By Tanya Simon
For the past six weeks, my husband and I have been volunteering once or twice a week with IsraAID, an Israel based international non-governmental organization in its efforts to assist with COVID-19 relief.
When disasters strike, IsraAID mobilizes emergency response teams — including U.S. and Israel-based specialists and volunteers — to support local communities as they recover. During the COVID-19 crisis, IsraAID has been deploying volunteers in food banks in various cities throughout the country. Locally, they have partnered with organizations, including our Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, to volunteer at the Community Food Bank in Hillside. We wear an IsraAID shirt while volunteering at the food bank. We are honored and proud to serve as a representative of Israel, through its agency IsraAID, especially in this time of anti-Semitism and frequent criticism of Israel.
Our IsraAID volunteering experience has included working on the assembly line packing boxes, bagging pasta, and sorting food in the warehouse. The work is not difficult and the time goes by very quickly. When we are on the assembly line, the boxes move by at a manageable rate and we put the items placed by our station into the boxes. At the end of the line, after all of the food is placed in the boxes, the boxes are closed up and stacked on pallets. When the pallets are full, the boxes are moved to the area of the warehouse where they are prepared for delivery to either individual families or to NJ food banks. In a typical shift of two to three hours, we pack and stack more than 300 boxes of food!
It is very rewarding to know that we are helping to feed New Jersey families in need. Moreover, as of the end of May 2020, during the first month that IsraAID coordinated volunteers in New Jersey, IsraAID has fulfilled 55 volunteer shifts at the Community Food Bank and those 55 volunteer shifts have helped to feed 13,200 people in our community!
Interestingly, one week after we packed pasta into bags and smaller boxes for distribution to local food relief agencies at the Community Food Bank, we were volunteering with Jewish Relief Agency (JRA), a locally based organization whose mission is to assist low-income families by providing boxes of food. Sure enough, at the JRA event, we found ourselves putting the very bags of pasta that we bagged at the Community Food Bank into these boxes for JRA. The Community Food Bank distributes much of its food to local organizations throughout the state (JRA being one of them), and it was wonderful to see the work that we did, on a larger scale at the Community Food Bank, making its way through the chain to the local organization and then be placed in the cars to be delivered to the people in need!
If you’d like to join us in volunteering with IsraAID and to be the face of the Jewish people and of Israel while helping your neighbors, click here to register.