Traverse City Record-Eagle

January 26, 2013

Food drive helps needy celebrate Passover


---- — FLINT TOWNSHIP (AP) — Look on the shelves of local food pantries that help the needy and you'll find plenty of canned soup and cereal.

Matzo and whitefish? Not so much.

With the cost of celebrating the Jewish holiday of Passover upward of $500 for meals over the eight-day period, efforts are under way to help Flint-area needy put those foods on the table.

Congregation Beth Israel in Flint Township has set a Jan. 27 fundraiser help people with buying matzo — a flat, unleavened bread — and other items including matzo ball soup, specially made cereals, pancake mixes and wines consumed traditionally during Jewish Passover.

Passover — which celebrates the Jewish exodus from slavery in Egypt — is typically marked by a special Seder meal on the first two nights of the holiday.

"The Matzo Fund is designed so that funds are raised to help other people; it provides them with funding to acquire special foods necessary to properly celebrate the holiday," said Steven Low, executive director of the Flint Jewish Federation.

The Beth Israel fundraiser helped more than 50 people last year and expects to raise $1,500 this year.

The Flint Jewish Federation supplies a list of area Jews in need, mainly the elderly, single mothers and individuals who have lost their jobs.

"We also have a significant Russian population that resettled here that may not speak the language well," Low said.

Proceeds from donations are distributed through Kroger gift cards to families in need.

"The difficulty in Flint is that there is no supermarket that has a wide selection of products available for Passover," Congregation Beth Israel President Leonard Meizlish said.

Low hopes to increase the number of people helped through the program.

"We'd love to have an increase in the amount of money that comes in," Low said. "I would be willing to bet there are people that have the need that we haven't helped."

Low also has an idea he has been waiting to capitalize on.

"I've been wanting to create a food pantry with kosher foods available," Low said, stating that he would also include items for diabetics and those who are gluten-sensitive.

The 2013 Matzo Fund will start following an 8 a.m. Sunday breakfast at the Congregation Beth Israel in Flint Township.