Every day, I am proud of the work we’re doing at Jewish Federation & Family Services (JFFS), caring for people in need and strengthening Jewish community. But this past week and a half has been particularly heartwarming since we announced a new program — JFFS Meal Partners.
Thanks to a grant from the Jewish Federations of North America, we now have an additional way to support our community’s Holocaust survivors: bringing them together with community volunteers over shared weekly meals. Of course, we all know meals are central to Jewish life. Our people like to eat. But, meals are about more than food. Meals are at the foundation of the human need for connection and sustenance.
Imagine Eva, one of over 300 Holocaust survivors in Orange County. She lives alone in a 158-unit low-income senior housing apartment with only 4 other Jews. After liberation, Eva immigrated to Israel where she worked as a bookkeeper for 43 years. In the 1990s, she was widowed and, since she had no children of her own, moved to the U.S. to be closer to her extended family. Through our survivor program, Eva had help with the complex reparation claim forms and now receives the compensation to which she’s entitled. This has enabled her to better meet her ever-increasing cost of living. She uses JFFS Silver Streak to get to medical appointments and the monthly gatherings of JFFS Café Europa, where she can spend time with her “landsmen”.
Now, with Meal Partners, Eva will share time and a meal with volunteers every week. She will build a supportive relationship with caring members of our community. This is also a special chance for volunteers to build a personal connection with a vulnerable and isolated Holocaust survivor, an eyewitness to history. (I am looking forward to sharing poignant stories from Meal Partners where Holocaust survivors and volunteers may share favorite recipes and cook together or grow their connection in other ways.)
Unquestionably, a life with dignity and community is the greatest gift we can give our aging Holocaust survivors. JFFS Meal Partners will do just that by building a broader social support system for survivors, reducing isolation and loneliness, and increasing their ability to live safely and independently at home.
So, yes, I’m especially honored to be part of Jewish Federation & Family Services these days because Meal Partners is a mitzvah, from the heart. And it shows how, together, we do the extraordinary.
P.S. I hope you will join me at Celebrate Israel this coming Sunday, May 7. It’s a community-wide day of festivities for the entire community, presented in partnership by the Merage JCC and Jewish Federation & Family Services. There will be phenomenal guest speakers and educators, a carnival, an Israeli shuk (marketplace), and a concert with Israeli superstar David Broza. In short, it’s an amazing day and you shouldn’t miss it!