Making Passover possible for those in need

Volunteers Adidi Juma (left) and Barbara Brumer assemble Passover packages at Jewish Family & Children’s Services. (Courtesy Jewish Family & Children's Services)

The annual Matza & More program has served thousands of households in Tucson. The project ensures that needy Jewish individuals and families in the community have the necessities to celebrate Passover with joy and dignity.

For more than 40 years, Jewish Family & Children’s Services of Southern Arizona has headed the program, with donations and support from local businesses, synagogues, Jewish agencies and individuals. This year organizers anticipate delivering up to 200 care packages throughout the community.

“JFCS does this with the wider Jewish community,” says Nancy Lefkowitz, the project’s volunteer chairperson. “Food is costly at Passover time. We provide the ingredients so they can make their own Seder or share it with friends or family. We want people not to feel alone.”

Packages are filled with fresh vegetables, gefilte fish, horseradish, walnuts, grape juice, matzah ball soup mix, grocery gift cards, holiday candles and matzah. “Although synagogues and agencies provide in-kind and financial support, it doesn’t cover the total cost,” says Lefkowitz. “We really count on the community at large. Without those donations, this program would be history.”

“There is great need,” says Debbie Crowder, Jewish Emergency Financial Assistance manager at JFCS. Throughout the year, JEFA assists those in crisis, providing immediate help with rent, utilities, food, transportation and other things. “A lot of low income individuals on Social Security or disability, may have under $850 a month. It’s hard for them to stretch their dollars,” she says.

“Helping to get kosher food to celebrate at the holiday and connect them with their Jewish roots, gives them the opportunity to see that others do care,” says Crowder. “Those who are visited feel they’re not invisible,” adds Lefkowitz. “It’s a person-to-person connection,” says Susan Kasle, JFCS vice president of community services.

Volunteers drive the program that has many working parts, from collecting donations to purchasing food, sorting and packing, phoning recipients to loading and delivering. “We thank all of the volunteers who have helped over the years,” says Kasle. The 28 volunteer delivery drivers are encouraged to take along family or friends, especially children, to participate in the mitzvah.

This year’s food packages will be assembled on Friday, March 23 and delivered Sunday, March 25.

Contributions continue to be accepted online at Names of those in need can be referred to their rabbi or by calling Crowder at 795-0300.