Each year, the synagogue’s youth group, OSTY (Ohef Sholom Temple Youth), organizes a food drive to benefit OST’s own soup kitchen and Jewish Family Service of Tidewater. On Rosh Hashanah, the teens hand out empty grocery bags and collect them full of non-perishable items on Yom Kippur.
“Feeding the hungry is something the Torah commands us to do and it is especially important during the High Holy Days that we fulfill this commandment,” says Jacob Morrissey, OSTY president. “The food drive is an annual service project that OSTY puts on so that our members can fulfill this mitzvah.”
The congregation generously gives thousands of pounds of food to two of Hampton Roads’ food pantries, which are constantly in need of restocking, especially after the summer as the end of the year approaches. According to the nonprofit Feeding America, which conducted a food bank pulse survey between April 17 and May 1, about 95% of food banks reported seeing demand for food assistance increase or stay the same in March, compared to February. In Virginia, more than 170,000 families are living below the poverty level, according to JFS. In JFS’ 2021-2022 annual report, the nonprofit reported that 302 impoverished Jewish individuals in Hampton Roads received food and/or financial assistance.
“Thanks so much to the congregants of Ohef Sholom Temple for their participation in the Annual High Holiday Food drive supporting JFS’s Community Food Pantry. The number of families visiting our pantry the past few months has been steadily increasing,” says Jody Laibstain, JFS volunteer and transportation coordinator.
“The escalating costs of food and living expenses have had a large impact on so many people. Unfortunately, people have had to choose between paying their rent and buying food to feed their families,” says Laibstain.
Through the food drive, the teens learn about the need for tikkun olam, or repairing the world.
“I always look forward to helping with the food drive,” Morrissey says. “It’s a meaningful service project that will help people in need.”
Laibstain says it was meaningful to see the teens orchestrate and deliver the food.
“They were able to see our empty shelves become full again,” says Laibstain. “This group of teens was able to see exactly where the food is going and understand the true meaning of tzedakah. It’s so exciting to see our youth become involved in such an important mitzvah.”
Rue Winkelsas, OSTY’s communications vice president, helped organize the food drive.
“This is an important mitzvah for OSTY because it helps us understand others. We learn communication skills, working together, and listening skills,” she says.
“This is so meaningful to me because I have an understanding of how it’s like to not have the ability to get food. Food drives help everyone who needs it, and I find that so awe-inspiring. I am so overjoyed that I get to help others and make sure everyone has safe resources.”