Friday, December 18, 2009
During this Hanukkah our synagogue reached out to those in our community who are hungry and homeless. We donated gift cards to the Interfaith Nutrition Network's Mary Brennan Soup Kitchen so that we can help restore a measure of dignity to those dependent on tzedakah. It means a great deal for people to go shopping for themselves and buy what they need and perhaps even what they might want. That is of course what I sometimes get to do! At the INN, I helped Rob sort donated clothes and in particular winter coats. You can watch the YouTube video of my visit here. On Wednesday our confirmation students met with Dennis and Lisa from the Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing. Both Dennis and Lisa were formerly homeless and shared powerful personal stories with our students. Lisa spoke about her struggle with bipolar disorder and being unjustly evicted from her apartment because of her mental illness. Dennis spoke about living on the streets of New York City for fourteen years. He told us about eating food out of garbage cans. He shared with the students his struggle with crack addiction. He spoke of the kindness of a few individuals. This morning I delivered 200 lunch bags filled with fruit, juice, snacks and turkey sandwiches to St. Hugh's Project Hope. Thank you to the seventh graders for their help in preparing these meals. Thank you to Joe, Robin, Susan and Renee for their added support! Danny of Project Hope will deliver these lunches to Latino day laborers in the Huntington Station area today and tomorrow. It is remarkable to think that less than two miles from my home there are people who do not have enough money to buy food for themselves. A few statistics. The INN serves 400-500 people per day--on our very own Long Island. Project Hope distributes 100 lunches per day--in my very own town. In New York City there are over 37,000 people living in shelters. The numbers are staggering. And these are only the official counts. In the end, one would be too many! So on this Hanukkah I rededicate myself to helping those less fortunate than myself. I can do more. We can do more. I say with the prophet Isaiah, who told us of our most important duty: "It is to share your bread with the hungry, and to take the wretched poor into your home; when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to ignore your own kin." (Isaiah 58) The final line is the most important point. We cannot fix all of the world's problems. We cannot even end hunger. But we also cannot ignore the issues! We must open our hands to the needy. One at a time. One sandwich at a time. One act of hesed can bring healing to one small world. That is where we will begin. That is the only place where we can begin. Turning aside is not a Jewish option.