Special Mazel Meal helps older adults celebrate High Holidays

On Sept. 17, a very special High Holiday Mazel Meal was delivered to 45 older adults across the Lehigh Valley through Jewish Family Service of the Lehigh Valley. The meal included everything necessary to celebrate Rosh Hashanah: challah, grape juice, flameless candles, apples and honey and the blessings. Boscov’s catering  prepared a traditional erev Rosh Hashanah brisket dinner, complete with kugel and apple cake. Ron Sunshine, of the Sunshine Café, created a lovely afternoon lunch for the next day including fresh fruit, egg salad, gefilte fish and homemade rugelach. 

Mazel Meals is the monthly kosher meal delivery program created to help provide older adults with prepared well-rounded meals, as well as help them feel more connected to their Jewish community by enjoying traditional Jewish dishes and celebrating holidays such as Rosh Hashanah, Chanukkah and Passover.

Mazel Meals began as a pilot project for Super Sunday in January 2018. It has expanded from a once a year trial, to four times a year, to monthly which now includes two meals with each delivery. The program was created both for people who are aging in place and may no longer be cooking and sharing meals with someone and for individuals who may be the only Jewish person in their assisted living facility.

“We’re looking to support people’s independence and help them age in place successfully,” said Carol Wilson, program coordinator, “as well as provide those in residences with a connection to their Jewish heritage.”

Each month, JFS volunteers provide a friendly call to participants one week prior to the delivery date. They check in with the client to share what the menu will be, have a phone visit and confirm if they would like to receive the meals. For many of these participants, this is the only access they have to a traditional holiday meal, especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Jewish Family Service is able to run this program with no charge to the meal recipients because of the annual JFS fundraiser, an allocation from the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley and private donations. For many individuals and their families, they express their gratitude by sending lovely handwritten notes. One recipient sent a letter saying, “Thank you for the delicious Mazel Meals. The food you send reminds me of my mother.”

Both family members and program participants have sent donations to show their appreciation. “My sister and I are tremendously grateful for the outpouring of support you have shown my mother since our father’s passing. The meals are a bright spot in her day and mean very much to her,” said one participant’s daughter.

Meal recipients and program volunteers are represented by synagogues across the Lehigh Valley. Our partners are far reaching, including local clergy, catering companies, assisted living marketing administrators and individual community members who donate food to enhance the meals.

“In the spirit of agency partnership, community connection and donor participation, Mazel Meals is a signature program for Jewish Family Service,” said Executive Director Debbie Zoller.