Courtesy of Yad Ezra

Yad Ezra stays true to its original mission 30 years after opening its doors in 1990.

Featured photo courtesy of Yad Ezra

Who knows what bodacious goals Gary Dembs, Mickey Eizelman, Ellie Kaplan, Jim Macy, Rabbi A. Irving Schnipper and Howard Zoller had when they pooled together their brainpower, social networks of friends and colleagues, synagogue members and donors with a singular mission: Provide free kosher groceries to families in need in the community.

Over the last 30 years, Yad Ezra has stayed true to its original mission, while at the same time, being nimble enough to incorporate a variety of ways to address food insecurity and provide an increasing amount of healthy and desirable food choices to its clients (over 22 million pounds of groceries have been distributed since 1990).

Each subsequent Yad Ezra president and board has spent time reviewing and refining how we fulfill our mission, given changing demographics, political climates, and, most importantly, ongoing input from our client families.  Yad Ezra’s Client Choice Shopping List reflects the leadership’s decision to empower families to choose the groceries that they go home with.  Being able to choose and receive groceries numerous ways (the most discreet being a drive through window) reflects the importance of serving our client families with dignity and respect.

Thanks to the regard, support and faith in our ability to serve vulnerable families, Yad Ezra has become a sought out partner for a variety of collaborations on local and international levels.  Some of these partnerships started when Yad Ezra first opened its doors on February 5, 1990.  Jewish Family Service, Forgotten Harvest and Jewish Federation were among the first organizations helping us connect families in need with free groceries and funds to purchase groceries.

Over the years, Yad Ezra’s methodology has continued to be recognized by a number of other organizations, some of whom we have helped mentor.  In 2005, Yad Ezra’s director was invited to attend a MAZON Mission to Israel to meet with NGOs (non-governmental agencies) and members of the Knesset to discuss ways to improve collaborative efforts.  A couple years ago, an opportunity to meet Rabbi Michael Schudrich, the chief rabbi of Poland, resulted in an effort to help him establish a kosher food pantry in Warsaw that provides ongoing grocery distributions to low income Jews and Righteous Gentiles who saved Jewish families during WWII.

On a local level, Yad Ezra’s leadership is currently involved in a collaboration with Jewish Family Service and JVS to improve services to client families in emergency situations, a partnership with Gleaners Community Food Bank to offer more produce and milk to more client families more often, and a project with United Way to enhance and improve best practices among food providers that are United Way beneficiaries.  Most recently, we had the opportunity to meet with the management team of Woodward Corner Market and are working together to have more kosher food available in this area through donations and volunteer support.

We continue to provide additional ways to learn about and access free healthy food, thanks to the Geri Lester Greenhouse, a place where clients, volunteers, neighbors and donors can work side by side planting and harvesting fresh produce.  Yad Ezra’s Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Family Giving Gardens includes a variety of gardens (Hebrew Calendar garden, food forest, perennial and diaspora), beds in the front of the building that include a pergola and rain water collection system, and beds in the back for client use.

Whether serving the 250 clients who received groceries from Yad Ezra 30 years ago, or the 2,400 who currently rely on us for food assistance, we continue to listen to and serve our families with dignity and respect.  Bodacious?  Maybe…

Read more: Yad Ezra Inspires Change in Poland

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