Photo Credit: Rabbi Chezky Wolff
Rabbi Chezky Wolff and recipients of Seder-To-Go kits.

What began as an effort to ensure that community members would have proper sedarim for Pesach has evolved into an all-out-initiative to provide meals for the homebound and first responders during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

Rabbi Chezky Wolff, the Chabad spiritual leader of the Chelsea Shul in Manhattan (located on 23rd Street between 7th and 8th avenues) said numerous congregants in the weeks before Pesach were unexpectedly faced with the prospect of making their own sedarim in isolation or quarantine. Some were homebound and had no safe way of acquiring the items they needed for Pesach, while others had never made Pesach before and lacked both the knowledge and the essentials.

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An e-mail blast and media coverage yielded a team of volunteers who assembled more than 100 Seder-To-Go kits, which included seder plates, Haggadahs, hand shmurah matzah, grape juice, and step-by-step Seder handbooks.

The campaign was a success, but it became clear very quickly that those who couldn’t buy food for the first two days of Pesach would be equally challenged when the second half of yom tov rolled around. A community member contacted Rabbi Wolff to discuss this issue and handed him her credit card, requesting that he buy meals for the homebound that would get them through the rest of the holiday.

Instead of the campaign coming to a close with the conclusion of yom tov, though, the Chelsea Shul pivoted in a new direction. It now provides twice weekly kosher food packages to the homebound and others in need of assistance, including recovering coronavirus victims.

Lunches are also provided to first responders at the NYPD’s 10th Precinct and the local fire department.

“Ironically, while all of our normal programming has been shut down since we closed the shul, we realized the tremendous opportunity for chesed that exists right now, and we are busier than ever,” Rabbi Wolff told the Jewish Press.

A growing group of supporters has stepped forward to ensure that the Chelsea Shul can continue the program and Rabbi Wolff and his volunteers have been focusing on identifying others in the community who are in need of kosher food.

“During this time of uncertainty, it’s more important than ever that all of us use our means to care for those who may be in greater need, and no amount is too little,” said Monette de Botton, a member of the Chelsea Shul whose support spearheaded the initial Pesach campaign.

“Sometimes the smallest gift can be the hardest to give – and the most meaningful to the recipient.”

Those interested in joining this initiative or know of someone in need of a free catered meal, can visit TheChelseaShul.org/Cares.

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Sandy Eller is a freelance writer who writes for numerous websites, newspapers, magazines and private clients. She can be contacted at sandyeller1@gmail.com.