Corrected and updated Feb. 11 12:15 p.m.
Last fall, Kemp Mill Synagogue received a call from Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring asking for their help. Holy Cross Hospital had identified nearly 100 employees who were food insecure due to pandemic-related issues.
In response to this issue, two synagogue members, Daphne Price and Fran Kritz, arranged a food pantry in October, which included a $500 grant from the synagogue. Nearly 80 families received one or two large bags of food that were delivered directly to the hospital.
Four months later, the effort is continuing under the name Jewish Neighbor Association. The effort has grown into a consortium of Montgomery County synagogues that assist hospital employees and their families who are food insecure by arranging a monthly food pantry.
“There is, due to the pandemic, a massive food insecurity crisis in the United States. And Montgomery County is no different,” said Guila Franklin Siegel, associate director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, which is assisting the effort. Price and Kritz are both JCRC board members.
Some of “the people who work there rely on public transportation and have other obligations that really tether them,” Price said. “The logistics of their lives don’t lend themselves to being able to access the other food pantries just two miles away, so one of the things we’ve been able to do is bring the food directly to them.”
More synagogues have now joined the effort, with a different synagogue organizing the food pantry each month. With assistance from the JCRC, the Jewish Neighbor Association has now expanded to include Ohev Sholom — The National Synagogue, Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation and Young Israel Shomrai Emunah. Temple Shalom and Ohr Kodesh Congregation will host soon, Kritz said.
Each month, the Cypess family of Kemp Mill Synagogue donates milk to the food pantry, the synagogue hosting the pantry purchases fresh produce from Shalom Kosher with funds they raise from their members. On the day of the pantry, volunteers deliver the food to Holy Cross Hospital.
“There’s no question that any synagogue can do this on their own with their own local hospital,” Kritz said. “Hospitals need a great deal of assistance right now. We want the Jewish community to lead by example, and this is where there are opportunities for the Jewish community during this crisis to say that we’re here to help everyone.”
In addition to the monthly pantry, the Jewish Neighbor Association is working to purchase healthy snacks for all departments of Holy Cross Hospital. They are also supporting Bikur Cholim of Greater Washington with funds to purchase kosher food for staff members who observe Jewish dietary laws.
“We hope to remain ready as a partner organization to deliver assistance as needed on behalf of and in partnership with the Jewish community,” Kritz said.
This month, the association will host two food pantries at Holy Cross Hospital.
Funds for other Jewish Neighbor Association are donated by members of Kemp Mill Synagogue. The second food pantry was paid for with a grant from the Mayberg Foundation.
The role of Shalom Kosher was corrected in the story, as was the source of funding for the fresh produce purchases.