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Jewish Journal

Sharing Sukkot, Meals

by Rebecca Steinberger

October 14, 2009 | 8:41 pm

About 20 guests and 60 members of B’nai David-Judea and the larger Jewish community gathered in the synagogue’s Pico Boulevard sukkah on the night of Oct. 6 for a dinner sponsored by Federation’s Fed Up with Hunger campaign.

Most of the guests are regulars at B’nai David-Judea’s monthly Tikkun Olam lunch, where members of the Orthodox synagogue share a meal and conversation with about 60 neighborhood needy (the later hour made it difficult for many of the lunch regulars to come for dinner). The Sukkot guests played along with Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky’s icebreaker game and enjoyed songs led by member Robby Helperin, leader of the Simcha Orchestra. Kanefsky told the guests that Sukkot celebrates the end of the harvest in ancient Israel, when the grains were all gathered into silos and storehouses, representing a season of plenty.

Guests were treated to a dinner of soup, salad, bread, pasta with meat sauce and dessert.

The Jewish Federation’s campaign continued throughout the week with the goal of starting within the Jewish community and expanding throughout Los Angeles. More than 200 people from different religious backgrounds gathered under the sukkah at the downtown Los Angeles Para Los Niños Charter Elementary School on Oct. 8 to unite to eradicate hunger in Los Angeles.

People enjoyed plates of food, but the president of Para Los Niños, Gisselle Acevedo, said the evening was bigger than breaking bread together; it was a long-term partnership for the children of Los Angeles.

The Federation’s concern for the more than 1 million people who confront hunger daily will be addressed by uniting as one voice against the hunger crisis, improving programs and increasing access to quality foods.

“It is important that our children learn early and they don’t see themselves as needy or victims,” said Elena Stern, Para Los Niños’ vice president of external affairs.

Fourth-graders from Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School in Northridge joined the Para Los Niños students in Sukkot songs, sung in English, Hebrew and Spanish. When the students took the stage dressed in The Federation’s Fed Up with Hunger T-shirts, they spoke of their four-year partnership and their celebration as a unity of people. The students also participated in hosting 40 guests from Chrysalis, a nonprofit dedicated to working with economically disadvantaged and homeless individuals.

Rabbi Denise Eger, president of The Board of Rabbis of Southern California, led the blessings for the lulav and etrog. Laughter spread through the crowd as a Spanish translator struggled with the difficult descriptions.

“Our city is fragmented, and we deeply believe we can bring it together with a shared commitment to social justice,” said Andrew Cushnir, The Jewish Federation’s associate executive vice president. “It was a magical evening to have multiple communities celebrating Sukkot on the edge of skid row.”

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