The Kosher Meals on Wheels Program
We are the people of the book; the people who give Zedakah; The people who stand as one and help each other, who stand together with our brothers as in the song “hine matov umanaiyim, shevet achim gam yachad”; who love each other and stand together as one: bechol levovcho, uvschol nafschecho, uvchol meodecho”, “with all our hearts, our souls, etc” or do we?
The above question comes to mind when it was recently decided to eliminate the kosher meals on wheels for the elderly observant Jewish people who can no longer help themselves, have little money and are dependent on these meals for sustenance and to give them a little comfort and pleasure to see the friendly faces of volunteers who entered their impoverished homes and enabled them to keep their religion and faith in tact. These meals were a glimmer of light that were a reminder of their beloved parents who saw to it that they were fed and that all was well in their young lives. Now that they are old and unable to give, their voices are stilled, and they cannot contribute to the various causes, they are forgotten. Non-Jews do not understand their plight since the belief that all Jews are “rich” precludes any sympathy toward them. It is also felt that they have “antiquated” food fads and if they were only “with the times” they would not need this peculiar diet.
Their fellow Jews view their poor elderly brethren with disdain; they have forgotten that they stand on the shoulders of these people who have slaved for them and brought them to the places they are today. After all, the poor elderly can do nothing for them now and nothing is lost by ignoring them, by playing ostrich, by not seeing, not looking. These others would prefer to serve on boards, to be lauded and honored, to give where their “generosity” is publicly viewed and appreciated; where they get plaques, newspaper attention, recognition and glory. They like serving on boards of various organizations; they like to feel important.
Recently I have been approached re the abolition of the program discussed. The elderly involved feel isolated and helpless. They have gotten no definitive answer to their request, their pleas to restore that which they had, that which was so important to keep them emotionally and physically intact. They have been told that mostly through emissaries that they would not go hungry; that they could eat traif, that they could go to Will's Wholesale Poultry and spend many dollars to bring home heavy boxes of frozen food with money which they don’t have, transportation which they don’t have, and ambulation which is severely impaired. They are told they should find a friend or relative to cook for them (most don’t have available relatives and all of their former friends are dead). They are further told that there is no caterer that would be willing to cater these special kosher meals. What is wrong with making it worthwhile for our Jewish caterers to prepare the meals or a caterer who is a gentile with the oversight of a Maschgiach to prepare them? Have we really bothered to request that the government pay the same amount of money that they give to the non-kosher meals so that the Jewish community could supplement this endeavor? There is much that can be done that has not been examined. The relatively tiny number of Jewish people who keep the kosher laws are the folks who keep our religion intact, and who pass on our heritage of Judaism. Should we not make every possible effort to enable our helpless elderly to keep them feeling worthwhile and to matter, even in a limited sense? Don’t we owe them more than we do the Outer Mongolians or Palucostanis or other third world people, folks who are not infrequently anti-Semitic and mean spirited toward us? Our fellow elderly are the zaydies and bubbies who worked hard to keep their families together, often under very difficult circumstances. They have protected all of us during some very harsh times, through persecutions, prejudices and the vagaries of life. Let us look with clear eyes and open minds to reverse yet another insult to our people who don’t need another blow to their self worth and their attempts at independence and peace!
Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the co-author, with Dr. Gerhard Falk, of Youth Culture and the Generation Gap.