By Chloe Baker, Staff Writer
In early September, I had the privilege of volunteering with an incredible organization called Shabbat Angels. Shabbat Angels was founded in 2021 with the “initial goal of alleviating the financial burden felt by so many Jewish families around the time of Shabbat and Chagim.” On a weekly basis, they donate money to families in need, pre-pay for groceries, and venture around New York and New Jersey delivering food to various homes.
I initially found out about their work through a forwarded Whatsapp, and quickly RSVP’d to deliver food for Rosh Hashanah to elderly, including Holocaust survivors, in Brooklyn. What I thought was just going to be a nice chessed, ended up being one of the most meaningful afternoons of my life.
When I showed up to their location, I was faced with a huge wall stacked almost to the top with boxes full of food. I picked up a box and piled into a car with three people I had never met before. A grad school psychology student, a young realtor, and a fellow undergraduate college student. Together we drove into Brooklyn under the assumption that we were going to knock on the door, drop off the food, stay and talk for a couple of minutes, and then go to our next delivery. Fortunately, this was not the case!
We arrived at our first destination to a lovely couple, the husband being a Holocaust survivor. Though they were both in their mid-nineties, they were so overwhelmingly youthful, and filled with life. The wife enthusiastically welcomed us into her home, and in typical Jewish mother fashion insisted we have a drink and a bite to eat. There we were, four people who didn’t know each other in the home of complete strangers, eating cookies and sipping juice, but feeling like we were in the home of some old relatives we hadn’t seen in a while. The walls of their kitchen were decorated with photos of their grandchildren and great grandchildren, and the room felt like a museum, spotlighting their lives with their beautiful family. In just a few weeks, they were expecting another great grandchild, they told us.
Over our snack we got to know each other. We heard incredible stories of the husband’s survival as well as what gave him the strength to push through during his time in the labor camps. He showed us pictures of him and his wife when they were younger, and talked all about a kibbutz in Israel they lived on. He even showed me a picture of his “favorite cow” from the farm.
What was meant to be a semi-quick drop off ended up being 45 minutes extremely well spent in the home of a couple who were no longer strangers to me. Every time we would get up and motion to the door that we had to go, we were met with one more story, one more laugh, until eventually we had to tell them we still had four more houses to visit.
Before we walked out of their kitchen, we exchanged hugs and were all given a beautiful bracha by them. It was hard to leave such a wonderful atmosphere, but I will always remember the short afternoon I spent with two of the loveliest people.
There are so many organizations to get involved with, and I highly recommend taking advantage of opportunities when they come your way. Giving your time is just as valuable, if not more, as giving your money and you never know the impact giving back will have on you, or will have on the person you give to.