This weeks marks the one year anniversary of a remarkable collaboration at the Town Square Food Pantry, which is jointly operated by Temple Beth Zion and Catholic Charities at the Town Square Center for Aging.
There is a lot to love about this pantry. First and foremost, it provides food for those who are hungry in a dignified fashion. Even more, our specially trained volunteers care for the overall well-being of our clients by learning about their specific needs and connecting them to relevant community resources. Second, the pantry brings Jews and Christians together to serve God by serving humanity. This initiative is building bridges not only between the Jewish and Catholic communities, but within the Jewish community by bringing Reform and Orthodox Jews together. In addition, a growing number of greater community organizations have gotten involved, creating a ever widening scope of services including transportation and fresh produce from two community gardens. Finally, our wonderful volunteers have discovered that doing this holy work nourishes not only the hungry, but the souls of those who serve: it has brought them closer to our clients, to each other and to God.
There is so much to celebrate, and I offer my heartfelt gratitude and congratulations to everyone who is involved!
Here is what others are saying about the project (from the Buffalo Jewish Journal):
Rabbi Adam Scheldt - Temple Beth Zion
“It has been incredibly amazing to see the Town Square Food Pantry blossom and flower over the course of the year. Supporting and watching our volunteers not only embody, but enjoy the amazing Jewish values that underpin so much of what the Pantry is and does is an amazing gift. Their efforts and the pantry itself truly bring light to dark places and can inspire us all.
Amy Schaefer – Temple Beth Zion Lead Coordinator
We are excited about our successful collaboration with Catholic Charities and the broader community. The Food Pantry will continue to look for opportunities to expand its outreach to serve more clients.With over 20 volunteers who come on a regular basis and more who have helped with holiday food preparation and collections, we are very pleased to celebrate the first anniversary of the Town Square Food Pantry together.”
Jen Scheibner, Community Assistant at Catholic Charities.
“The Town Square Food Pantry has been a wonderful addition to the community. We are delighted to be a part of this operation in helping those in need,”
Currently the Town Square Food Pantry is serving nearly 175 families and about 40 residents at the Jewish Federation Housing unit and also reaches out throughout the zip codes of 14221 and 14068 in Amherst, New York region. Town Square Food Pantry located just west of the Weinberg Campus in Amherst welcomes donations or if you are in need of their services please call 716-391-2921.
I love Israel. I love the land, the people, the history and our deep connections to our ancient homeland. I have never felt more at home anywhere in the world than Israel, and my connection to Israel is central to my identity as a Jew.
However, as the Israeli equivalent of the 'Religious Right' gained more an more power, I as a non-Orthodox religious Jew, have felt less and less welcome in my homeland. It is incredibly ironic that Israel, the only Jewish nation in the world, guarantees freedom of religion for all people ... except for Jews.
The Kotel, also known as the Western Wall, is the closest Jews have been able to get to the site of the First and Second Temples for centuries. It commands a powerful place in our collective religious psyche and is far and above the holiest place a Jew can come to pray.
I stopped praying at the Wall about ten years ago, because it had come under the control of ultra-Orthodox rabbis who turned it into a place of intolerance.
Thank God, the Israeli cabinet decided on Sunday to reclaim the Kotel and the Kotel plaza for all Jews, not just the chareidim. In addition to the traditional men's and women's sections, a new egalitarian section will be constructed, where men and women can pray together, and women can sing and chant from Torah, and wear tallitot. The men's and women's sections will remain under ultra-Orthodox control, while the new section and the plaza will belong to the State (which is to say, to the rest of us).
This is truly cause for celebration! As the center of the Jewish world, Israel should reflect the diversity of our people. The establishment of the new egalitarian section at the Kotel is a major step forward. Now we need to remain vigilant, to make sure that the promise becomes reality.
Hi there! I am the senior rabbi at Temple Beth Ami in Rockville, Maryland, where I have served since 2016.
(c) copyright 2018 by Rabbi Gary Pokras