Yad Ezra food pantry inspired the founding of a kosher food pantry in Warsaw, started by Poland Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich.
Featured Photo Courtesy of Yad Ezra
On a trip to Detroit, Poland’s Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich visited Berkley’s Yad Ezra, which serves about 3,000 people each year. After seeing the change Yad Ezra has made in the community, Schudrich was inspired to start a kosher food pantry in Warsaw.
The Polish pantry now is fully operational, thanks in major part to assistance from Yad Ezra staff.
When Yad Ezra decided to take on the project of helping Schudrich start a kosher food pantry, it set a goal of raising $100,000 to send to Poland. So far, it has raised $63,000; none has come from Yad Ezra’s own budget.
Jeff Supowit, former Yad Ezra president, says much of the money has come from loyal contributors who have stepped up and donated even more to help the organization reach its goal to help Poland. Many board members also have contributed to the effort.
The kosher food pantry comes to Poland at a time of a re-emergence of the nation’s Jewish communities.
“Poland was the epicenter of Judaism in Europe prior to World War II,” said Lea Luger, Yad Ezra’s executive director. “But there are whole generations missing and people every day are finding out they are Jewish.”
Supowit feels the pantry can help in the re-establishment of a Jewish community in Poland in two ways.
“The impact of the pantry is not just on the people receiving the food, but it is also reigniting the sense of tzedakah in the community, which is such an important part of Judaism,” he said.
Schudrich said in an email: “The impact has been great and has impacted a few groups specifically: the Righteous Gentiles, who see that they are remembered and cherished; the Jewish needy; project volunteers, who can perform a mitzvah and develop a deeper connection to Jewish values and community; and anyone else who sees the project and feels inspired by it.”
Recently, Luger, Supowit and his wife, Debra, and a few other Yad Ezra staff members traveled to Poland to see the Warsaw pantry.
“We got to meet with leadership of the Jewish Community Centers in Krakow and Warsaw,” Luger said. “One thing I noticed was that the leadership at the JCCs are mostly non-Jews who truly appreciate contributions Jewish people made to Polish history and want to make sure they are not forgotten or ignored.”
The group also met with American Embassy staff in Poland as well as two Righteous Gentile women who helped save Jewish families as children.
“It’s important to help the Righteous Gentiles because they are often unrecognized and don’t get government assistance,” Supowit said.
Currently, the pantry does distributions for major Jewish holidays. It was able to distribute food for Passover, Purim and, more recently, Shavuot.
Schudrich is very happy with the outcome of the kosher food pantry and is looking to add pantries in other cities in Poland.
Read More: Planting Seeds of Change at Yad Ezra