Jewish, Christian congregants band together to feed hungry
It was a desperate sign of the times as a combination of high demand and diminishing supplies left the shelves at the Jewish Federation of Brevard bare for the summer.
Gone were the boxed pastas, canned goods and even kosher food items that the federation collected from area synagogues to serve about 60 needy Jewish families and others throughout Brevard. Out went a call last month to local Jewish congregations seeking more donations.
That, in turn, triggered help from an unexpected source: Pineda Pointe Church.
“We were really pleased. Food started coming in about two weeks ago, bags filled full of goods,” said Lisa Pietruszewicz, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Brevard. “We have one client with half a leg and half a foot who got out of his wheelchair when he saw all of the food.”
She said the interfaith cooperation was especially useful since “the synagogues are struggling, and we’re seeing a lot more clients.”
The federation typically carries out its “Abraham’s Harvest” food drive during the Jewish fall Holy Day season, distributing bags to the county’s five synagogues. The collection — which shuns pork and shellfish for religious reasons — is usually enough to keep the shelves stocked throughout the year, Pietruszewicz said. Clients are given two bags of goods per visit. Holy Day gift baskets are also distributed during Passover and Rosh Hashanah.
But the shortfalls this year reached a critical level.
Several weeks ago, a member of Temple Beth Sholom synagogue noticed the empty shelves and immediately called for an emergency food drive.
Word reached Beth Ann Hewett, a Christian who stepped in to head up a Jewish summer camp for about 40 children at Temple Beth Sholom. Hewett told her brother, Randy Alonso, pastor of Pineda Pointe Church, a congregation with a history of outreach to the Jewish community, which included leasing space from Temple Beth Sholom.
“I said let’s bring the bags over to the church and pass them out. We probably collected several hundred pounds of food. We’re always looking for a good service project to get involved with,” said Alonso, who also oversees the Cocoa-based congregation CenterPointe. “It is unusual but for us, we have a longstanding love for Israel and the Jewish people and that’s why we’re on the campus at Temple Beth Sholom.”
The move also helps at a time when two of the county’s synagogues are struggling financially following the dismantling of the space shuttle program.
Dawn Hawkins, director of operations at Temple Beth Sholom, praised the Jewish community and Alonso for efforts to keep food supplies flowing.
“Everybody really rallied together,” Hawkins said. “We couldn’t let anybody go hungry.”