JF&CS Volunteer News Spring 2014

Temple Emunah Family Table Site CoordinatorsSometimes good things come in threes. That is the case at Temple Emunah in Lexington. JF&CS has the good fortune to have not one, not two, but three site coordinators from this synagogue for JF&CS Family Table, New England's largest kosher food pantry. Volunteers Nancy Lefkowitz and Michelle & Mark Abramson have teamed up to ensure Temple donations of healthy food each month and to support the mission of this important program that helps many families in need.

"Site coordinators are our ambassadors. They rally the troops, educate the community, and make sure the collection happens," said Bernice Behar, Program Manager of Family Table. "Nancy, Michelle, and Mark take it to a whole new level and lead efforts to keep Family Table's mission in front of the community. They have been very consistent and committed for a long time."

Family Table depends on a dedicated network of volunteers to gather, pack, and deliver groceries to almost 400 families in Greater Boston and on the North Shore. Each month, Family Table clients receive fresh and frozen produce along with wholesome groceries, protein-rich foods, dairy, personal hygiene products, and Jewish holiday items. The program currently gathers donations at 69 collection sites including temples, Jewish day schools, and community centers.

Nancy was the first member of the trio at Temple Emunah. She began volunteering about 12 years ago, packing and delivering food when Family Table was housed at Congregation Kehillath Israel in Brookline. When the prior coordinator stepped down, she agreed to serve.

"I immediately experienced the importance and value of Family Table to the community and was so impressed by the response of JF&CS to meet the needs of those who required additional support to make ends meet," said Nancy.

Nancy reached out to Michelle and Mark, a married couple who are long-time members of Temple Emunah, to get involved. With two small children, they saw Family Table as an opportunity for family tzedakah and they began making donations and packing groceries. Then, almost ten years ago, they also became site coordinators.

"There is so much wrong with the world, so much need and injustice. You can't solve everything but you can take on something local and manageable," said Michelle. "Making sure people have enough to eat is local and it speaks to me. It's my way of doing tikkum olam."

Every month, they call on Temple members to donate 110 boxes of whole grain crackers and 110 two-pound bags of rice. This specific request ensures that, when combined with donations from other sites, all families' needs can be met.

"Volunteering for Family Table enables me to see my efforts translate to an immediate benefit to families in need, regarding an aspect of life — eating — that is central to all of our existence," said Mark.

The team has also taken on a larger role of raising their community's awareness of Family Table in a multitude of ways including a monthly column in the Temple's bulletin and working with the Hebrew School to raise awareness. The Temple has responded generously to their efforts. Young children are seen dropping off food on their way to Hebrew School. Many families help pack and deliver food throughout the year.

One of the many special things that Mark and Michelle coordinate is the preparation of more than 200 mishloach manot bags for Purim. On the Temple's Mitzvah Day, sixth graders pack these small traditional gift bags with raisins, nuts, dried fruit, and applesauce purchased by the Temple especially for Family Table.

"This is an extraordinary thing that Temple Emunah does. It shows the extra initiative that these site coordinators take. It's really wonderful," said Bernice.

The work of JF&CS depends on the leadership of volunteers like Nancy, Michelle, and Mark. We are thankful for all our site coordinators. With their effort, congregations throughout Greater Boston and the North Shore come together to share the mission of Family Table and help fight hunger by providing nutritious food to those in need.

Read more articles from JF&CS Volunteer News Spring 2014.