Photo Credit: COJO Flatbush
Volunteer carries a huge stack of boxes.

Ma Nishtana: How was this year’s COJO Flatbush Passover Food Distribution different from last year’s?

Last year a palpable air of fear and uncertainty hung over the world as COVID-19 was just beginning its deadly rampage. This year, as a return to normality finally appears to be a realistic hope, an unmistakable spirit of optimism infused the distribution, even as health and safety regulations implemented at the start of the pandemic remained in effect throughout the proceedings.

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Last year, COVID-19 started tearing through our social fabric as final preparations were being made for the 2020 Passover Food Distribution. “Which meant,” said COJO Flatbush CEO Louis Welz, “that virtually at the last minute we had to make changes in the logistics of the distribution, while dealing with the reality that more food would be required to feed families that never before needed assistance.”

This year’s landscape may be somewhat less uncertain and daunting than last year’s, but putting together a distribution of this size and scope is always a huge challenge even under the best of circumstances. Nevertheless, COJO Flatbush Director of Social Services Shulamis Shapiro oversaw the operation with her usual tireless attention to every detail. As a result, close to 300 families were able to celebrate Pesach with all the necessities and then some: Shmura matzah, chicken, gefilte fish, tuna fish, grape juice, apple juice, apples, melons, potatoes, onions, carrots, eggs, oil, cinnamon, paprika, and potato starch.

Once again every effort was made to ensure the dignity of recipients, with deliveries made in a discreet manner, no different in appearance from a regular supermarket drop-off. Contact, interaction, and close proximity between deliverer and recipient were carefully avoided.

Welz credited the success of the Passover Distribution to “the generosity, dedication, and sheer effort of the COJO Flatbush Board of Directors, our donors, our staff, and our volunteers.”

He was equally effusive in expressing appreciation for the efforts of City Council Members Chaim Deutsch and Kalman Yeger; NYC Department of Youth and Community Development; Met Council on Jewish Poverty CEO David Greenfield; the Orthodox Union; Brooklyn Community Board 14 District Manager Shawn Campbell; Glatt Mart President Dov Bauman; Nosson and Rivkie Shapiro; Rabbis Shmuel Wallerstein, Pinchas Wallerstein, Aaron Groner, Tzvi Wallerstein, and Yitzy Heller from Yeshiva Ohr Yitzchok and Mesivta Tiferes Shmuel; and community activist Dovi Zeitlin.

Welz also commended the New York City Sanitation Department for its expedited recyclable pickups, praising DSNY Brooklyn District 14 Superintendent Joseph Sciulara “for making sure that everything is properly taken care of after every distribution.”

The Passover Food Distribution, said COJO Flatbush President Moshe Zakheim, “represents, along with our other distributions and the numerous programs we provide, our commitment to assisting the community in any way we can. I’m happy we were able to help make a zeesen – a sweet – Pesach for those in need.”

COJO Flatbush wishes everyone health and hatzlacha, and may we experience a complete resumption of the routines of life we once so easily took for granted.

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