Remembering your Bubbe’s matzah ball soup; your mom’s charoset and your angel food cake might inspire you to start planning your Covid-safe Passover Seder. For hundreds of Jewish individuals and families in Rhode Island, however, the Passover Seder is one more meal that triggers anxiety about too little food, too little money to make even a modest Seder.
That’s where Jewish Collaborative Services’ annual Moes Chitim (Money for Wheat) campaign steps in to alleviate those anxieties. Each year, JCS (and earlier, Jewish Family Service, JFS) raises funds from generous Rhode Islanders to purchase grocery gift cards for those in need during Passover.
Consider the words from one grateful recipient: “Thank you so much for all the amazing Passover items that we received from [JCS] and the Kosher Food Pantry. You know exactly what my family likes. I really appreciate everything you do for us and the community.”
Last year, JCS’ Moes Chitim funds provided Stop & Shop grocery gift cards to 147 families, representing 758 people. “We raise about $15,000 each year and we raised more money last year than in prior years – due to Covid-19,” said JCS Chief Development Officer Sara Ades Goodwin. “This year we were again, unable to hold community seders. Because more people reached out this year for assistance, we are seeking monetary donations for our existing clients in need – such as those who use JCS’ Kosher Food Pantry – and others, including those referred to us through Kesher – our Synagogue outreach program, the Jewish Community Day School and the Providence Hebrew Day School.”
Once qualified, each individual seeking help will receive a $60 gift card; each couple will receive a $100 gift card; and any large family with adult children will receive a $150 gift card, JCS reported.
“It’s a wonderful way to bring Jewish tradition into people’s homes during Passover; the synergy of JCS and the community working together to help people in need is a beautiful one,” said Goodwin, who sent a letter to nearly 300 members of the Jewish community requesting donations in late February. In the first two weeks, JCS had received $8,000 from 77 individuals.
“This is one fundraising activity that seems to draw a lot of people; most make smaller donations, often in honor or in memory of a loved one, and they are not necessarily the donors you might see giving to other Jewish causes,” said Ron Markoff, a long-term JFS board member who has chaired the annual drive for many years. Markoff, who joined the JFS board in 1977, recently was invited to join the JCS board and, in that capacity, is leading the Moes Chitim initiative once again.
With Covid-19 affecting so many in our community, Markoff said, “more than ever, now is the time to give.” In past years, before Covid-19, the Moes Chitim fundraising drive also helped pay for community-based Passover Seders, such as those held at the Jewish Community Center and at local synagogues.
As a young boy attending Hebrew School three times a week at Temple Emanu-El in Providence, Markoff remembers his teachers passing an envelope to him and his fellow students for donations. “We’d each put a penny or a nickel in the envelope,” recalled Markoff. “My parents were very charitable; that’s how I got involved in helping to support Jewish institutions – JFS and now JCS, Temple Emanu-El, the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island, and Brown RISD Hillel. [Philanthropy] must start at home – it’s so important – if we don’t take care of ourselves, no one else will…look at the world.”
For those who wish to donate to the Moes Chitim initiative, you may do so online at https://jcsri.org/donate/donate-now/.