Temple teaches children to perform mitzvahs

Staff Writer

EAST BRUNSWICK — For those children whose only source of food may be a school lunch, Temple B’nai Shalom has made a weekend care package for them.

On Dec. 13, members of the Little Sisterhood of Temple B’nai Shalom, Fern Road, packed zipped storage bags with food to give to children who may not always eat three meals a day.

“Kids throughout New Jersey are on either free or reduced lunch in their schools, and unfortunately, we don’t know if they are actually eating over the weekend,” said Paula Storm, vice president of the sisterhood.

All 250 bags of food that were packed at the temple were donated to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey in Hillside.

“We wanted to get our kids (at the temple) involved in this because it’s basically kids helping kids. We really wanted kids to be involved in community service and understand there is a bigger world out there than themselves,” said Storm.

She explained that the sisterhood collected the food through food drives at the temple.

The bags of food are distributed to about a dozen schools throughout the state that have children in need.

“A school nurse will come and get these bags of food and then bring them back to their school. Students could quietly, and privately, go to the nurse’s office and receive a bag and put it in their backpack, take it home, and nobody knows,” Storm said.

The act of charity ties in heavily with the Jewish faith.

“For us, being a Jewish organization, Friday is a very special day for us. Friday [night] is Shabbat (Sabbath). Knowing that (children are need) are receiving the package on Friday and they are not going to go hungry on Shabbat is very important,” said Storm, referencing the religion’s day of rest.

“In Judaism, feeding the hungry is one of the greatest mitzvahs (good deeds) we can do,” Rabbi Eric Eisenkramer said. “Everyone, no matter how rich or poor, is obligated to give, even if it’s a small amount. We are teaching our children today to continue this Jewish tradition of charity and helping those in need.”

For the children who participated in packing the bags of food, this was an opportunity to do something good in their community at a young age.

“I want to help others in need and I feel that by doing this, I’m helping a lot of people who don’t have enough to eat and that makes me feel really good,” said Alex Fernandez, who has participated in the program since its beginnings three years ago.

The same feeling was echoed by some of the younger volunteers.

“I want to help people who can’t afford food. I [want] to make people happy,” said Ethan Storm, 10.

“I feel bad for people who don’t have as much as we do, especially around the holidays. We are getting all these presents and they don’t have basic needs,” said Rebekkah Taistra, 10.

The food drive was one of many charity events that the sisterhood organizes. The group takes part in the Peyton’s Heart Project, which helps raise awareness for mental health issues, bullying and suicide by tagging hand-crocheted hearts with uplifting messages.

There was also a Mitzvah Day on Dec. 23 to provide first responders with baked goods.

In addition, the temple has a plot in the Community Garden that provides food for the East Brunswick Senior Center, according to Iris Udasin, adult social action chair for the sisterhood.

“We are a very affluent area and knowing that we are able to help others is very important to help teach our kids,” Storm said.

Contact Michael Nunes at mnunes@gmnews.com.