Thousands will rely on food parcels this Pesach

The United Synagogue’s welfare department will be delivering to over 800 families


Hannah and Hannah packing boxes for the US' Chesed Pesach appeal (Photo: United Synagogue)

Food parcels will be distributed to thousands of vulnerable people this Pesach and beyond as the United Synagogue Chesed (welfare) department said they had witnessed a “dramatic” rise in the number of Jewish families asking for support.

The charity’s synagogue volunteers have delivered 6,962 food parcels to people in need over the past 12 months, and a recent match-funding campaign has raised over £570,000 to run the service over Pesach and in the coming year.

Around 600 families used to rely on the food parcels provided by the United Synagogue at Pesach, while this year and last, the number is around 800.

One beneficiary of US Chesed’s weekly food parcels is Esther Elmkies, 39, from Edgware. She moved to the area in December 2021 and receives the parcels through her shul, Ahavat Yisrael.

She told the JC that the parcel delivery had been a “massive, massive” source of support to her and her seven children, aged between four and 15, two of whom have special needs, as she relies entirely on benefits.

She said: “With the cost-of-living-crisis as it is, to get these weekly packages eases the pressure on me financially, eases the pressure on me emotionally and eases the pressure on me all around. To buy a pack of cheese for a family of my size is big money, but I get that in my bag each week.”

She said that apart from getting grocery packages, sometimes ready-made meals were provided. “On those days, not having to think about making supper and being able to focus entirely on my children is of great help too.”
Esther also said that the fact that the food was delivered to her door was another example of it reducing the pressure on her and that it saved her “precious time”.

The contents of the food parcels this Pesach will include more than 20 different items, such as matzah, grape and fruit juice, cheese, tuna, tea, coffee, jam, butter, chocolates, biscuits, salt and pepper.

Michelle Minsky, head of Chesed at the United Synagogue, said US Chesed helped people every day of the year.

She said: “In addition to our essential food parcels, our volunteers call or visit elderly people living alone, or help them with shopping, as well as providing bereavement befriending, organising meal rotas or simply being a friend.

"The cost-of-living crisis has not gone away despite falling inflation, and thousands of people still rely on us for financial, practical and emotional help.”

Paying tribute to the donors of their match-funding campaign, Minsky said: “We are immensely grateful and humbled that the community has stepped up once again to help us raise enough money to ensure that US Chesed can be there for every family that needs us – and to support our work beyond the Jewish community.

“One recipient of our food parcels rang us and asked if they could speak to the person who was keeping them alive. This is what motivates us to do more and makes our work so critical. Thank you again for your generous support.”

In the meantime, some 1,600 families in Stamford Hill’s Chasidic community are also being supported with food parcels and vouchers this Pesach, overseen by the Jewish Community Council (JCC), a community organisation based in Stamford Hill.

Children going to sleep hungry in his community is a “red line” for JCC director Levi Shapiro, who told the JC: “Our fundraising and food distribution efforts have been a great success over the years, but at the same time, demand is only increasing. Even if both parents are employed, with so many costs around Pesach, combined with household expenses and the cost-of-living crisis, many Chasidic families, who often have eight children or more, struggle to make ends meet.”

Kosher for Pesach food was “especially expensive”, said Shapiro, adding that it was also the time of year when families purchased new clothes for their children due to the many discounts on offer.

The JCC is, with the assistance of local kashrut food suppliers, on track to give away hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of food this Pesach.

To donate to the United Synagogue’s Chesed appeal, click here

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