My family has decided that in this year of COVID-19, our Passover seder comes with a fifth question: When will it end? Quarantine and social distancing feel especially challenging this week, as the start of Passover usually brings happy gatherings and big meals in a celebration of being together and being free. I’m finding that it’s hard to feel the strength of my community behind me when we can’t gather, even with our loved ones.
My family is learning that we have to find new ways to express our Jewish values during this strange and uncertain time. That now requires bending our traditions to fit our cramped circumstances. We’re hardly the only folks doing this—if you participate in a Zoom seder, do let me know how it goes—but we feel fortunate to have found a way to engage with our community in doing so. Echoing the ancient Passover dictum, “Let all who are hungry come and eat,” we’ve joined with neighbors on a mission to fight food insecurity during this pandemic by serving free hot meals to those in need in our town.
Food insecurity is everywhere, even in the beach town of Truro, at the end of Cape Cod, generally known for its sleepy vibe and inviting shingled houses. Like many others, our family has been traveling here for many summers, and we recently bought a home so my parents could settle in for retirement. But there are so many year-round families who have lived and worked their whole lives in towns like Truro and depend on the transient population, many of whom are now struggling as their businesses and their livelihoods dry up.
Being relative newcomers to this tightly-knit community, we teamed up with an impressive group of people who are the real lifeblood of the town to supplement the loosely-coordinated community service efforts already underway in Truro. Among those are Julie and Frank Grande, owners of Box Lunch, a well-known sandwich shop; Tom Roda of the Truro Police Department; Nick and Lucy Brown of Thomas D. Brown Real Estate; and a team of volunteers who safely prepare, package and deliver fresh and nutritious free meals to those in need. Through the combined networks of all these individuals, word of our project spread quickly through town, reaching as far as individuals who don’t live here but consider Truro their home away from home.
Truro Community Kitchen was born in a matter of days. We set up a website and a Facebook presence, both linked to PayPal to enable community members to make contributions. It’s been about three weeks since this project first got started, and have raised over $20,000. Local restaurant owners and food wholesalers have donated ingredients and supplies to help us realize our goals of healthy, hearty meals to provide comfort and nourishment during this unsettling time. A leader in a neighboring school district emptied out their cafeteria’s freezers for us, providing, among other items, bags of chicken nuggets for the children who relied on school lunches every day. And a fish market kicked in 20 pounds of—you guessed it—cod.
The generosity that comes out of the woodwork of this small community continues to astound me. With so much illness, stress and financial need everywhere you look, it can be hard to see the good things happening around us. But the fact is, this crisis is giving people the opportunity to be their best selves, and I am continually awed by the kindness that people continue to show their families, friends and even perfect strangers.
Your support for Truro Community Kitchen would be welcome indeed (you can donate here), but more importantly, I encourage you, if you aren’t already involved in community service, to think about what you can do to support those around you in this time, whether as an individual, a family or a business owner. Ask what charitable efforts are already underway and how you can support them. Where do existing efforts leave gaps? Is there a particular population that is underserved, compared with others? What are you good at, and how can you use that for others’ benefit? These are the questions we must be asking ourselves if we want to put our Jewish values of tikkun olam, repairing the world, into action.
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