Jewish Journal

Interfaith volunteers feed homeless on MLK Day

Leslie Berliant, Contributing Writer

January 19, 2011 | 2:40 pm

Volunteers from Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) in Encino and Family of Faith Christian Center (FFCC) in Carson fed 150 homeless people from the Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission in North Hollywood in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the National Day of Service on Jan. 17. This is the second year the church and synagogue have come together to feed the homeless on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a tradition they plan to continue.

“Our tradition is as much about action as belief,” VBS Rabbi Noah Zvi Farkas said.

The meal was served at the Central Lutheran Church in Van Nuys, where manicures and hairstyling services were also offered, as well as hygiene kits containing basic items such as soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes. Trader Joe’s donated food for the lunch, which was supplemented by fresh produce picked by synagogue and church volunteers through Food Forward, a nonprofit that harvests fruits and vegetables from homes and public spaces to distribute to local food pantries. 

Farkas said the interfaith effort is inspired by the relationship between King and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who marched together for equality in Selma, Ala. “These two incredible individuals could galvanize a community into action to change the way Americans see themselves.”

Farkas said it’s important to continue the tradition of giving and supporting those still fighting for betterment.

The synagogue and church have collaborated on service projects for the last four years.Their joint activities include Gulf Coast clean up following Hurricane Katrina and tree planting at Sun Valley’s Fernangeles Elementary School and Sun Valley High School. The Rev. Mike Andrews, FFCC’s executive pastor, said the ongoing collaboration with VBS is a way to continue King’s dream. “Right now, especially in the Christian community, there is a lot of talk about whether the dream has been fulfilled. Even if it has been fulfilled, we want to make sure it lives on.”

He said working with VBS and bringing together Christian African Americans and Jews “sparks another dream: to continue to grow with them and to work with them, to make it bigger.”

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