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Federation provides Purim packages for hunger relief
Marla Cohen

Steve Kolinsky, then president of the Jewish Federation of Rockland County, cuts the ribbon opening Table to Table's Haifa office last year.
This Purim, many who participate in their synagogue or school mishloach manot exchange will find that a portion of the money they give to the project will be aiding the hungry in Israel.

Several synagogues and Reuben Gittelman Hebrew Day School will be giving a portion of the money raised during their Purim gift-giving to Table to Table, a food rescue program in Israel. The effort is being coordinated by the Jewish Federation of Rockland County.
The participating synagogues include Shaarey Israel, New City Jewish Center, West Clarkstown Jewish Center, Orangetown Jewish Center, Temple Beth Torah, Congregation Sons of Israel in Nyack, Nanuet Hebrew Center, Beth Am Temple, Temple Beth El, Temple Beth Sholom and Montebello Hebrew Center. Those synagogues who distribute mishloach manot baskets through their sisterhoods will include a card in the packages stating that some of the proceeds will aid Table to Table's program that provides more than 1.5 sandwiches annually to disadvantaged children and to feed the elderly and homeless, according to Moshe Kinderlehrer, the development director of American Friends of Table to Table Israel. Those synagogues that do not distribute mishloach manot packages will simply make a donation to the organization, according to Carol Blau, federation president.

Table to Table is Israel's leading food rescue organization. The organization collects food from establishments that have it leftover, such as farms, catering halls, cafeterias and army bases, and distributes it to those places that need it, such as after school programs and shelters.

Mishloach manot are gifts of food that are traditionally exchanged during Purim. Although people often make and give their own mishloach gifts, many area synagogues coordinate gift exchanges as a fundraiser by making and delivering the packages. This year, those participating synagogues will include a card that indicates a portion of the money raised by the project will go to Table to Table.

The Rockland Discovery Mission at Table to Table, standing from left, Marilyn Jassem, Linda Raskin, Renee Leffler, Acacia Raskin, Gerri Kurland, Paul Bloom, Linda Aaltower, Barbara Weiner, Martin Leffler, Steven Kolinsky, Janine Kolinsky, Susan Heller, Rabbi Paul Kurland, Gary Heller, Paulette Viana, Weendy Bosalavage and Carol Blau, current Federation president. Seated in front: Rabbi Paula Mack Drill, Laurie Hoffman, Yisroel Schulman and Joseph Gitler, director of Table to Table.
When the Jewish Federation of Rockland County hosted its Discovery Mission to Israel last year, those attending were able to pick and sort vegetables for Table to Table, said Rabbi Paula Mack Drill of Orangetown Jewish Center, who attended the mission.

"We had the privilege of participating in the daily work of Table to Table," she said. "Feeding the hungry is such an important value in Judaism. Table to Table allows us to fulfill that mitzvah in a great variety of ways."

The mishloach manot project grew out of the relationship that Table to Table has with the Federation. Over time, the Federation has raised substantial amounts of money for the Israeli organization, including the funds that helped open its Haifa office and provided a refrigerated truck to help expand operations in the north of the country.

"We feel very close to Rockland Federation," said Kinderlehrer, who explained that Table to Table works with many federations throughout North American but only has a similarly close bond with a handful. The Rockland Jewish community has embraced the food rescue group with donations and visiting volunteers who pick vegetables and fruit in the field as few others have, he said.

"We get many communities but it's not always year after year." he said. Now that Table to Table has an American presence through him, the organization hopes to strengthen that relationship.

Keeping that relationship strong is what the mishloach manot project is all about, according to Susie Beerman, a volunteer working on it.

"I think this is a wonderful project for Federation because it connects individuals during Purim to the mitzvah of caring for the hungry and the poor in a real way," she said.

March 2009