More than 400 free seder meals will be delivered April 10, 2022 to Jews in need, fulfilling a decade’s long tradition in the greater Milwaukee Jewish community known as ma’ot chittim.
Ma’ot chittim refers to the age-old practice of donating funds prior to Pesach to help the poor cover their seder expense.
With the pandemic entering its third year, the need for the Passover meals is even greater, said Sami Stein Avner, executive director of Tikkun Ha-Ir. “People signing up for food are getting younger, some of them college students.”
Avner and Rabbi Shari Shamah, community services and program director at the Harry and Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center, are co-chairs of Ma’ot Chittim.
What used to be an in-person event where people retrieved their bags of food inside the JCC Food Pantry, now has become delivery, Avner said. There are a few other pick-up points in the North Shore and West Side.
“We are getting food in the hands of those who need it while adhering to safety precautions,” Avner said.
Tamara Stolle is Tikkun Ha’Ir board president and one of 40 volunteers for Ma’ot Chittim. “As a member of the Jewish community of Milwaukee, it’s really important to me that those people who are underserved are able to enjoy the same holiday seder that the larger Jewish community enjoys. And food justice is a cause that’s central to Tikkun Ha-Ir. It’s something I believe in deeply and this is just a small way for me to contribute.”
JCC board member Reenie Kavalar volunteers as well. “I’ve been doing this now for seven years. It’s wonderful to be able to provide people struggling with food insecurity something that that makes the holiday special.”
The delivery date is always set for the Sunday before Passover. Each family or household receives a Passover bag packed with a frozen chicken, grape juice, matza, matza ball mix, gefilte fish, horseradish and Shabbat candles.
Sponsors are collecting donations year-round to fund the annual drive, Lindner said. The program is funded primarily by the Rabbi Scheinfeld Maos Chitim Fund and the Salinsky Program to Feed the Hungry.
Additional partner organizations for the food drive are Jewish Family Services Milwaukee, Ovation Communities, the JCC and its Jewish Community Pantry, Milwaukee Jewish Federation’s Coalition for Jewish Learning and Jewish Community Relations Council, and Hillel Milwaukee. Area synagogues are also promoting the drive and serving as additional pick-up points for the food.
Volunteers and drivers are needed. Websites for Tikkun Ha’Ir, the JCC and the Milwaukee Jewish Federation have online applications to receive food, donate money or help bag and deliver. Jewish Family Services reaches out to their network with information on the drive.
“I’ve had people tell me how much they appreciate it,” said Rhonda Lindner, educator at Tikkun Ha-Ir. “And they remember when they were the ones giving the Passover bags to other members of their communities.”
To make contact with organizers to learn about volunteering or acquiring food, visit Thi-Milwaukee.org.