Yogurt and cheese. Challah rolls and frozen meals. These are among the items stocked in the newly opened kosher pantry at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, which serves an area that includes observant Jewish neighborhoods.
Gary Winters, president of Bikur Cholim of Greater Washington, called the establishment of its kosher pantry at Holy Cross “a big achievement” for the nonprofit Jewish organization, which makes free kosher products available 24/7 to people with loved ones hospitalized there. This is the organization’s third kosher pantry in an area hospital.
“The location at Holy Cross is critically important because there is such a large population of Orthodox Jews in that area” as well as elderly people, he said in an interview. “There are many Orthodox patients who regularly use Holy Cross Hospital and are in the hospital for multi-day stays, which could include Shabbat and holidays, and they have families.”
Also, many Jews who are not Orthodox keep kosher.
The room, with a full-size refrigerator-freezer, meat and dairy microwaves, a hot water pot and more, opened on Sept. 27. It also holds religious supplies, such as electric candles and personal care items, as people are often there for emergencies.
“The room has been open for less than a week and it has been active,” the organization’s executive director, Audrey Siegel, said last week. “That says to us how much of a need there is.”
The organization, which long wanted to have a kosher pantry there, and the Catholic hospital worked together for more than a year to establish it, she said.
Bikur Cholim, whose mission is to provide support and comfort to people facing health issues, provided the kitchen appliances and is keeping the pantry stocked with kosher goods and items for Shabbat and holidays.
Instructions on how to access the room are by its door.
Holy Cross updated and renovated space off the cafeteria, provided cabinetry and supplies, and will ensure maintenance of the space, Steve Fowler, Holy Cross Health’s chief mission officer, said in a prepared statement. The hospital aims “to provide a restful, healing experience for our patients and we are pleased that we are able to address the basic needs of patients’ loved ones who are here with us on Sabbath and other holy days,” he said, calling the kosher pantry “a blessing.” He said the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington encouraged the hospital, which serves a diverse population, to partner with Bikur Cholim to establish it.
“Our goal is to support as many pantries as we can support,” Winters said. “Now that we have three pantries open and running, we have to make an assessment of what the needs are [and] what we can support.” That includes what staff and volunteers can maintain.
They restock pantries as items are consumed, especially after holidays. For Shabbat, they make sure the hot pot is full and on Sabbath mode. For now the upkeep is daily at the Holy Cross pantry, as it appears to be heavily used, Siegel said. Passover requires a special deep cleaning and stocking only kosher for Passover foods.
Andrea F. Siegel is a Washington-area writer.