Beth El feeds Tidewater: If you can’t feed a hundred people then feed just one.

March 5, 2021

Homepage Posts

During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all experiencing a relentless hunger—a hunger for our children and grandchildren, a hunger for our friends, a hunger for “normalcy.” But few of us, gratefully, have known hunger as an empty stomach crying out for food.

Soon, we will again recall the time when the Jewish people were slaves in Egypt, and when finally freed, to know the hunger of living in the desert for 40 years. In the words of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, a”h, “We are what we remember.” At Beth El, we are committed to remembering the anguish of hunger.

Under the leadership of Rachel Abrams and Joanna Schranz, the congregation is continuing Beth El Feeds Tidewater. “There is such a great need right now as more people than ever are struggling during the pandemic. I am extremely grateful to our Beth El family for their very generous response to this initiative,” says Abrams.

The goal is not to feed ALL of Tidewater, but each month, the group addresses the needs of a different segment. In December, Beth El members donated bags of groceries and checks to the FoodBank of Southeastern Virginia, and in January, food and checks went to Village Family, a hunger relief non-profit organization, whose Food Pantry operates out of First Calvary Church in Norfolk. “My daughter, Moriah, and I really enjoyed sorting and packing food with church members and it was so nice to actually work together in person,” says Schranz.

In February, 20 Beth El families prepared meals to feed 160–170 people at the Norfolk Union Mission. These meals were delivered on Sunday, Feb. 14 by five volunteers from Beth El’s Sisterhood, in addition to a check for $500 to the Union Mission.
This month, the congregation turned to Park Place School. Congregation Beth El welcomed Park Place School into the education wing of its building four years ago. What started out as a pilot project in the mid-1990s (Project Rebound) to improve test scores of students who were not thriving in Norfolk Public Schools, turned into an expanded private school for third through eighth graders. While Park Place School is considered private, all students receive free tuition.

Patti Wainger has taken Park Place School under her wings and given Beth El congregants opportunities to make a difference, as she has with so many other deserving projects throughout Tidewater. For Beth El Feeds Tidewater, Wainger made profiles of the 51 families (about 210 people) from Park Place School so that Beth El families could make boxes that “fit” their particular Park Place family, while remaining anonymous. Each participating Beth El family created a box containing food, games, and other items. The Park Place families picked up their boxes along with a $50 gift certificate to Food Lion provided by a generous Beth El congregant. A meal prepared by Mercy Chefs was also included. Some congregants who were not able to participate directly made donations to help defer expenses.

Let’s be honest. We cannot pretend to end hunger, but we can each do something. In the words of my dear, dear friend, Hanns Loewenbach, zichrona livracha, a Holocaust survivor and member of Beth El, “We always have a choice: To do something or nothing.”

In honor of Hanns, it is important to do SOMETHING. As our forefathers taught us, “It is not for you to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it.”

- Betsy O. Karotkin

Letter to the Editor