Local Hillels join together to prepare a special High Holiday Mazel Meal

The Mazel Meal Program is in its fourth consecutive month of supplying kosher meals to older adult clients across the Lehigh Valley. The ability to expand the program is in large part thanks to a generous increase in the allocation from the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley, along with partnerships by local organizations. JFS is now able to provide meals and friendly visits to over 40 people belonging to seven synagogues from Allentown to Bethlehem to Easton.

“The High Holidays can be a challenging time for people who are living on their own and no longer celebrate the Jewish traditions with family and friends,” said Carol Wilson, JFS clinical coordinator of older adult services. “Our biggest barrier to preparing these meals is using kosher kitchens with supervision at an affordable price.”

JFS reached out to the local Hillel chapters at Muhlenberg College, Lafayette College and Lehigh University to enlist the support of students and the use of their kosher kitchens to prepare a traditional High Holiday meal.

“It’s a great partnership for the Hillel. It’s wonderful to connect our students with the greater Allentown community of which they’re a part and do something for people in need here. It’s living Jewish values,” said Muhlenberg Hillel Rabbi Ari Perten.

Muhlenberg students prepared the entrée in their kitchen on Sunday, Oct. 6.

“It felt nice to be able to give back to the greater community. Being at Muhlenberg, sometimes we end up in a bit of a bubble on our own campus. It’s nice to realize that there is a community that we’re a part of,” said Zoe Spiegel, a Muhlenberg senior.

Lafayette and Lehigh, legendary rivals on the sportsfield, worked together to also share in this special mitzvah. Students from both schools wanted to help, but Lafayette’s Hillel doesn’t have its own kosher kitchen. Lehigh agreed to allow Lafayette Hillel to use their kitchen instead to prepare a homemade mushroom barley soup.

“We loved getting the chance to be a part of the Mazel Meal program. We can’t thank JFS enough for giving us the opportunity to engage with the greater Lehigh Valley Jewish community in a new way,” said Lafayette senior Rebecca Hetrick.

The High Holiday meal also got a boost from some anonymous donors who consistently contribute holiday challahs year after year.

The meals, which consisted of gefilte fish, challah, mushroom barley soup, roasted chicken, tzimmes, green beans and apple cake, were cooked with love by the students. Each cooking session started out with a JFS staff person sharing some background on the program and why this mitzvah was so meaningful.

All the planning for the project paid off. Soon after dispatching eight volunteer drivers with the Mazel Meals, the phone lines at JFS started ringing with messages of gratitude and excitement at receiving a meal that enabled these older adults to celebrate the holiday.

“I don’t cook anymore, and I can only watch services on TV, but I am so happy to be able to have a High Holiday meal. I will have it for Erev Yom Kippur!” said one recipient.

JFS is looking forward to continuing this program because it has made such a difference in the lives of our clients. Not only do they receive a phone call from a volunteer asking if they would like to participate in the monthly meal, they also receive a visit when the meal is delivered. This program is part of JFS’s ongoing effort to mitigate social isolation, strengthen community and help support people in their efforts to age in their homes while living a Jewish life. 

There are many ways to get involved with the Mazel Meal program. Please visit jfslv.org/volunteer/mazelmeals for sponsorship and volunteer opportunities. Not computer savvy? No problem! Call 610-821-8722 and ask for Carol Wilson or Chelsea Karp.