WHEN things get rough the Jewish community can always be relied on to pull together, and the recent Coronavirus pandemic was no exception. Across the Essex area, many people found ways to help each other through this difficult period and, in true Jewish style, food was at the centre of much of it.
MICAELA BLITZ takes a look at some of the organisations and individuals coming together to help the community in these uncertain times.
MADE WITH LOVE CHICKEN SOUP RUN
WHEN Yochy Davis made a bowl of chicken soup for her elderly, non-Jewish neighbours during lockdown, she never imagined it would lead to a regular weekly delivery for more than 100 people in the local area… but that is exactly what happened.
As she explains:
I was concerned about my neighbours being unable to get food or cook for themselves, so I took them round some soup and challah so they had something healthy and nourishing to eat, after all they do call it Jewish Penicillin don’t they?
As people started to hear about what Yochy was doing, she received more requests to deliver food to other elderly and isolated people within the Essex Jewish community – and the Made With Love Chicken Soup Run began.
Yochy soon enlisted her good friend, Lesley Adams, to help deal with organising the deliveries. She was happy to use some of her previous event organising experience to help manage the 12 volunteer drivers who deliver across the Essex area, often stopping for a socially distanced chat on the doorstep with those they visited.
Lesley told us: Many of the recipients were really pleased to have someone to chat to whilst in isolation, and their faces really lit up when the drivers arrived. It really made their day!
Blanche, 93, from Loughton, has been a recipient of the service since it started. She was in isolation from March, even before lockdown and really appreciated her weekly visits. Blanche said:
It was always so lovely to see someone, and the goodies that they brought as well as the soup were always very welcome. I think everyone involved has made a great effort, and I hope that it continues.
Cooking for so many people on a weekly basis was very much a military procedure requiring a lot of planning. Photos posted on the Made with Love Chicken Soup Run Facebook page showed the huge saucepans Yochy used to make the soup, despite being a vegetarian herself. Above her stove can be seen a Hebrew sign, which Yochy roughly translates as ‘You open your hand and sustain all life’, which she feels is “very relevant to the work that we have been doing”.
Yochy had help from a small army of volunteers, who all helped out in their own way to get things done. Her ‘Kneidle Queens’, Sarah Bradley and Stacey Goodman, produced over 600 kneidles each week; and Tamara and Sandra Waldman, as well as Joanne Burns, made ‘mountains of latkes’.
Many others helped make fruit salads, challahs and cakes’ all from their own homes. Local businesses also got involved; Trevor Shulton supplied fruit and Hardel donated fruit and vegetables, Shalom Bakery in Gants Hill offered challahs, as did another local deli. La Boucherie in Barkingside gave away chicken and carcasses to help make the gallons of soup produced.
Yochy has been overwhelmed with how the project grew, and the amount of people who got involved. She said: “The community has been unbelievable, and we definitely couldn’t have done it without them. People have been so generous, not only with their time but with produce; and it has been a truly amazing group effort from the whole community.”
The service also delivered to those isolating within the wider Essex community who were not Jewish. All were very appreciative of their deliveries. In July, the project started being run out of Loughton Synagogue and chef Andrew Kennard became involved.
Lesley took over the running of the project, along with help from Rochelle Orgel, Sandra Waldman and Rabbi Abrams. As she explains: “The whole thing is growing each week, and we have a fantastic team of volunteers who have all been amazing. I can’t thank them enough for their help, especially Rabbi and Rebbetzin Abrams!”
Yochy and Lesley’s own hard work and commitment have also been recognised and both have been given the honour of Ayshet Chayil, which they are both very pleased to receive.
With so many people within the community now involved in the project through volunteering and making donations, Lesley hopes that the Made with Love Chicken Soup Run will be able to continue for a very long time. She added:
Out of little acorns, we have an incredible project that will run and run.