Volunteers at the Barry and Florence Freidberg Jewish Community Center in Oceanside prepared and delivered 200 traditional Passover meals on March 25. Recipients in the surrounding communities received two “Seder in a Box” dinners and a socially-distant visit.
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the community center has worked to find new ways to stay in contact with people, especially the elderly, who are at high risk for Covid-19, so that they would not have to leave their homes. In addition to Passover, the JCC has hosted meal delivery programs for Rosh Hashanah, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Purim. Though this time, the boxes contained Passover staples like matzoh balls, potato kugel, gefilte fish and more for residents who might otherwise not be able to go out and get them in-person.
At 10 a.m., delivery volunteers arrived and lined their cars up in the back of the JCC, where they were met with stacks of boxes containing everything those who are isolated or in need required to celebrate Passover. Gloria Lebeaux, the director of social work at the JCC, joined about a half dozen volunteers who assembled the boxes in packing each vehicle that pulled up to the curb. Deliveries then went out across the South Shore of Long Island. “For an elderly person who can’t get out at all, anything that helps ease the effects of the pandemic helps,” delivery volunteer Jonathan Castoff said.
Adam Novak, the chairman of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Long Island, said it meant a great deal to him to help as a volunteer driver.
“I’m just excited to give back. I’m blessed with health, happiness, and family and this is a time when I can help and give back to the community that’s been so good to us,” he said. Novak added that the Barry and Friedberg Center has been a shining example for other Long Island Jewish centers by spearheading virtual and in-person programs.
Lebeaux said she was excited that the food deliveries have become a regular part of the center’s outreach. She spoke of the increase of food insecurity and isolated, high-risk individuals in the community that has made these deliveries so important over the past year.
“The goal of the JCC is when a need comes, we respond to it,” Lebeaux said. Lebeaux and the JCC members noted tha they hope to continue monthly Shabbat meals to go along with the holiday deliveries.
“For Passover especially, people are so accustomed to being in big groups and having their family surrounding them and at least we’re giving them a little bit of comfort and joy,” Executive Director Roni Kleinman said. Though the JCC has been offering chances to connect through Zoom, Kleinman cited the face-to-face deliveries as a beacon of hope for isolated seniors.
The pandemic has provided an opportunity for JCC and organizations like it to find new ways to connect its community members. “I think it’s a lesson we’re learning that it’s the people we don’t see that we really have to stay connected to,” Kleinman said.