majority of it, with other Jewish communal sponsorships that helped make this day a reality. The Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County was one of those communal sponsors. Federation Executive Director Bob Goldberg expressed his pleasure and gratitude for this special community mitzvah event. “A special thank you to Congregation Ahavath Sholom and to Rivka Marco and Rabbi Bloom for driving this program and working to make it a reality.” Jerry Stein, president of the board of directors of Congregation Ahavath Sholom, summed up the Feeding Children Everywhere Event at CAS well when he said that it was “fulfilling, in that you walk away and feel like you really helped somebody.”