Participants in the Tucson Jewish Community Center’s Taglit program for young adults with disabilities are joining members of Congregation Bet Shalom this year to make sandwiches for those in need.
Bet Shalom has packed lunches for the needy on an irregular basis for years, says Rabbi Avi Alpert. When Vero Trujillo, the Taglit director, told him she was seeking off-site opportunities for the group, he asked Bet Shalom member Frank Youdelman, who sponsors the sandwich making with his wife, Donna, if they could integrate Taglit into the program. Youdelman’s answer was an emphatic yes, which gave the congregation the impetus to schedule sandwich making as a monthly event.
“Taglit participants enjoy off-site activities like the sandwich making program at Bet Shalom not only for the social aspect, but the life skills they learn,” says Trujillo. “When they engage in opportunities that allow them to make connections and participate meaningfully in the world around them, it gives them a sense of ownership over their own lives and belonging in the community.”
On Tuesday, Dec 19, the Taglit and Bet Shalom volunteers put together enough peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to pack 140 lunch bags with two sandwiches plus a dessert.
Bet Shalom was donating this week’s effort to Hope City Church on 22nd Street, which does a lot of community outreach, and the Gospel Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter on South Palo Verde Road. Bet Shalom often donates bagged lunches to the Salvation Army, too.
Alpert notes that Hope City Pastor Jeff Logman has been attending services at Bet Shalom, adding that Hope City and Bet Shalom are both members of Interfaith Community Services.
The Bet Shalom sandwich-making crew is using Dunkin Donuts bags donated by his friend Walter Thibodeau, a local businessman who died in November 2022, says Youdelman, who started the lunch bag program 10 years ago,
Youdelman also sponsors the program at other institutions, including the Rotary Club, schools, and Boy Scouts.
“You provide the labor and I’ll provide you with all the makings of sandwiches,” he says.
Youdelman buys bread and desserts at a deep discount from the Entenmann’s outlet on Broadway.
As the group makes its way through 35 loaves of bread, assembly-line style, Taglit member Spencer takes it in stride when his peanut butter-laden spatula tears a slice.
“If it doesn’t look perfect, that’s not important,” he says.
Alpert tells the Taglit members that they are doing a mitzvah, explaining that a mitzvah “is something God wants us to do to help make the world a better place.”
“In Tucson,” Youdelman adds, “we have a lot of people who are hungry every day, and you are doing a great thing by helping them.”